If there was a version of Tinder for football chairman seeking a new manager, then Tony Bloom would have been swiping right as soon as he came across Graham Potter.
Potter’s profile would read something like: Young and upcoming manager, delivered success on a moderate budget, develops and gives opportunities to young players, turns around the careers of other players who aren’t making the most of their talents, favours bold tactics and attacking football. It isn’t hard to see why Bloom would be smitten.
Already, you can see areas there that mark him out as being a world away from Chris Hughton. The first is attacking football. Brighton under Hughton would go away to any other club in the Premier League and try and bore their way to a draw. Sometimes they’d even try and do it at the Amex, often with disastrous consequences. We’re looking at you Southampton, Bournemouth and Cardiff home games.
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Potter on the other hand sends his teams out to win. How else could the manager of Ostersunds – a club the size of Morecambe who were playing in the Swedish equivalent of League Two when he arrived in Scandanavia - come away with Europa League victories from giants like Galatasary, PAOK, Hertha Berlin and Arsenal? Brighton as a Premier League club have never won away at one of the big six; Potter’s done it with a Swedish side whose combined value was the same as some Ikea flatpack furniture and two portions of meatballs.
In four-and-a-half years at the Albion, Hughton gave first team league debuts to a grand total of two academy products. James Tilley was introduced for the final few minutes of a dead rubber away at Middlesbrough on the final day of the 2014-15 season and Rob Hunt was forced on thanks to an injury to Bruno away at Burton Albion two seasons later.
According to the Premier League 2 table, Brighton have the third best development squad in the entire country. It’s better than Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City and Tottenham. We’ve also got the PL2 Player of the Season in our ranks in Aaron Connolly. Bloom has built a state-of-the-art training ground and sunk over £10m into the acquisition of young players.
Yet Hughton trusted the academy for a grand total of 18 minutes of league playing time. In contrast, Potter has turned four Swansea academy products into full Wales internationals this season. Daniel James has scored five goals and registered 15 assists to capture the attentions of Manchester United and Oliver McBunnie has scored 22 times since his promotion from the Swans development squad.
Clearly, the Albion must have some talent in their own ranks. We’ve heard the names of Connolly and Viktor Gyokeres but never seen them in the Premier League. Potter won’t be afraid to trust those sort of players and coax the potential out of them in a way that Hughton wouldn’t.
It’s a similar story when it comes to players not making the most of their potential. Potter’s Ostersunds squad featured a number of players who hadn’t previously made the most of their abilities until he got his hands on them. Curtis Edwards had fallen from Middlesbrough to Northern League football before being revitalised by Potter. It was a similar story for former York City player Jamie Hopcutt before he moved to Sweden.
Aside from the second half of the season collapse, Brighton’s 2018-19 season has been defined by big money players underperforming. We’re looking at you Alireza Jahanbakhsh and Jurgen Locadia. Florin Andone hasn’t exactly been great either. What Bloom has found in Potter is a man with a proven record of extracting the best out of failing players, and there were a lot of those in the Albion squad last year.
It all sounds rather promising doesn’t it? At least on paper anyway. What Potter will need more than anything else is time to stamp his own mark and ideas on a squad who haven’t lived up to their talents for six months. And time is the one commodity that most Premier League managers don’t have.
Bloom isn’t most owners though. He will appreciate the size of the task facing Potter and give him the backing and time he needs to make a difference. The big question is will supporters? Brighton fans have become somewhat inpatient over recent years, not helped by having an entire generation of supporters who have known only success since they began supporting the club.
It doesn’t take much for fans to turn. A run of defeats, Dale Stephens passing to Maty Ryan to build from the back as Potter will want, Yves Bissouma or whoever next season’s golden child is not starting and people might want Potter out before he’s even started.
Which will be a shame as Potter ticks so many boxes. Bloom’s got the man he wanted. Is he the right one? We’ll know more at Christmas. Let’s hope it’s a match.