by Julie Kissick
AFTER seven and a half successful years in Sweden, Graham Potter knows he’ll need to find some magic to ensure his reign at Swansea City is heralded in the same vein.
He might share a surname with J K Rowling’s young wizard Harry, but this Potter is a man far removed from fantasy.
And he will need to have his feet firmly on the ground and his vision for the next season clear if he is to take Swansea City back to the Premier League.
He knows it won’t be easy, but he believes he’s up to the task ahead of him.
“My job is to try to create a bit of stability, to bring people together, to understand what’s happened, and understand the disappointment, the frustration that is around but to try to say we want to use this so that when we look back it could be one of the best things that happened to the club. We have to try and turn it in that way and start, but we are really excited.
“You’ve just got to try and be yourself and see things for what they are. I think this football club understands in the communications that I’ve had, that it has made mistakes and has understood that it is in a position where it has lost something that it was very proud of and we want to try and get it back,” he explained.
The 43-year-old guided Ostersunds FK to three league promotions, culminating in winning the Swedish Cup in 2016-17 and therefore qualifying for the Europa League.
They lost 4-2 on aggregate to Arsenal – a 0-3 defeat at home and then a 2-1 win back in February in one of Arsene Wenger’s last matches in charge of the Gunners.
However, the Swedish outfit were only the second side to win a game at the Emirates since March 2017. That in itself was significant, but when you factor in that the team had not played a league game in four months – the Swedish league is a summer event – the win was even more impressive.
Potter’s profile might not be high in Britain, but his credentials certainly are. He created a culture of positivity, a willingness to learn and a consistent footballing identity in his corner of Scandinavia and Swansea City fans will be hoping he can replicate that in SA1.
“My job is to try and create an environment here that players understand, that are proud of, that want to come and enjoy their football, that can try, that can believe they can win and then transfer that from here onto the pitch so the supporters can enjoy coming and watching us playing football.”
Unusually, Potter has a degree in social sciences and a masters in leadership and emotional intelligence and he believes his academic background helped him make the transition from player to coach.
“I’m a big believer that you need to be able to make mistakes while you’re developing. You need to be in an environment where you can learn from what’s happened and take that responsibility and the university sector gave me the opportunity to do that.
“If I’d have gone straight from playing into coaching, in the professional game you can’t make too many mistakes your job is on the line and therefore you can be not maybe be as creative or as brave as you’d like to be. That whole period was really really important to me I think.”
Having played for 13 years and studied for five, his route to management is somewhat unconventional but has paid dividends.
He is a man who knows his own mind and is not afraid to talk about relationships, respect, trust and accountability – both on and off the pitch.
He knows the importance of winning the fans over quickly and his message to them is clear – we’re all in this together.
“It’s all very well managers and players asking for patience, but ultimately you have to try and give something back as well,” he said.
“I think it’s a two way relationship. If supporters understand that the players are human beings as well, they have families, they are trying their best, no-one wants to go out there and play badly and lose. I don’t believe footballers want to do that.
“But ultimately its a two-way thing. We need to give back and you have to build bridges, you have to build relationships but I’m not naive I know football supporters pay their money and they want to see a team play football and win.
“Part of the long term strategy should be to have a feeling where we’ve got a really unique environment here, where we are where we are, our location can work for us if we have that togetherness, if we have that unity, I think it can be very very powerful so of course we want to be able to use that.”
There has been much criticism in recent years of the erosion of the ‘Swansea Way’ in terms of style of football and the sense of community generated by a strong relationship between the fans and the club.
Potter is clear on the significance of both, and is keen to use as many people as he can, including Swans stalwarts Alan Curtis, Lee Trundle and Leon Britton etc. to help implement his philosophy.
“I’ve come in and I’m trying to bring things together and I want to be able to use as many people as I can with a love for the club – that’s the message I would have. It’s not about me dictating anything down, its about trying to create that feeling together, that club mentality.”
You get the sense that Potter and Ostersunds were a pair not easily parted. The new Swans boss used the club’s website to post a heartfelt message to those he worked with. It included the lines:
I came to a cold Östersund seven and a half years ago. I would train a club team in the Swedish wilderness.
Now I leave an established Allsvensk club with good economy, a talented player group and a proud city. I could not have done it without the help of all I mentioned as well as my amazing family.
The future of ÖFK is bright. The club’s heartbeat is strong and there is a good foundation to build on.
It’s easy to be negative and destructive, but with what we’ve done together, we show our youth that with all the ideas, courage, love, trust, hard work and respect, everything is possible.
As I told the boys seven and a half years ago at our first training session: Extraordinary things are achieved by ordinary people. ”
I love you and thanks for everything! ❤🖤❤🖤❤🖤❤🖤❤🖤❤🖤❤🖤 ”
/ Graham Potter
Swansea City fans will hope the future for them is as bright and the foundations for regrowth as strong, and to quote the young wizard rather than the man from Solihull, ” … you sort of start thinking anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve”. (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince).
SWANSEA City today unveiled their new manager, Graham Potter. ExpoSport was there to meet him. Course leader Julie Kissick is asking the questions.