Graham Potter reveals pride at managing Chelsea in memory of late parents ahead of Brighton return

Graham Potter reveals pride at managing Chelsea in memory of late parents ahead of Brighton return

Graham Potter wishes his parents could have seen him in charge of Chelsea after losing them both to illness three years ago.

This weekend, the 47-year-old returns to Brighton to face his former club at the Amex Stadium just seven weeks after Chelsea paid £20million in compensation to have him replace Thomas Tuchel.

After going undefeated in his first nine games in west London, the Blues boss has made the job look somewhat easy but ahead of the game Potter was open and honest about how his first six months at Brighton tested his mental strength.

“My mum was suffering from dementia, she was still alive but she wouldn’t have known [I was managing Brighton],” Potter told reporters on Friday. “So in the end it was nice for her not to suffer that.

“My dad – he came to the first game against Watford, he just had a very short battle with cancer and six weeks later he wasn’t here. So his last game was Liverpool away and then he wasn’t here.

“It's a lesson and a reminder to us all that life is precious and short and anything can happen and it puts things in perspective. Of course, I always think back to them now and they are with me all the time and whenever you stand at the San Siro, and you think, ‘Wow’ - they would just love to be there.

“They wouldn’t be able to contain themselves. Excuse me, I’m getting a little bit [emotional]… but yeah that’s life and I am not the first person to lose parents and that’s part of life.”

Potter does not ask for sympathy, as he understands his privileged position with his job, but the Chelsea boss does have concerns about toxic elements of the culture within the sport.

“We are part of a sport where we create pressure,” he added. “One's gone and it is on to the next, it was Steven Gerrard a few weeks ago and then it will be somebody else and then somebody else.

“It is difficult in the world that we are living in to feel sorry for a Premier League manager, get me right, but mental health doesn't really discriminate with your status or how much money you earn either, I would say.”

Remarkably, last season Potter saw his side booed at Brighton despite going on to record their highest-ever Premier League finish in tenth place.

He also faced criticism over his side's lack of attacking threat but the Seagulls' directors always backed him, renewing his contract when they were just five points above the relegation zone in 2019.

It is a backing that he felt throughout the good and bad times on the south coast.

“When my mum and dad passed away during that first period, you’ve got these feelings here that are powerful and raw but then you’re also trying to compete in the Premier League,” he added. “You’re then trying to manage, ‘Okay, am I getting angry or disappointed or, frustrated or whatever the feelings are because of this or because of that?’.

 (Chelsea FC via Getty Images)
(Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

“So that was the first six months of life in the Premier League and I think the quote is: ‘You’re fixing the plane while it’s up in the air’. That’s a great quote.

“So that’s also the challenge but you have to come through it and thankfully I was at a really good club that gave me support and help and we managed to stay on the path."

Potter also admitted that the timing of taking the Chelsea job was not the best but that he had to take his chance. Among those possibly annoyed with the situation are Blues loanee Levi Colwill and former midfielder Billy Gilmour.

The pair have played just 17 minutes of Premier League football since moving to the south coast and Potter admits his exit may have impacted them: “I think both knew their role, joining amid great competition but clearly, the timing of me leaving was not great for them.

“But that's part of life and not something I should say sorry for, but I acknowledge that it is not great from their perspective. I said the timing is not ideal but in life sometimes the opportunities come up and come up at times that are not ideal.

“But they are both good young players with a bright future, at a good club, and with good people who look after them and we will see how they go.”

Potter will return to his home in Brighton after the match to his wife and three children and described the “perspective” his young family provides away from football.

He continued: “I have seven-year-old twins, they are fun. They give you perspective. You have got these problems and then you speak to a seven-year-old and everything becomes a little bit simpler.

“And a 12-year-old. So a young family, gives me energy, they give me perspective. I like to go for a walk, an occasional bit of exercise though looking at me you wouldn’t think that.

“A little bit of reading now and again but not too much. Podcast here and there and sometimes a brain dump watching a Netflix series or something.”