Potter to Chelsea is overdue Big Six justice for Steve Bruce, Garry Monk and Nigel Pearson

·6-min read
Graham Potter Credit: PA Images
Graham Potter Credit: PA Images

The moment Chelsea took a punt on Graham Potter as boss, it was inevitable that someone would hail it as ‘a victory for all English coaches’.


‘Graham Potter’s step-up to Chelsea is a victory for all English coaches… the elite are finally rewarding managers for sticking it out at mid-table Premier League sides’ is the precise sort of take Mediawatch expected to read in the coming days. And it is no particular surprise to see Martin Samuel is the one offering it in the Daily Mail.

Firstly, the idea that taking Brighton from 17th upon his appointment to 9th last season and 4th by the time of his departure within little over three years is anything resembling ‘sticking it out’ for Graham Potter is laughable.

But this is also a clever twist on the usual argument, using ‘English coaches’ instead of the usual refrain about ‘British coaches,’ which would automatically bring in Brendan Rodgers and David Moyes as managers who fit the following precise criteria Samuel lays out, thus summarily dismantling an already flimsy argument:

‘Jurgen Klopp got the Borussia Dortmund job because he did well at Mainz. Antonio Conte was sought out by Juventus after positive spells at Bari, Atalanta and Siena. Valencia’s door opened for Rafa Benitez because he prospered with Osasuna, Extremadura and Tenerife.’

The Spanish example coming from an appointment made in 2001 really does make for compelling evidence that England is lagging behind in terms of granting opportunities to native managers.

‘It is only in England where the elite think our league doesn’t count; where a manager can toil away at clubs that have scant chance of success, while all the time being judged for not being successful.’

What will presumably follow is an extensive list of the English managers who toiled away in the Premier League’s mid-table to the extent that a member of the elite should obviously have taken a chance on them.

Samuel must come armed with hundreds of examples of these coaches being egregiously ignored on the basis of their nationality.

Except what we actually get is this:

‘Yes, Thomas Tuchel’s dismissal was harsh. Yet Potter’s appointment is a positive development. Not since Roy Hodgson went to Liverpool in 2010 has an English manager been recognised by a Big Six club for the job he has done outside their environs. And Fulham was Hodgson’s first role in this country since leaving Blackburn in 1998, do not forget.’

And Hodgson did ever so well at Liverpool. It’s a wonder no other clubs followed suit.

But Samuel clearly isn’t providing these compelling names to back up his argument so Mediawatch will reluctantly have to do some actual work.

For clarity, here are the English managers who have finished between 7th and 14th since 2010: Hodgson, Sam Allardyce, Steve Bruce, Alan Pardew, Garry Monk, Nigel Pearson, Eddie Howe, Sean Dyche, Chris Wilder, Dean Smith and Steven Gerrard.

Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard watches from the touchline Credit: PA Images
Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard watches from the touchline Credit: PA Images

Let’s take Hodgson out of the equation for obvious reasons. Which leaves us with:

1) Sam Allardyce (former England manager who has been in charge of eight different Premier League clubs)

2) Steve Bruce (finished 12 Premier League seasons but never come higher than 10th)

3) Alan Pardew (won one of his last 21 Premier League games across spells with two different clubs)

4) Garry Monk (sacked by Sheffield Wednesday and Birmingham since leaving only ever Premier League job with Swansea)

5) Nigel Pearson (is Nigel Pearson)

The last 5 English ‘Big Six’ managers and how they fared

6) Eddie Howe (recently appointed to a coveted post by the richest owners in world football)

7) Sean Dyche (might be fair enough)

8) Chris Wilder (a phenomenal first Premier League season followed up with a dreadful second)

9) Dean Smith (lost 23 of last 32 Premier League games)

10) Steven Gerrard (spent £84m in 10 months for 39 points in 33 games)

Eight managers who have been relegated recently, then. And of that initial list of ten there is an argument for Dyche but then comes the next problem: precisely who of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham should have appointed him, and exactly when?

Samuel continues unabated:

‘Tim Sherwood got the Tottenham position from within in 2013 and Frank Lampard also landed the Chelsea job, but that was different. He didn’t fit Roman Abramovich’s usual criteria – foreign – but then he wasn’t appointed by the usual Chelsea.

‘The club was enduring a two-window transfer ban and the usual candidates would probably have passed on the opportunity. Lampard was young, hungry, a Chelsea legend and loyalist and accepted that this was a chance that might not be repeated. Equally, he believed in giving youth its fling. Chelsea did not possess the trappings of an elite club at the time.’

They were literal Europa League winners, a Champions League team. That does feel like ‘the usual Chelsea’ and a transfer embargo – during which they still signed Mateo Kovacic for £40m while welcoming back millions of pounds worth of loanee academy talent – does little to change that.

Also, why not mention how Sherwood and Lampard’s unexpected opportunities ended? Seems like a strange oversight in a piece demanding that English coaches are given their chance.

But back to Chelsea and Graham Potter we go:

‘It’s a great job. That’s probably why Brighton accepted they could not stand in his way. It would only create rancour, and Potter would leave anyway.

‘So this is a positive step. If Eddie Howe prospers at Newcastle there could be two English managers in and around the Champions League places.’

It is worth pointing out that this is true of literally any manager. There is no actual glass ceiling: an English manager can finish as high as they want. They just rarely have. And that is very much the point.

‘If they succeed – and remember no English manager has won the Premier League – it might even make coaches from this country fashionable again. At least it affords them the same chance they’d get at Extremadura.’

Lumping Potter in with Scott Parker, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard because they have the same colour passport is at least part of the problem. He has proven himself to be a considerably better Premier League coach than his contemporaries, exceeding expectations at different clubs under various circumstances, thus this opportunity has presented itself.

He is an English manager in terms of nationality, yes, but his path does not even vaguely resemble that of, say, a legendary former player who has fallen into the role based on their status. Potter did remarkable work at Ostersund, then Swansea, then Brighton, having worked in official roles as varied as technical director of the Ghana women’s team and assistant coach of the England Universities Squad.

If he excels once more at Chelsea, the only thing it might make ‘fashionable again’ is phenomenal coaching honed over years of experience in different fields, not just taking West Brom to 10th.

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