Little club, big club - there is always the assumption that managers or stand-out players at well performing, so-called ‘smaller’ Premier League sides will soon move up the ladder - and much of the focus right now is on Brighton & Hove Albion head coach Graham Potter having guided his team to sixth after seven games.
More often than not, that does happen - but if one of the high profile clubs chooses to dispense of their boss in the next few months, do they have the patience to let Potter bring success in his own time?
His talent may make him ready for such a role, but there is an argument that the likes of Manchester United and Tottenham, perhaps the most likely to make a change at this point of the campaign, are not the right places for him yet.
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That is no slant on Potter, but the culture he is working within on the south coast is very different to what he might experience if he was to move up. At the American Express Elite Football Performance Centre, located just outside of Brighton, the set-up is progressive and settled.
Albion are an ambitious club, with hopes of a top 10 finish before a potential challenge for Europe over the coming years. But the big difference between his current employers and a move to sides like United and Spurs is that the pressure on results is no-where near as big.
As a previous column has mentioned before, the impressive start is no surprise when you look at the numbers of last season. Now, to an extent, the pressure is off and the Seagulls can play with relative freedom - that can make them more dangerous.
But at the higher profile clubs, it is possible Potter would not be given time to get to this point. In the first few months of last season, some Brighton fans were starting to lose patience and wondering whether the project was worth it. They have more wins (four) after seven matches this campaign than they did at the halfway point of the previous one (three).
Seeing through the process is paying off, but it has taken time to get there. The patterns of play are now ingrained in the team (best demonstrated in a ruthless 20-minute spell against Arsenal on Saturday), and the culture off the pitch and on the training ground clearly plays a big part too.
Shane Duffy has given an insight on that, and Potter seems to be the key reason behind his resurgence this season after a nightmare loan at Celtic.
“He believes in you and he trusts you. If you have that belief from your manager, why can’t you believe it? That’s the mentality of the whole squad,” he told the club website.
“Someone makes a mistake, someone scores a winning goal, it makes no difference. It’s all of us and that’s the way it is. No one gets singled out for an unbelievable performance and no one gets hammered for doing something wrong.”
We’re all level-headed at this club. There are no superstars, we’re all really good players and we bond really well as a team off the pitch as well as on, so it’s going in the right direction.
That last point may be the key piece of evidence to the argument that Potter would be best served to stay where he is, for now. If United or Spurs were to sack Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Nuno Espirito Santo respectively, they would inevitably be doing it because something is broken. The pressure would be on to fix it quickly, and the board and fans may not give much time to turn it around.
Potter is in a role where the expectations are lower, and he is given time to progress the team. His methods are so unique, and so clever (he has a degree in social science and a masters in leadership and emotional intelligence) that he needs time to make those changes - not rushed.
Perhaps, then, there are two natural places for him to go if he does eventually want to move on and progress at a club which should be challenging for titles. Pep Guardiola has described Potter as the “best” current English coach, and while there are mixed messages about leaving, he will clearly move on from Manchester City at some point. His close relationship with City’s director of football Txiki Begiristain could mean Guardiola will at least be heard if he makes a recommendation for his successor.
Similarly, if Jurgen Klopp decides to make a clean exit from Liverpool to pursue new opportunities, it would be the perfect place for Potter. The style is not so far removed from what he has implemented at Brighton, and both managers like to work with small squads.
Potter might be the man who could fix any club, but if we are being realistic, several would have to change their culture dramatically to give him the chance to do it.
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