Potter to attend first Champions League game in Chelsea managerial debut

Sport

Graham Potter has admitted that he has never previously attended a Champions League fixture as he counted down to his managerial debut at Chelsea – the home tie in the competition against Red Bull Salzburg on Wednesday night.

Potter’s pre-match press conference doubled as his unveiling following his arrival from Brighton last Thursday; an unusual situation, which was decidedly low-key in front of no more than two dozen reporters at Stamford Bridge.

The 47-year-old reflected on his jump up into the big time, making the point that at the age of 30, he was managing in the ninth tier of the English game with Leeds Carnegie in the Northern Counties East League. He offered further insight when he was asked whether he had been to a Champions League tie.

“Off the top of my head, I don’t think I have,” Potter said. “So this is a good time to go into the dugout. Wherever we start it is a heck of an introduction, it is going to be brilliant. So why not start here?”

Chelsea’s new owners like the fact that Potter is a risk taker; he left England and Leeds Carnegie to take over at Östersunds in the Swedish fourth tier and fired his career by taking them up into the top division and the Europa League. Potter suggested that his challenge at Chelsea – where managers have not tended to enjoy much job security – held no fears because of his history.

“If we walk out the road over there, there is a risk,” he said. “That’s what life is. No one knows what’s going to happen in the future. I left England when I was 30 years old and I went to a club who had sacked their manager every year for the last five years. I left a secure job. I left my wife’s business for an opportunity.

“Life is about going outside of your comfort zone, it’s about taking responsibility, it’s about believing that there’s more to us than what sits here now. I don’t see it [joining Chelsea] as a risk in a negative way. I think everything is a bit unknown and that’s the beauty of life.”

Potter joked that the past nine days had felt like nine months given how much has happened, taking in Chelsea’s 1-0 Champions League defeat at Dinamo Zagreb last Tuesday which was followed by Thomas Tuchel’s sacking. Chelsea moved swiftly to appoint Potter but they had to cancel his planned unveiling last Thursday as news reached them of the Queen’s death.

“It was one of those days where, in 20, 30, 40 years’ time, we’ll go: ‘Where were you when that happened?’” Potter said. “It’ll be easy for me to answer, that’s for sure. A seismic day on loads of levels.

“I had the exciting news of being here [at Chelsea] and, without sounding silly, I was the main news. And then sadly I didn’t become the news at all and the Queen, who is someone that has been in all of our lives, passed away.

“You start to think about your own life and your own memories. My childhood memories with my mum and dad, bless them – a lot of those are with the Queen’s jubilee or some royal family event, a wedding. You start to think about how constant she’s been in all of our lives and pretty quickly your thoughts are with the family.”

Potter talked about how the “most important thing” at Chelsea was the connection between the fans and the team and, also, how he had no worries about working with A-list stars.

“I know this is a different environment and a different context but we’re still working with people,” he said. “I’ve grown up with the success [of Chelsea] and it’s been amazing. Our job is to create our own history, our own path and that’s what we’ll be focused on.”

Todd Boehly, the club’s co-owner, would later discuss the decision to sack Tuchel. Speaking at the SALT conference, he said: “Our vision for the club was finding a manager who really wanted to collaborate with us. We just wanted to be sure that Thomas saw it the same way we saw it. No-one’s right or wrong. It was just we didn’t have a shared vision for the future. It wasn’t about Zagreb. It was really about the shared vision for what we wanted Chelsea football club to look like.”