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SOCCER

Chelsea boss Graham Potter: “I didn’t plan on being here”

Chelsea’s new coach gave a press conference before their Champions League match against RB Salzburg. He confessed that he never expected to be in the job.

Update:
Chelsea manager Graham Potter during a press conference at Stamford Bridge, London. Picture date: Tuesday September 13, 2022. (Photo by Steven Paston/PA Images via Getty Images)
Steven Paston - PA ImagesGetty

Appointed at the end of last week, Graham Potter gave his first press conference as Chelsea manager on Tuesday. The Blues face RB Salzburg at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night looking for their first victory in this season’s Champions League. Last week’s defeat in Zagreb appears to have been the last straw for rthe club’s owners, who dismissed Thomas Tüchel, but Potter insists he gets on well with his superiors. “You have to look at the football club here, the tradition, the quality, the size of the club, their ambition - to compete in the Champions League, to compete at the top of the Premier League... it’s a completely different challenge to the one I’ve had. I had three fantastic years at Brighton. But I am very thankful to the ownership here, for putting their trust and belief in me, to work with an exciting group of players and to put a team out on the pitch that our supporters can be proud of,” he began.

First game in charge in the Champions League: “My experiences have just been as a supporter, in terms of Champions League level - obviously, I have Europa League experience with Östersunds - going to Galatasaray was a fantastic occasion and winning there; PAOK as well, getting through there - going through the Europa League groups was a fantastic experience of European football. But you’re right, this is an amazing evening for us - for all of us, we’re super excited. But at the same time, we are trying to prepare a team, focus on the game and get to know all the players. But there’s no denying we are really looking forward to it - wherever we start, it’s a heck of an introduction”.

How do you want to be viewed by the players and the fans: “You said nine days, but it feels like nine weeks or nine months but it’s been brilliant. The beauty of football, the beauty of life is that you never know what’s around the corner - things happened incredibly quickly. I had some very intense conversations with the owners and quickly I realised that they were good people, intelligent people who have made a huge success of their life outside of football and want to achieve something here. It’s a really exciting project and it’s exciting how they want to take the club forward. It felt really positive. I’m not going to lie, it’s been a whirlwind - getting to know people, leaving Brighton, learning about the players... so far, it’s been really, really positive. My first impressions have been really, really good and I’m looking forward to starting”.

Risks: “Risks? If we walk up the road, there’s a risk there, 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 a club that had sacked the manager every year for the last five years. Fourth tier in Swedish football, left a job, left my wife’s business for an opportunity and 17 years later, after taking careful steps with my career - I haven’t just jumped at the first opportunity, I’ve tried to understand what was involved in the next challenge. But I think that is what life is. Life’s about going outside of your comfort zone, it’s about taking responsibility and believing that there is more to us than what sits here now. Everything is bit unknown and that’s the beauty of life”.

How do you see the team? “The response has been really positive as I say. A really honest group, a really responsible group. They’ve been positive around the training ground. They want to achieve and do well. And I’m absolutely happy with the team, happy with the squad - it’s got a lot of quality”.

Queen Elizabeth II’s death: “It’s one of those days where, in 30, 40 years’ time when you are asked ‘Where were you when that happened?’ That’ll be easy for me to answer, that’s for sure. A seismic day on loads of levels. Because I had the personal, exciting news of being here, without wanting to sound silly I was the main news I guess. And then suddenly, I didn’t become the news at all and the Queen, who is someone who 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 them are with the Queen’s Jubilee or some royal family event, a wedding... so you start to think about how constant she has been in all of our lives, and pretty quickly your thoughts are with the family”.

His role as coach: “I’ve always thought that I am a head coach, my job is to help the football club. The club is always the most important thing. My main job is to help the guys who are here, help them improve and put a team on the pitch that our supporters are proud of”.

Your mission, promise to the fans: “The connection between the supporters and the team is the most important thing. I’m the head coach, an important member of the team but no more important than anyone else. I’d love their support and everything I’ve heard so far, it’s amazing and I am very thankful for it. In terms of what I can promise, we are playing a game that is uncontrollable, so I can promise that I will give my best every single day and take responsibility. The team that I’d like to see is one that is balanced in attack and defence - a humble team, a respectful team that runs hard and fights when they don’t have the ball. Of course we want to entertain but we also want to win”.

Mendy: “He will miss the game, so will NG (N’Golo Kanté) - apart from that, everybody’s fine. Both of those guys are progressing well but the game’s come too soon”.

Jorginho: “The Tüchel thing was a surprise for everyone”

Events of the last few days: “A lot is going on, as everyone knows. We’re adapting to the new coach. We are excited to work with him and his staff. The first few days have been very good. We had a great time with Thomas, we appreciate everything he did for us, the club, the fans, for everyone and now we have a new challenge to look forward to”.

The unexpected dismissal of Tüchel: “It was a surprise for everyone. But what was said between the players, stays there. Sorry! Now we have games coming, life is moving quick and we don’t have much time to stay there and think about it, we’re focused on what we have to do”.

Tüchel used to say that Chelsea was a ‘mentally weak’ team: “It was his feeling at the time and he said that to us as well. We did the best we could and it didn’t work out. Now we may have to improve our confidence. Chelsea is a big club and we have a lot of work to do”.

Graham Potter’s arrival: “He came with an idea. We try to understand what the coach expects of us. And as for the team, everyone is responsible. It’s not just one person who is responsible, we all are”.

On whether Potter can coach a team of superstars: “He’s working a lot, in meeting and seeing what he can bring to us. We’re trying to understand as quick as possible what he wants from us out on the pitch. He’s been asking us whether we are comfortable with what he is proposing which I think is positive. I think he’s a humble coach, with good working methods and a new challenge. I think he’s going to do very well because he has good ideas, a good team that tries to do the best they can and will listen to what he wants, it’s a good combination”.

About tomorrow’s rival: “It’s not an easy game, it’s another challenge - our first game with a new manager. He’s vertical, aggressive... the Champions League is never easy and they’re dangerous, especially on counter-attacks”.

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