Brighton & Hove Albion suffered a significant setback when they lost Graham Potter to Chelsea just over halfway through the length of their head coach’s long-term contract.
There is no escaping that reality, and the disappointment is made worse by the devastation of his backstage team as well.
Along with two Brighton veterans in captain-turned-coach Bruno Saltor and goalkeeping coach Ben Roberts, Potter is traveling to Stamford Bridge with assistant Billy Reid, Coach Bjorn Hamberg, and recruitment analyst Kyle Macaulay.
The departure of the manager who led them to their highest-ever Premier League finish of ninth last season and who leaves them in fourth place after six matches of the new campaign, however, has not caused any panic at the Amex Stadium.
It simply goes to show what a brilliant choice owner-chairman Tony Bloom made when he hired Potter at the end of the 2018–19 season and then, just six months and 13 matches later, gave him a two–year contract extension to June 2025. The buyout clause of £20 million ($23 million) lessens the impact.
It’s a large “transfer fee” for a manager or head coach, amounting to about £150,000 every week for the remaining 33 months of that six-year contract.
Potter progressively ingrained his progressive playing style into a club that combines experience with mobile energy and agility, transforming Brighton from tenacious top-flight survival into a team prospering in the sport’s highest domestic competition.
Although Brighton has been preparing for the possibility of losing him since the COVID-19 pandemic struck in early 2020, he will be a difficult act to follow.
Based on variables including availability, cost, and the chance of landing them, Brighton will focus their efforts on getting one of the managers on their shortlist—managers operating both in the UK and abroad—over the finish line.
Potter first gained notoriety by leading Ostersunds, a team from the Swedish fourth division, to the Europa League’s knockout round in just seven years.
Kjetil Knutsen has accomplished similar wonders during his four years as coach of the Norwegian team Bodo/Glimt. Knutsen is widely regarded in the power structures at the Amex.
The 53-year-old has won back-to-back domestic championships in his native country. Last season, Glimt defeated Jose Mourinho’s Roma 6-1 in the Europa Conference League (and then drew 2-2 in the rematch two weeks later) before defeating Scottish title-contending Celtic 5-1 on aggregate in the knockout round.
This season, Knutsen’s team is competing in the Europa League and is paired with Arsenal in the same group. They are presently second in the Norwegian league. They faced Roma again in the quarterfinals and defeated them 2-1 in Norway, but they fell to the Italian team 4-0 in their final encounter of a grueling 61-game, 11-month season. Roma ultimately won the competition.
The cost of removing former Swansea manager Steve Cooper from Nottingham Forest, who he guided to Premier League promotion last season via the play-offs after taking over in September when they were at the bottom of the standings, would be high.
After the Queen’s death, all Premier League and EFL games were postponed. The game against Crystal Palace at the Amex the following Saturday was also postponed due to a conflicting rail strike, and the ensuing international break, so Brighton won’t play again until they travel to Liverpool on October 1.
The teams that were anticipated to be competing for European qualification are off to bad beginnings, which is another point to consider in the framework Potter laid up in these first few weeks.
It has been much worse for Leicester City, who were seventh last season with a point advantage above Brighton. They are at the bottom of the standings with 12 fewer points than Brighton after six games after being thrashed 5-2 at the Amex on Sunday in what ended up being Potter’s penultimate game in charge.
Potter’s departure and the loss of so many of his assistants have damaged the European dream, but Brighton remains a desirable option for whatever Potter’s replacement may be.