Why Graham Potter would be the ideal choice for West Brom

by Alex Keble / 04 April 2018, 13:48

Although eight consecutive years of top division football gives West Bromwich Albion the impression of a bona fide Premier League club, there is in fact very little about the Baggies to suggest they will bounce back – as they have done pretty much every year since first going down in 2003.

Despite finding stability under Tony Pulis, all West Brom are left with now is a poor-quality, disjointed set of players and a 26,000-seater stadium in a relatively unattractive part of the country.

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The Premier League TV money and upcoming parachute payments might give them an edge over most Championship clubs, but the latest accounts show West Brom just about break even and currently spend 74% of their turnover on wages. It will not be an easy transition, and without a clear tactical identity (besides dull relegation-scrap defensive football) the Baggies are exactly the sort of club that could fall away into mid-table Championship obscurity.

And that’s why their next managerial appointment is so crucial. It is high time West Brom look to build a clear ethos, to create a philosophy, that can serve them not only in the Championship but translate easily to the Premier League, following the models of Bournemouth, Huddersfield Town, Southampton, and Burnley. Five of West Brom’s last seven managers have lasted just six months or less. That trend has to stop.

There is only one name currently being linked with the job that doesn’t suggest a continuation of the cycle, that doesn’t scream of short-term thinking of a yo-yo club on the verge of losing its ability to bounce back. Graham Potter, a former West Brom player born in the area and current manager of Swedish outfit Ostersunds, is the perfect man for the job.

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Potter has achieved something quite remarkable at Ostersunds. He took over the fourth-tier club in 2010 and over the last eight years has lifted them three divisions, winning the Swedish Cup last year before masterminding an incredible Europa League run in 2017-18. Ostersunds beat Galatasaray, PAOK, and Hertha Berlin on their way to the knock-out stages before being eliminated by Arsenal, winning 2-1 at the Emirates but losing the tie on aggregate.

It isn’t just his incredible on-field achievements that have made Potter a target for English Football League sides. His man-management and emotional intelligence have been credited for Ostersunds’ success, with many washed-up players revitalised thanks to Potter’s unusual techniques (for example, he famously hosts an annual show for locals to improve the self-esteem of his players, who recently performed Swan Lake).

This sort of managerial style – aimed at developing the confidence of individuals and maximising their potential – is precisely what West Brom need. The likes of Salomon Rondon, Jay Rodriguez, Kieran Gibbs, and Nacer Chadli could all struggle to motivate themselves at Championship level. But more importantly, West Brom need somebody with a long-term vision who can transform the culture of the club – and raise morale after four years of tediously dull football at the Hawthorns.

Potter has long been touted with a move to English football, and in terms of the size of the job, his intimate history with the club, and the potential to build from the foundations up, West Brom is an ideal fit for the 42-year-old. It is an excellent match of club and manager; the Baggies board must resist the urge to appoint a “safe pair of hands”, such as favourite Mick McCarthy, and take a risk on arguably the most exciting young British manager around.

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