If Potter had quotability of Mourinho or playing career of Gerrard or Lampard we’d be calling him a genius
WIN at Fulham on Tuesday night and Brighton and Hove Albion will lead England’s top-flight for the first time in their history.
This, after making a £70million profit in the transfer window and having already won at Manchester United and West Ham, as part of a club-record nine-match unbeaten top-flight run.
The Seagulls have the best defensive record in the country and conceded fewer goals than either United or Arsenal last term, as they secured a best-ever finish of ninth.
If manager Graham Potter possessed the self-assurance and quotability of Jose Mourinho and Brian Clough — or playing career of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard — he would be widely declared as a genius.
But if Brighton do beat Fulham, there is no chance of Potter declaring: ‘I think I’m a special one and although I wouldn’t say I was the best manager in the business, I’m in the top one’.
Especially as the 47-year-old has a masters degree in emotional intelligence. Which neither Mourinho nor Clough could have bragged about.
Football doesn’t easily recognise a quiet genius like Potter — a jobbing left-back at a series of Midlands clubs in the 1980s, who proved himself as a water-into-wine merchant by leading obscure Ostersunds from the Swedish fourth tier into the Europa League.
Brighton have improved in all three of Potter’s previous seasons and have won at Anfield, Old Trafford, Tottenham and the Emirates (twice).
This summer they trousered £100m for Marc Cucurella, Yves Bissouma and Neal Maupay, yet there are no signs of standards dropping.
When the world wakes up to Potter’s qualities, the question is whether this deeply modest man — who claimed in a recent SunSport interview he walks around Brighton and Hove in disguise — would be interested in moving on?
FREE BETS AND SIGN UP DEALS – BEST NEW CUSTOMER OFFERS
There is a distinct possibility that England will be looking for a new manager come January.
While Gareth Southgate is under contract with the FA until the 2024 Euros, he is likely to walk if England bomb at the World Cup and, equally, in the less-likely eventuality they win the tournament.
The FA will want another English boss and have few other options. Gerrard and Lampard are hardly covering themselves in glory at Aston Villa or Everton.
Potter is not a product of the FA system, having clambered up the hard way through an Open University degree and those Swedish lower leagues.
Yet through his close working relationship with Dan Ashworth — formerly of Brighton and English football’s governing body — he would receive a glowing reference from a much-trusted figure in FA circles.
Ashworth, recently poached by Newcastle, is another key figure in Brighton’s rise.
Under his watch, Brighton recruited brilliantly, including Bissouma, Cucerella, Leandro Trossard, Moises Caicedo and Pascal Gross — an unsung 31-year-old German midfielder whose goals have defeated Manchester United and Leeds this season.
But master Potter moulded these little-known imports, along with Danny Welbeck and Adam Lallana — two born-again relics from Roy Hodgson’s England era — and created the benchmark for any English club without stupid money to water-cannon around.
Yet should England come calling, would Potter even fancy one of the most demanding and high-profile roles in national life?
Some who have dealt with him are highly sceptical.
When he was strongly linked with the Tottenham job last year, as Spurs went on that bizarre three-month search only to end up with Nuno Espirito Santo, Potter was not believed to be keen.
Now, with Gerrard’s job under threat at ambitious Villa, Brighton’s Solihull-born boss is being talked up as a candidate to take over at a club where he watched the 1982 European Cup winners as a kid.
Although Potter did start his playing career at Birmingham City and is non-commital when asked about his boyhood allegiances.
That, in itself, is typical of this radar-resistant, damned-elusive, limelight-dodger, who likes us to think of him ambling around Brighton’s Laines in a Groucho mask.
He may well be top of the richest league on Earth on Tuesday night, yet we hardly feel as if we know him.
And you’d imagine that is just how Potter likes it.
ELL FOR PARKER
IF getting sploshed 9-0 at Anfield wasn’t bad enough for Scott Parker, then the identity of two of Liverpool’s goalscorers — Harvey Elliott and Fabio Carvalho — would have rubbed salt into the Bournemouth manager’s wounds.
Parker had given both Liverpool whizkids their Premier League debuts while managing Fulham.
The Cherries chief — also wanted by the fashion police — was then treated to a consoling arm around the shoulder from Jurgen Klopp while the match was still in progress.
That gesture was described as ‘classy’ by Match of the Day pundit Jermaine Jenas but ‘horribly patronising’ by most others — Parker, presumably, included.
AT the age of 32, Mario Balotelli shows little sign of mellowing in Turkish football.
This weekend, our hero mouthed off at his manager Vincenzo Montella, who had to be dragged away from his fellow former Italian international striker, for fear that he might chin Balotelli.
And this after the final whistle of a victory for their team, Adana Demirspor.
Why always him? And why, after 18 goals in 31 matches last season, is he just about the only player in Europe Nottingham Forest haven’t tried to sign this summer?
Lord knows this crisis-ridden nation could do with some Balotelli-shaped gaiety.
A COUPLE of seasons back, Premier League players were continually punished simply for having arms.
There was a succession of penalties awarded and goals disallowed for balls accidentally striking upper limbs.
And that seemed extreme.
This weekend, Manchester United’s Scott McTominay literally juggled the ball in his own area without conceding a penalty against Southampton.
And Forest’s Steve Cook tipped a ball over his own bar with an outstretched arm without getting a red. Which also seems extreme.
So refs, any chance of a bit of common sense?
You know, like there used to be.
NOTHING BUT FLUFF
WATCHING the latest Amazon Prime ‘All Or Nothing’ on Arsenal provides fascinating glimpses — not least the fact Mikel Arteta’s David Brent motivational talks seem to work.
But let’s not confuse it for real journalism.
Like where Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is interviewed before last September’s North London derby and declares how much he appreciates the fixture’s meaning.
And no one says, ‘Hang on son, how come you didn’t turn up on time the previous one?’.
WAY TOO GOOD
ERLING HAALAND is the Premier League’s leading scorer so far this season and Arsenal’s Martin Odegaard has been the outstanding individual talent in the top-flight.
Which makes you wonder how bad the other nine players in Norway’s starting XI must be for their nation to have not even reached the play-offs for this year’s World Cup.
THAT bit when Joe Root was clearly struggling as England skipper and people kept insisting that Ben Stokes, as an all-rounder, would struggle to cope with the demands of captaincy.
Well after Stokes scored a century, took key wickets in both South African innings and led England fearlessly to an innings victory in the Second Test, what was that other bit all about?