Gus Poyet: Graham Potter had no choice, "when Chelsea come calling, you don't think twice"
Gus Poyet on the sidelines for Sunderland (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

Gus Poyet loves the English game. He says so himself.

His mind is never far from matters in London - the city he calls “his real home”.

And why wouldn’t he.

He enjoyed a well-decorated career there, making over 180 Premier League appearances for both Chelsea and Tottenham.

It was with the Blues where Poyet made his English debut, ingraining himself into the hearts of their fans.

The effervescent, colourful Uruguayan earned notoriety as a big game player, playing his part in even bigger moments.

What big moments? Take your pick.

His trademark scissor-kick on the run against Sunderland, combining with Gianfranco Zola in sublime style.

His crucial goal in the Cup Winners Cup semi-final against Vicenza, which spurred on a comeback that would win the game and, eventually, the trophy.

Or most notably, his thunderous finish versus Real Madrid in the 1998 UEFA Super Cup, winning the game for Chelsea.

Chelsea lifting the trophy
Chelsea lifting the Super Cup trophy 1998 (Photo by Bob Thomas/Getty Images)

Intelligent, instinctive, and iconic.

Poyet was not just a great goal scorer, but a scorer of great goals.

His illustrious career was unfairly injury-ravaged - especially during his three years at Tottenham, where he eventually retired in 2004.

After hanging up his boots, Poyet swiftly moved into coaching, working under former team mate Dennis Wise at both Swindon Town and Leeds United.

Poyet would go on to take up managerial roles at Brighton and Sunderland, becoming 2009 League One manager of the year at the former.

Now he manages the Greek national team, where his eyes are firmly set on the approaching World Cup.

Many retired football players are left to reflect on past glories and failures, and perhaps reminisce on those bullish tackles, intense rivalries, exuberant celebrations or match winning goals that defined their careers. Poyet can mix them all into one.

A tall, dynamic midfielder with an unerring eye for goal, they just don’t make them like Gustavo Poyet anymore.

Poyet
Gus Poyet (Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images)

 

Poyet knows a thing or two about football – clearly. In an exclusive interview, he talks about the turbulence troubling Stamford Bridge recently.

Since Graham has Pottered off to Chelsea, there has been a sour taste left in many Brighton fans’ mouths.

Potter is taking his backroom staff with him, essentially stripping the bones out of Brighton’s club.

Furthermore, there are many football fans who are not convinced Potter is the right fit for Chelsea. Poyet notes that Potter had no choice but to join the Blues.

“I heard people say 'Potter needs to think if it's the right time'. He doesn't need to think twice, when Chelsea comes knocking on your door, there's no bad or wrong time, you need to take the opportunity,” he said.

“Obviously, you need to discuss the staff, length of the contract, the termination of the contract, but if you are happy to join, you must take the job. It’s a big challenge but it's the right time for him, unfortunately for Brighton.”

The new Blues boss, Graham Potter (Photo by Chloe Knott/Getty Images)
The new Blues boss, Graham Potter (Photo by Chloe Knott/Getty Images)

The truth is it is a massive leap for the new Chelsea boss. Brighton have been overachievers the past few years, largely down to Potter, but the ceiling of Brighton barely reaches the ground floor of Chelsea’s expectations.

Poyet understands these expectations. He has lived them. But he believes Potter will not only be prepared, but hungry for this opportunity.

“Graham knows what he signed up for,” says Poyet.

“All of us managers think we are prepared to manage Real Madrid tomorrow if needed, but we don't know how to handle it - when you start dealing with the chairman, the owner, with the pressure of constantly winning trophies.

“Let's hope Chelsea give him time, especially in the football and identity side. They need to win because they're Chelsea, but it's a new group, new manager, no pre-season.”

With the recent controversial sacking of Thomas Tuchel, Todd Boehly has started where his predecessors left off in terms of ruthless business strategics. Poyet knows if Potter fails to deliver quickly, the axe will swing.

“Remember, Chelsea is a team that needs to win trophies, and they did not win any domestic ones last year. We've seen in the past, with coaches who have won the Premier League or the double, if they don't perform the following season, they're out. 

“It happened to Mourinho, Ancelotti, Conte, Di Matteo and now to Tuchel. This gives you a good idea of what could happen. It's a new owner, we don't know what is going to happen, but let's think Potter is going to have time for sure.”

  • Potter has the philosophy to succeed.

Potter will hope to add some rhythm to the Blues.

His philosophy is not so different from Tuchel’s, so the transition in playing style should not cause problems. And Potter’s more gentle, human approach will be welcomed at Chelsea – following the fierce wrath reign of the German.

Poyet believes Potter has all the managerial skills to succeed.

“Yes, his philosophy is clear, he can convince the players like he did at Brighton,” he says.

“Even when they lost players, they kept performing. Having the chance to coach better quality players, even with the pressure that it brings, I'm convinced it's the right time for him.”

Potter is his new kit (Darren Walsh/Getty Images)
Potter is his new kit (Darren Walsh/Getty Images)

Poyet knows himself all the strenuous pressure that comes with being a Premier League manager. He has an animated manner that is designed to improve any club, but the hierarchy has not always welcomed it.

When Poyet talks football, his enthusiasm overflows; along with his speech, faster and faster; frantic hand movements, funny gestures, caricature expressions, a thousand tangents. His love for the game is infectious.

But he also has a stoic side, aggressive and feisty. These are character traits that Poyet notes Potter also needs to bring, to show the players who is boss.

“Potter needs the impact, he needs to show the players a coaching presence and he needs to make sure the players know what he wants from them,” said Poyet.

“I'm not bothered about that, Potter has been in the Premier League for several years, it won't be a problem at all.

“Potter will need luck, like sometimes when a shot goes in off a post, that can change the situation for the next two months in a massive way.”

The death of the UK’s longest serving monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, has submerged the nation into grief and mourning.

To honour Her Majesty, all Premier League games were postponed for the weekend’s fixtures, with more cancellations likely to happen for next week too. This will then be followed by an international break, so we may be left eagerly tapping our foots, waiting to see Premier League football again.

The tragic news of the Queen’s passing will give Potter the time and breathing space to meet, connect and teach his new players.

Poyet also notes how the World Cup could equally be advantageous to Potter.

“The more games he wins before the World Cup, the better for him. The World Cup is a big positive for Potter, people forget about it,” said Poyet.

“The World Cup is a magnificent opportunity for Potter, because now he knows he has September, October and two weeks in November, that's it.

“Then he will have a pre-season where everyone starts from zero. It will be like a new season for him.”

The fixture congestion as a result of the tournament will cause a lot of issues, especially for a manager who has been dropped in the deep end like Potter. But as Poyet discusses, the positives weigh out the negatives for him.

“Potter won't have all the players because of the World Cup, the difference would be he needs to win something from January to May, but the World Cup will help to develop his system, because it's like two seasons in one.”

  • Chelsea could never have appointed Pochettino.

Another candidate on the list to replace Tuchel was former Tottenham and PSG manager Mauricio Pochettino. It is fair to say that Pochettino would have had a more suitable CV to take the role, as he continued PSG’s domestic dominance and turned Tottenham into Champions League regulars.

Pochettino managing his players at PSG (Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images
Pochettino managing his players at PSG (Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

However, Poyet marks there is an obvious reason why the Argentinian could not have been given the job.

“In terms of experience and dealing with football stars, Pochettino might have been the choice. But it would be hypocritical from Chelsea,” he said.

“When I went to Tottenham, they wanted to kill me for a few years. Now they want a Tottenham coach, so how does that work? Not when it suits me but for Pochettino? That would be outrageous”

With Poyet, brutal honesty is always part of the package.

“Unfortunately for Pochettino, that will always be a handicap for a club like Chelsea, they don't want his affiliation with Tottenham.”

Poyet also gives some fascinating insight in how a club like Chelsea may go about choosing a new gaffer to take the helm.

“If nobody knows I'll tell you, clubs put names out to see the reaction of the fans, and when the fans react in a crazy way towards one manager, the club will focus on the other ones,” said Poyet.

It is safe to say, in terms of keeping the fans happy, Potter was the safer bet.

  • Boehly has to take responsibility if it fails.

It hasn’t taken long for the billionaire mogul to flex his muscles.

Boehly and his consortium have reached far into their deep pockets, spending around £250m in their first summer.

<strong><a  data-cke-saved-href='https://www.vavel.com/en/football/2022/08/02/premier-league/1118682-chelsea-season-preview-202223.html' href='https://www.vavel.com/en/football/2022/08/02/premier-league/1118682-chelsea-season-preview-202223.html'>Todd Boehly</a></strong> watching Chelsea vs Tottenham from his box (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Todd Boehly watching Chelsea vs Tottenham from his box (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

What is to be sure with Boehly, is he is a driven, energetic and passionate leader. In fact, his abrupt entrance is much akin to the beginning of Roman Abramovich’s reign – The Roman Empire.

But spending that much comes with expectations.

Poyet believes it also comes with responsibility.

“He’s the owner, he’s put the money in, he buys who he wants. I'm sure he will accept the responsibility if it does go wrong, because you can't do all of that and blame someone else,” he said.

“If he spends the money and takes the responsibility, I'm happy, I'm sure most of the Chelsea fans should be happy because it's his money.”

We shall see if Boehly’s gamble pays off. It could be the start of a new Blue Empire in South West London. It could be the fall of a once great one.

Time will tell.

 

*This interview was provided by Midnite.com – please gamble responsibly. If you or someone you know would like further information or support, GamCare provide a confidential service. 

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