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On Graham Potter, stability, mediocrity, and the sunk cost fallacy

Not all that glitters is gold

Chelsea Unveil New Head Coach Graham Potter
Images that precede unfortunate events
Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

Well, well, well.


Graham Potter, we hardly knew ya. (And not just because you presented a very specific and purposefully crafted facade to us.)

Turns out that our guy was not the guy. He is not him. We (the club) thought he was the answer. He was not. It took some longer to realize and even longer to accept that, it took some ... a little less longer. He rubbed me the wrong way from day one, but hey, that’s just me.

We (all) hoped he would be the answer. We gave him every chance. We had a vision, and he shared it. He got practically endless backing from the club’s hierarchy and by all accounts was able to maintain a harmonious dressing room. Many changes behind the scenes were centered around him and his crew. And he still failed to deliver. He had squandered all that support away. Even his biggest proponents behind the scenes had to accept the obvious.

Stability at the managerial position is all fine and dandy. Aimless mediocrity is unacceptable.

Managing up as well as down is a great skill to have, but this business at the end of the day will always be about results.

It’s not all his fault. It’s never all the manager’s fault. It is his responsibility however.

His job wasn’t easy. It never is easy. Circumstances were tough. They are always tough. That’s why he got paid the big bucks!

And yet we also didn’t ask for much. He didn’t have to win, he just had to show progress. But the team only regressed. He was practically guaranteed all of next season, if only he could show a process. He couldn’t. No consistency. No identity. I always thought of “identity” as an overrated concept. But I was just spoiled by managers (and players) who had come before.

And so now, we’re back to square one once again. Turns out that just spending a lot of money on something doesn’t guarantee instant (or eventual, for that matter) success. Boehly and Eghbali may not be the smartest guys in the room, even if they believe they are. Let that be a lesson to heed for all their other Chelsea-related activities and decisions, regardless of the millions, billions spent.

A couple months ago, when we hired our “winning culture consultant” (how is that going, by the way?), I wondered if Potter would turn out to be Boehly’s Ranieri (nice guy and all) or Boehly’s Mourinho (who actually set us up for the next two decades of winning). Turns out, he was neither.

Whoever comes in next will have to be, and more. They will have get along with their higher-ups and also win some games. They will have to show a process before we trust it, and then show progress to keep that faith. They will have to get the players to perform and live up to their potential. And then ideally even stay for a while. That’s a tall order, to be sure, but the likes of Pep Guardiola, Sir Alex Ferguson, Jürgen Klopp, or Arsène Wenger don’t just grow on trees — and other than Pep, none of them got it right the first time either.

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