I’ve been asked about film rights for my story but I want to make ‘lost’ Swansea box of­fice again

Mo­bil­ity (sales)

Sunday Mirror - - PUZZLES - By neil moXley

GRA­HAM POT­TER has lived through one Dis­ney-style fairy­tale – now he is fo­cused on cre­at­ing an­other at Swansea.

The well-trav­elled 43-year-old ar­rived at the Lib­erty Sta­dium this sum­mer hav­ing made his name in a Swedish back­wa­ter where he trans­formed Oster­sunds from al­so­rans into Europa League up­starts.

It was a back-story that earned him a crack with the Swans, a club try­ing to re­gain its place cen­tre stage af­ter a fall into the Cham­pi­onship cho­rus line.

Pot­ter may one day have his name in lights. But not just yet.

He said: “I’ve been asked about film rights. Peo­ple want to speak to me about what hap­pened at Oster­sunds.

“I’m proud of the story, proud of be­ing part of an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, go­ing from the fourth tier of Swedish foot­ball to the Europa League. When we started, no-one be­lieved in the club. There had been too many bro­ken prom­ises. No one liked the club. Those in­ter­ested in Oster­sunds didn’t trust any­one.

“My wife turned up to drop our el­dest at nurs­ery one day and they asked why she was in Oster­sund. They said to her ‘Just go home, you’re wast­ing your time.’

“By the end there are 5,000 peo­ple com­ing from Oster­sund – a town with only 50,000 in­hab­i­tants – to watch a game of foot­ball in Lon­don against Arse­nal. They trav­elled be­cause we had given them some­thing to be­lieve in. And that’s what we are in this job for.”

There is a mat­ter-of-fact­ness about Pot­ter. He is one of the few to have played at ev­ery level from the Pre­mier League down, fol­low­ing a hand­ful of ap­pear­ances at Southamp­ton. But he’s now spent just as long coach­ing. And he’s mak­ing waves, too, but it wasn’t im­me­di­ately ob­vi­ous what he was go­ing to do.

He said: “I had 13 years as a pro­fes­sional foot­baller. A lot of kids will dream about do­ing it. I did at a va­ri­ety of lev­els. I was for­tu­nate. I had a few clubs, lots of man­agers, lots of in­flu­ences.

“But I stopped play­ing when I was 30 be­cause I lost mo­ti­va­tion.

“It was a con­scious de­ci­sion to quit. I didn’t want to do that and end up get­ting some­one the sack be­cause I was go­ing through the mo­tions.

“I wasn’t en­joy­ing play­ing in League Two. I wasn’t earn­ing that much money. I knew foot­ball would kick me out at some point and I wanted to go on my own terms.

“I had saved a bit of money and my wife had a busi­ness so, fi­nan­cially, we could get through the tran­si­tion, but I needed to do some­thing.

“In a lot of dress­ing-rooms the chat among the lads would be ‘how much money have you got?’ and ‘how much do you need to re­tire?’

“I’d pull them up and say: ‘It’s not about that. If you stop play­ing at 35, what are you go­ing to do with the rest of your lives? You still need a pur­pose.’ I’d re­alised that it was com­ing to an end. Was I go­ing to con­tinue on £30,000 a year?

“It was a pow­er­ful mo­ment in my life. I was turn­ing my back on be­ing paid to play foot­ball. You turn up, train, play and go home.

“I wanted to use the ex­pe­ri­ences I had. I had an idea about teach­ing so I went down that route. I picked up coach­ing badges but I needed to be­come a bet­ter coach.

“You lose your iden­tity as an ath­lete when you stop play­ing and I think I strug­gled.

“What saved me was my job at the Univer­sity of Hull as foot­ball de­vel­op­ment man­ager. I was coach­ing all age groups, from six-yearolds to col­lege kids. That, cou­pled with my de­gree, got me the gig at Oster­sunds.

“I had to sit in front of a panel of five at in­ter­view and com­plete a per­son­al­ity pro­file test. It was tough. “But I started to work in this learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment. There were peo­ple there I could coach. A lot had been re­leased by clubs. It was a turn­ing point for me.”

Though he was given time to shape the club, it was his first man­age­rial po­si­tion and came with its own pres­sure.

He said: “Peo­ple say to me ‘you were at Oster­sunds for seven years – you had time.’ But it wasn’t ex­actly like that.

“When I got the job the chair­man said to me: ‘First sea­son you need to get pro­moted.’ We were pro­moted.

“Sec­ond sea­son he came and said to me: ‘You need to get pro­moted again.’ We had two pro­mo­tions in as many years.” Pot­ter faces a whole new chal­lenge in south Wales.

“What I found at Swansea was a club that had lost its way,” said Pot­ter. “A club that did its best to stay in the Pre­mier League.

“But the fo­cus on just stay­ing in the Pre­mier League can eat you up and I think it has had that ef­fect on this club. “It has to re-set its val­ues. “The Pre­mier League is won­der­ful but it’s a dan­ger­ous path to go down if you count suc­cess as merely stay­ing in it. That can erode the good things at your club, the good things that are im­por­tant to the club.

“Are we proud to play here? Are peo­ple com­ing to de­velop their ca­reers? We need the fun­da­men­tals of the club back – they’ve been lost some­where along the way.”

It may not hap­pen but Gra­ham Pot­ter, for one, is de­ter­mined that the se­quel doesn’t turn out to be a box-of­fice flop.

rags to riCHes: Gra­ham Pot­ter in his of­fice at Swansea and, be­low, with Arsene Wenger be­fore Oster­sunds took on Arse­nal in last sea­son’s Europa League

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