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Graham Potter believes right now that managing Chelsea is the hardest job in football. Pity, however, is the last thing he wants as he was fully aware of the challenges facing him when he left the cosier confines of the south coast and Brighton to head for the Stamford Bridge goldfish bowl.
Chelsea fans will be taking the short trip to Fulham on Thursday fully anticipating a win against a team the Blues have lost just once to since March 1980. But as Potter himself explained, it is expectation that is making so difficult his job of rebuilding the fortunes of a club which has imploded in the last 12 months.
Owner Roman Abramovich, Marina Granovskaia – the director who effectively ran the club for two decades – and technical director Petr Cech have all left the club since the start of the summer.
Signings have failed to gel and nine first team players are currently injured – but their current position of 10th in the Premier League is simply not good enough. “Change is a challenge in any organisation,” Potter said. “This club was run a certain way for 20 years and run really well. Unfortunately, they’re not here anymore and you’ve lost all that leadership. It is an incredible amount that’s happened in the last six to 12 months.
“Sometimes that can manifest itself in different things and in different ways. At the same time, you’ve still got Chelsea with the demands and expectations – but the reality is maybe we’re not there yet.
“That’s part of the challenge to come and I understood that things would be difficult from a leadership perspective. It is a challenge, stimulating and ridiculously hard – it is probably the hardest job in football.”
In a footballing world where the norm is to hide any sense of weakness, Potter is disarmingly honest about the toll it is having.
“After a game I am not a very pleasant person, in terms of it hurting me,” the 47-year-old said. “I have to come up and talk to you guys directly after a game, and it is not quite putting on a show, but I have to deal with that as part of my job.
“You have to take responsibility. You have to show up. You have to lead the group and lead the team. It is pain, but then life can be more painful. Life can really kick you in the nuts and you have to recover from it, deal with it, move forward.
“And that’s what makes life better – when it moves to a good place. I feel like I have to take more responsibility and I have to be grateful for the challenge and the opportunity that I have.
“Ultimately, I am not after pity here. I am really grateful and privileged to be here. How do you get through this tough period? Be really grateful for it. Because it is an unbelievable challenge. I mean, wow, what else could you be doing with your life? Worse.”
PROBABLE CHELSEA TEAM vs FULHAM (4-3-3): Kepa; Azpilicueta, Silva, Koulibaly, Cucurella; Jorginho, Kovacic, Zakaria; Ziyech, Havertz, Mount.
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