Brighton & Hove Albion fans should be thankful for Antonio Conte - Scott McCarthy

Thank goodness that one of the best managers in world football was available and willing to take the Spurs job, providing Daniel Levy threw an obscene amount of money his way, writes We Are Brighton's Scott McCarthy.

Tuesday, 2nd November 2021, 12:30 pm
Updated Tuesday, 2nd November 2021, 12:32 pm
Brighton & Hove Albion fans should be thankful for Antonio Conte according to We Are Brighton's Scott McCarthy. Picture by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

Because if Antonio Conte had not been out of work, then there is every chance that Graham Potter would have been high on the Tottenham managerial shortlist to replace the sacked Nuno.

This is something that Brighton fans will need to get used to over the coming months and – hopefully - years.

The price of the Albion's current success riding high in the Premier League table is that their manager is going to be in demand whenever possible job vacancies are discussed at bigger clubs like Spurs and Manchester United, or sports washing empires with vast resources being bankrolled by a despotic state like Newcastle United.

Potter’s name has come up in conversation for all three of those roles in the past month. Some Manchester City fans are even talking about him succeeding Pep Guardiola when the time comes for Guardiola to vacate the Etihad Stadium hotseat.

It says much about how highly Potter is viewed in the upper echelons of the sport right now that he is considered a realistic successor to one of the most successful managers in footballing history. The England job which he was linked with last March suddenly seems miniscule in comparison.

This of course is a far cry from where Potter and Brighton were a year ago. Potter was in the midst of overseeing two wins from the opening 19 matches of the 2020-21 campaign, representing the worst start to a top flight season in Albion history.

He also managed to achieve the seemingly impossible of recording a club-record winless home streak of 14 matches, outdoing the Class of 1998 - widely considered the worst team in Brighton history and who finished second bottom of the entire Football League.

Not many chairmen would have stuck with Potter through all that. Football is a results business and Brighton’s results were terrible. Chris Hughton paid with his job for a run of two wins in 18. At any other Premier League club, Potter would no doubt have joined Hughton on the dole.

Which is something that Potter would do well to remember when the big boys do come calling. The phrase “Long term project” is banded about by clubs in the top six but those words carry about as much weight as a Boris Johnson guarantee.

Just ask Nuno; sacked after three months with Spurs eighth in the Premier League and having won Premier League Manager of the Month in August. They say life comes at you fast, but football comes at you even faster.

In a parallel world like something out of a Christopher Nolan movie, Conte is not available or turns Spurs down again. Potter takes the job but needs at least six months to install his ideas upon the squad and sign players to suit his style of play. Results do not instantly pick up and as a result, he is sacked within a year with his reputation dented.

We saw it happen to David Moyes. He swapped Everton where he was backed to the hilt for Manchester United. Moyes lasted less than a season at Old Trafford. It has taken the best part of seven years for him to become rehabilitated in the eyes of the footballing world through his work in turning West Ham from relegation battlers into a side capable of challenging for Champions League football.

Brighton on the other hand is a rare beacon of job stability, as Everton was for Moyes. Tony Bloom genuinely believes in the long term project that the Albion are on and is therefore willing to give his manager as much time as possible, backing them even when they hit numerous speed bumps in the road. Bloom had plenty of reason for losing faith in Potter – especially last winter – but he never did.

Potter should now repay this loyalty and not jump at the first club with more history or money to come calling. Even after failing to win a Premier League game in September, there is a feeling that something special is building at the Albion with Potter at the helm.

That is a culmination of two years of work. Potter has overhauled an aging, defensive-minded squad to create a young and vibrant team capable of going to somewhere like Anfield and overcoming a 2-0 deficit to draw 2-2 against a rampant Liverpool outfit.

Despite the numerous rocky patches already mentioned, so much has been achieved in two-and-a-half seasons. Imagine what could be achieved in two-and-a-half more, if Potter sticks around? These players are only going to get better, and you get the feeling that Potter himself will too. He is still relatively young and inexperienced in managerial terms.

Potter will move on at some point – but he should choose where to carefully. He will need a club who will give him time and patience. He is an intelligent guy and will realise that there are not many of those out there. That is good news in the battle which is surely forthcoming for Brighton to hold onto their manager.