Positive Potter: I was once terrified of going to United

Graham Potter remembers his one Old Trafford experience to date well. It was Saturday 1st February 1997, and the reverse fixture of Southampton’s famous 6-3 win at The Dell in October of that season.

By Alex Stedman • 09 November 2019

By Paul Hazlewood
Graham Potter addresses the media on Friday afternoon.

The return game between the two sides at Old Trafford saw Albion’s head coach named on the bench, but unlike the game on the south coast just over three months previously, he would remain an unused replacement. As it happened it would be his last involvement for the Saints before he departed for West Bromwich Albion on loan 13 days later. 

When asked by the press this week how he felt when he visited Old Trafford that afternoon as a player, he joked he was “petrified” — but was also quick to point out he will head there this Sunday in a completely different frame of mind.  

“I was a substitute just hoping to get onto the pitch. I can assure you that the mentality was we were facing a really tough match against a top team, but as a player you just wanted to try and show what you can do.

“It’s an unbelievable arena to play in and we’re all very fortunate to be involved in the game this weekend.” 


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Potter's Man United press conference

Potter says that the aura surrounding England’s most successful football club that afternoon still exists as he takes Albion to the north west this Sunday, lying two places and two points above Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side. 

“I don’t think that has gone. When I was playing, Manchester United were the best side, maybe they’re not at the moment. That’s what happens in football, clubs go through transitional periods and they’re in that phase now.

“You can ask anyone in the game and they’d tell you that there is still a huge respect for Manchester United as a club and as a team with the players they have. 

“You know some grounds will be tougher to go to than others, but we went to Manchester City at the end of August with a way to be ourselves and tried to get a positive result, as well as carrying on our development as a team, and I think that’s how it should always be.”


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Solskjaer's pre-match press conference

Potter is a firm believer in the importance of a positive mindset of contests against the more established sides in the division, and draws on the experiences in his previous managerial role and highlighted how those preconceptions can work against a team. 

“If football becomes a case of being beaten before you start then it just becomes very boring. In my experiences with Swansea City that’s probably what put a lot of people off the Premier League — if you spoke to the supporters then you got the sense that the team had ended up in that mindset of being beaten before they started and they felt like they could only do certain things.

“I don’t think fans like that. You should go into any match with a respect that you can lose to any side, that’s why we all love football, but I don’t think you should go onto the pitch beaten before you start.”


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Extended highlights: Albion 2 Norwich 0

Three wins from Albion’s last four matches has seen them climb to eighth in England’s top flight ahead of tomorrow’s contest, but Potter was eager to highlight the need to stay grounded, speaking of his belief that his side can improve further still. 

“We’re not getting carried away and we have a long way to go, the league table is of no importance to us at this stage of the season - we need to carry on improving, we’ve had a good run of results recently and so our points tally has improved. 

"If you spend too much time looking at the table then you can get yourself into a dangerous situation of either getting too comfortable, or panicking too much. We just have to carry on working and trying to get better. We’ve made good progress from the start of the season and I can see improvement in a lot of things that we do, but we’ve still got a long way to go.

“I watch our games and think we can improve a lot in every aspect, but that’s normal. I’ve always said that the players have been open-minded and positive while trying their best, we’re not perfect but we’ll analyse how to get always better and keep improving."

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