Graham Potter doing it his way at Brighton - and it's paying off

In an exclusive interview, Graham Potter explains how his footballing philosophy has delivered a fifth successive season of Premier League football for Brighton; watch Brighton vs West Ham on Saturday Night Football from 7.30pm live on Sky Sports Premier League; kick-off at 8pm

GRAHAM POTTER TOP GRAPHIC

"Balance, you have to have balance in football. You have to look at the team and ask whether it makes sense. You need a team that is organised but, at the same time, players have the freedom to make decisions on the pitch because it's a player's game."

Balance, organisation, freedom. In his own words, those three fundamental footballing principles have, and will continue to, underpin Graham Potter's reign at Brighton.

Having those principles at the forefront of his mind and methods has proved vital for the Seagulls boss, whose footballing philosophy has produced impressive performances and earned heaps of praise, if not results.

Staying true to his vision of how the game should be played, and even doubling down through the testing periods of this most arduous of campaigns, has delivered Brighton a fifth successive season of Premier League football and immense pride for Potter.

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"You have to be careful not to lose twice in football," the Brighton boss exclusively outlined Sky Sports.

"You can think there is an easier way, a different way because you haven't got the result doing things your way. You think you should change and do something else, but then you end up losing again and you haven't gained anything.

"The key thing is to believe in what you are doing and fight to make it work. In football there are no right or wrongs, everybody can choose their own way to play. The challenge is to try and make it work and be humble enough to know that we may not be perfect but try to improve.

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"That is what we've done all season. I'm proud of that, I'm proud that we have developed the players and the team and maintained our status in the Premier League. That is very important for us."

Dealing with defeat, disappointment, setback

Fulham's defeat to Burnley on Monday night sealed Scott Parker's side's return to the Championship and ensured Brighton would not be sucked into a late relegation battle as another season of top-flight football for the Seagulls was secured with three games to spare.

To their credit, despite being one of the teams relegated Sheffield United, West Brom and Fulham would undoubtedly have targeted during their unsuccessful survival bids, Brighton maintained a safe distance throughout the duration of the season, never dropping into the bottom three.

That's not to say Brighton have had things their own way. Encouraging performances have failed to deliver points time and again, with a barren run of just a solitary victory from 18 games in all competitions between September and January notably testing the club's resolve.

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Brighton have the joint-fewest number of defeats of any side in the bottom half of the Premier League table and yet find themselves bottom of the pile of the safe teams. A litany of debilitating draws have come to typify what has at times been a frustrating campaign for the Seagulls, but Potter has developed ways to deal with the setbacks.

"The Premier League and this competition, you don't win that much," he added. "The fact we haven't won that much and the number of times we have achieved that feeling, that's the challenge you have to deal with.

"The defeat, the disappointment, the setback, that is what you have to deal with, and I've realised I'm actually OK at doing it.

"It's not something I really like doing but it is something you have to do and I have managed to do it in a way which was good enough for us to stay in the Premier League and to maintain a group which has been healthy and positive throughout the season most of the time.

"We're human beings, you can't be good all the time, but most of the time we have been really good and that gives me a lot of satisfaction."

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Potter: Some people move, some people stay

Brighton host West Ham in their penultimate home game - live on Sky Sports - before the end of the season, where attention for Potter and his staff will turn to breaking out of the cycle of relegation fights and taking the club to new heights.

If those ambitions are to be realised, the importance of maintaining squad continuity for Brighton cannot be underestimated. Movement in the market, however, is a reality Potter is all too aware of. For him, maintaining continuity in his methods is ultimately the key.

"Continuity in terms of how we're working, continuity in terms of the core group [of players is important]," he said. "But we're not naïve enough to know some players will move, it's part of the job of football to adjust your squad a little bit.

"We have to be brave enough to understand that and, at the same time, know that we are trying to finish the transfer window in a better place than when we started it, that's the challenge of any transfer window, any summer.

"We won't change in terms of the path that we are on, that will be continuous, but we also have to accept it's part of life that some people move and some people stay."

Brighton's Yves Bissouma, left, and Manchester United's Bruno Fernandes challenge for the ball during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and Brighton and Hove Albion at Old Trafford, Manchester, England, Sunday, Apr. 4, 2021. (Oli Scarff/Pool via AP) 2:23
The Soccer Saturday panel discuss how good Brighton's Yves Bissouma is and whether he's worth more than £40 million

Hammers have shown how it's done

If Brighton are to break into the top half, they need to look no further for inspiration than West Ham's remarkable transformation this season.

The Hammers narrowly evaded relegation after ending the 2019/20 season on 39 points - just two more than Brighton's current points tally - and have gone on to mount a push for Champions League football.

It's a blueprint Potter believes is a testament to the efforts of David Moyes, and West Ham's successful recruitment policy.

"The interesting thing, if you look at West Ham over the last two or three years, is that they have invested a lot of money in their squad and were probably frustrated with the results they had," he said.

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Image: Watch Brighton vs West Ham on Saturday Night Football from 7.30pm live on Sky Sports Premier League; kick-off at 8pm

"David Moyes has come in, got them out of trouble last year, stabilised and turned those talented players into a team. Their results have improved a lot and they are having a fantastic season.

"It's hard for us to compare because the level of investment they have put in is significantly more than ours, but at the same time, it's full credit to David, his players and his staff because they have really galvanised the club. They are a team now who play for each other and they are a strong Premier League outfit."

As he would admit, following in West Ham's footsteps and moving Brighton into contention for Europe may be an objective further down the line for Potter.

But ending this season strong - starting on Saturday against the Hammers - would be the first step on the road to another Premier League campaign where he is striving for his methods to finally get the reward they have often deserved.

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