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Chelsea manager Graham Potter opens up on mental health battle

LONDON – Chelsea manager Graham Potter said he felt like he was "fixing the plane while it's up in the air" as he opened up on struggling to come to terms with the deaths of his parents while at Brighton.

The 47-year-old returns to Brighton later on Saturday hoping to maintain his unbeaten record since replacing Thomas Tuchel last month.

Potter said it became difficult to distinguish whether his emotions were caused by football or the loss of his parents.

His mother Val died in July 2019 — he had been appointed Brighton manager in May that year — and his father Steve passed away in January 2020.

"You're going 'OK, I've got these feelings here that are powerful and raw' but then you're also trying to compete in the Premier League so then you're trying to manage," he said.

"'OK, am I getting angry or disappointed or frustrated or whatever the feelings are because of this or because of this?'

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"So that was the first six months of life in the Premier League and I think the quote is 'You're fixing the plane while it's up in the air'."

Tuchel is one of four Premier League managers to have been sacked this season — Steven Gerrard the latest to be fired from his post at Aston Villa.

The average tenure for a Premier League boss is two years and four days.

"We are part of a sport where we create pressure," said Potter.

"Somebody has to be under pressure, whatever it is and it will be one after the other, after the other, after the other.

"Then one's gone and it is on to the next. It was Steven Gerrard a few weeks ago and then it will be somebody else and then somebody else."

Potter says the desire for the media to compare a new manager with his predecessor also heaps the pressure on.

"(The media) want to compare with the previous guy so there is always that going on, which isn't great for the mental health," he said.

"It is difficult in the world that we are living in to feel sorry for a Premier League manager, get me right, but mental health doesn't really discriminate with your status or how much money you earn either."

Potter said his family also struggled when he first took over at unfashionable Swedish side Ostersunds FK in 2011.

"When you move to Sweden in the northern part of the country and it's -20C outside in the winter and your wife has left everything that she knew," said Potter, who stayed until 2018, leading the club from the Swedish fourth tier into the Europa League.

"She is there with an 11-month-old kid, crying, because she misses her family and her job, then you sort of think, 'I have got to make this work'."

Artmotion S.Africa

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