Swansea boss Graham Potter out to cast a spell on Manchester City

Graham Potter is in his office, zig-zagging through memories from Hull to Ghana to Leeds to Sweden to Swansea. It's the travel-log of a marvelously unconventional career and also the reason why he offers a delightful perspective on the subject of managerial problem-solving.
In time he will come to the issues of his modern world, where he has somehow kept the Swans going in league and cup despite what might be termed as a royal plucking from those in charge.
Before any of that, he rewinds nine years to his final game as a player, aged 34, and one of his early assignments as a manager at Leeds Metropolitan University.
'Those were interesting days,' he tells Sportsmail. 'I remember we used to have our sessions on a Monday and a Thursday but Wednesday was the main athletic union night out, so you would get a few of the lads turning up worse for wear. Suddenly you are adjusting training plans to deal with hangovers. That was one issue.
'Then you have to factor in term times, because the football season continues even when the students aren't there and you are begging people to play on a Saturday. That's actually how my last game as a player came about. I had to register myself once against Tadcaster Albion to be on the bench.
'I got on the pitch and I realised very quickly I was old. The adrenaline is there but the body just can't do what the brain believes it should be able to do. So that was me done, but those were the kind of situations you had to deal with, getting players to fill a team.'
It's a charming aspect of Potter's trip on a road less traveled that he has acquired stories less often heard. Take another one from Ostersunds, where he rocked up for his first proper gig in 2010 before leaving for Swansea last year after three promotions and amid tales of squad productions of Swan Lake in the name of community integration.
The challenge there, aside from landing at a foreign club with barely 500 match-going supporters, was the weather. It would regularly drop to -25 degrees.
'In January you would have to train indoors but even in February, when we went outdoors, it would be -20 sometimes,' he says. 'We would just about set a limit on -18 as the cut off as anything more is dangerous. One of the things with that is that the balls freeze.
'We had this session at -18 and every 20 minutes we literally had to change the balls because they were becoming like cannon balls. I'll never forget - the boys were sweating and it was freezing on their faces and they had icicles forming on their eyebrows and coming down.
'They were snapping eyelashes off. You had this session plan and suddenly you are like, "I can't leave them standing around". You adapt to your surroundings and challenges in management.'
And that, really, is the point. Surroundings. Challenges. Adaptation. If the surroundings change, the rules of the other two still stand. Which brings us back to Swansea and what has played out between May, when they fell out of the Premier League after seven years, and now, when they step back into the limelight for Saturday's FA Cup quarter-final against Manchester City.
In that time, the club's American ownership of Steve Kaplan and Jason Levien made one of their few popular decisions with the appointment of Potter in June, but much of the rest of their reign since 2016 has brought disillusionment and questions, many of which involve the nature of the takeover and the decimation of the squad since relegation.
On that latter score, 16 senior players have left and five have come in across the two transfer windows of this season. The morning after the August deadline, they had one senior centre-half left after offloading two, and the morning after its January equivalent, the discussion among fans and some club employees was why they not only keep inviting the vikings to raid, but also hold the door open.
The Americans have cited the 'hard medicine' of post-relegation finances, but the fans make a more compelling case in wondering if sale after sale after sale is the only way to survive.
In all of this, it is tempting to wonder if Potter was sold a pup when he came over. But he has only ever presented a dignified face during the upheaval, while managing to stay afloat with the youngest squad in the Championship.
To judge from a place in the bottom half of the table, it might not look much, but the consensus among those who know what has gone on is that he is punching far above his weight, and still has been able to introduce a discernible playing identity at Swansea for the first time since Michael Laudrup left.
The mystery, and a moot question at that, is over what he might build if he didn't have his hands tied behind his back - but he doesn't complain.
Asked if the club is as he expected when he joined, he says: 'I would say yes and no. Nobody told me any lies or mislead me in any way. You know there is a financial challenge you have to meet because the revenues are not same as they are in the Premier League, but I suppose the depth of the problem was more the challenge.
'The club has probably over the past two or three years lost its way a bit and tried to recoup or gamble to stay in the Premier League. That is not me criticising because I can understand why that would happen, but the reality is when you are not there you are faced with a significant challenge.'
To a similar question, he adds: 'If you look to this period of Swansea's history I would say it is not a very positive one, but at the same time I think it is a really important one, because if it is not handled particularly well then I think it can carry on in a downward path.'
For all the difficulty, Potter insists he is still 'very much enjoying' the job, which follows a post-playing career that took in roles with university sides in Hull and Leeds, a degree in social sciences, a masters in leadership and emotional intelligence, a temporary job coaching the Ghanaian women's team, and fame for doing the improbable when he was 200 miles south of the Arctic Circle.
That will grow exponentially if Swansea somehow rattle Manchester City on Saturday. A massive 'if', of course.
'They are a brilliant team and Pep Guardiola is a brilliant manager,' says Potter. 'Let's see what we can do. It's a challenge.' Not quite the same heading cannon balls, but yes, it is.

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