The departure of Graham Potter to Chelsea means that Brighton chairman Tony Bloom is faced with the task of appointing the sixth manager of his 13-year spell at the helm of the Albion.
In that time, the Seagulls have soared from the edge of the League One relegation zone to occupy their current lofty position of fourth place in the Premier League. It has been quite the journey.
To have undergone such a meteoric rise – and with the average Brighton boss lasting for more than two years in the job – suggests that Bloom gets the majority of his managerial appointments correct. That should give Seagulls supporters confidence in their owner picking the right man to succeed Graham Potter.
For further evidence of Bloom’s successful strike rate in the head coach department, we have rated all five of his appointments so far. Only one was graded below a B. While the football world eagerly awaits who Brighton go for next, here is our look back at the bosses Bloom has turned down in the past and how successful (not you, Sami) they were.
Bloom’s first managerial appointment as Brighton chairman came in November 2009. The Seagulls were hovering just above the League One relegation zone when the popular Russell Slade was ruthlessly sacked.
Slade’s P45 arrived just six months after he had overseen a remarkable great escape from the clutches of League Two. Brighton had been eight points adrift of safety with just seven games left to play, yet Slade somehow dragged them from a seemingly hopeless position to survival on the final day of the 2008/09 campaign.
Bloom turned to Gus Poyet to replace Slade. Poyet had been assistant to Dennis Wise at Swindon Town and Leeds United, followed by a spell as number two under Juande Ramos at Spurs. He had never been a manager in his own right. The appointment represented something of a gamble for Bloom.
There is a reason though why the Albion chairman has made millions through betting. By the end of the 2009/10 season, Poyet had Brighton in mid-table. In 2010/11, they blew the rest of League One away to win the title with four games still to play. Results were impressive, but even more so the football.
It was considered at the time impossible to get out of the third tier playing out from the back with possession-based passing football. Poyet and Brighton rewrote the rulebooks in one of the most sensational years in Seagulls history.
Had the Poyet era ended there, he would be an A+ manager. Things between Poyet and Brighton began to sour over the next two years, culminating in an acrimonious departure following Championship playoff semi final defeat to arch rivals Crystal Palace.
Among Poyet’s misdemeanours was talking to Reading about their vacant manager job. He also brought bad publicity to the club by wading into the Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra racism row, trying to defend his fellow Uruguayan Suarez.
Poyet’s comments in the aftermath of the Palace match were ill-advised at best. He complained of a “glass ceiling” and questioned the backing of his chairman to get Brighton into the Premier League.
Bloom did not take too kindly to that and Poyet was fired shortly after. Those final months knock his mark down to a B+, which is a shame because no Brighton side have ever dominated a division as his League One champions did.
Poyet should be recognised as one of the all-time greats, the manager who transformed the Albion on the pitch by laying the foundations for everything good that has since followed. Instead, the Seagulls have done their best to airbrush him from history.
Poyet was replaced by former Barcelona midfielder Oscar Garcia, taking up his first managerial role in England. Oscar did a seriously underrated job in his one season in charge, taking a weaker squad than Poyet had worked with to an unlikely sixth-placed finish – enough to earn him a B grade.
His success was based upon a rock-solid backline of Gordon Greer, Matthew Upson, Stephen Ward and either Bruno or Inigo Calderon. Tomasz Kusczcak had a fine season in goal while up the other end, the goals of Leonardo Ulloa earned the Argentine striker an £8m move to Leicester City come the end of the campaign.
Ulloa scored the famous last-minute winner at Nottingham Forest on the final day which secured a playoff spot. Brighton were hopelessly outclassed by Derby County in the semi finals, suffering a 6-2 defeat on aggregate.
Oscar resigned shortly after the second leg loss at Pride Park. Rumours abounded that he did not believe the budget for 2014/15 would be enough to sustain a promotion push. How Oscar would have performed with the backing and quality of squad afforded to his predecessor Poyet or Chris Hughton two appointments down the line remains one of the great Brighton ‘what if?’ questions of the past decade.
The one appointment that Bloom has got wrong. We will not dwell too long on Sami Hyypia, who oversaw just three wins in 21 Championship matches to leave Brighton staring League One in the face by the time of his departure in December 2014.
True, he did have that much reduced budget which Oscar predicted would be problematic. When you are replacing future Premier League winner Ulloa with Chris O’Grady from Barnsley, you are clearly going to drop down the table.
Other outgoings included Upson, Ward, Kuszczak, Will Buckley, David Lopez, Andrea Orlandi and Keith Andrews. In their place came an army of loan signings; so many in fact that at one point, the Seagulls could not name them all in their matchday squad as it broke the permitted five allowed.
The one good thing you could say about Hyypia is that he was at least honourable. The first time Hyypia handed in his resignation, Bloom convinced him to stay. Bloom wanted the appointment to work and was willing to give Hyypia time to turn it around. When Hyypia then tried to resign for a second time, Bloom reluctantly accepted.
Honour and trying to do the right thing is not what we are grading here, though. Sorry Sami, it is a D- for you.
When Hughton arrived at the Amex, Brighton sat 21st in the Championship. By the time he departed four-and-a-half years later, the Seagulls were in the Premier League and had just reached the semi finals of the FA Cup for only the second time in their history. An Albion legend worthy of an A+ grade for delivering the top flight football many Brighton fans never thought they would see.
The first five months of Hughton’s reign were a struggle as the Seagulls limped to safety. They won just one of their final 11 matches – a 1-0 victory at Blackburn thanks to a Matt Kilgallon own goal – and scored just three goals of their own in the run.
Hughton was well backed in the summer of 2015. He transformed the squad and Brighton went from barely avoiding League One to missing out on automatic promotion by two goals within a year. Undeterred by the crushing disappointment of playoff semi final defeat to Sheffield Wednesday, Hughton took the Albion into the Premier League as Championship runners up in 2017.
To the outside world, Bloom sacking Hughton less than 24 hours after the 2018/19 campaign had finished was a hugely controversial decision. Those who had watched Brighton regularly from December onwards though knew that Hughton’s time at the club had reached a natural conclusion.
Two wins in 18 matches and some poor performances had been masked by that FA Cup run. Losing at the Amex 5-0 to Bournemouth and 2-0 to Cardiff in the space of three days was a sign that the spark had gone. A sad but necessary change highlighting that the Albion owner tends to get his firing right as well as his hiring.
How then to grade Potter? A highest ever finish in England football of ninth. First ever victories away at Manchester United, Arsenal, Everton, Aston Villa and Preston North End. A best ever start to a top flight season. He even had Brighton top of the Premier League for four minutes on Saturday 27 August.
It was not all champagne and caviar though. The worst run of home form in Brighton history of 14 games without a victory. A worst ever start to a top flight season. Three months without a win between September and December 2021. Three months without a goal at the Amex between January and April 2022.
What cannot be denied is that Potter transformed Brighton on the pitch. He replaced Hughton’s attritional football designed to grind out wins with an expansive, passing game which meant the Seagulls could compete with the best clubs in England. And beat them.
The squad was overhauled from one of the oldest in the Premier League to one of the youngest. Exciting young talents have taken the opportunity Potter was willing to give them, resulting in huge transfer fees coming in and turning the club profitable for the first time since Bloom took over.
Brighton under Potter looked like they might be on the verge of something special. We will never now know how far they could have gone. Europa League qualification? Champions League football? Might the Seagulls have even done a Leicester?
Potter did his job in turning the Albion from an outfit who were designed to survive in the Premier League but not much else into one with genuine ambitions of European football. The form since winning away at Arsenal in mid-April has been sensational.
Had he stuck around, he would undoubtedly have joined Hughton in A-Grade territory. But 14 games of almost-unbeatable form is not enough to score that highly when the previous 30 months were a mixed bag of good results and long runs of disappointment. Is it therefore a B+ for Chelsea Graham.