GRAHAM POTTER knew he was walking into the most demanding club in English football when he arrived at Chelsea.

But it is only in the next few weeks that the Blues boss will know for sure if the promises made by Todd Boehly are real.

As the cascade of chants from the visiting fans echoed around the Etihad on Sunday night, Potter will not have needed reminding of the fates of so many of his predecessors.

Indeed, if this had been 12 months ago, you would not have put a penny on the manager surviving the week.

The Roman Abramovich was, unquestionably, one of sustained success.

But it was also built on a brutal, immediate, response to not just failure, but the FEAR of failure.


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If a manager was deemed to have lost his way, he lost his job. 

Even if, as in the case of Roberto di Matteo, he had WON the Champions League just a few months earlier.

Many, especially fans of rival clubs, criticised and condemned.

Even some Chelsea fans questioned the wisdom of the individual decisions, although they were heartily relieved and approving of more than a few swift sackings, too.

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Nobody, though, would argue with the results. Trophies, followed by trophies, followed by trophies.

Abramovich’s forced departure last year, followed by Boehly’s ultimate arrival as the new custodian of the Bridge, changed the picture.

The American continued the Chelsea spending policy, of that there could be no doubt.

Net outgoings of more than £200m including the arrivals of Raheem Sterling, Kalidou Koulibaly, Marc Cucarella, Wesley Fofana and – on deadline day – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Yet within five days of Aubameyang’s signing – which appeared a sop to moaning Thomas Tuchel – the German was sacked, replaced by Potter.

It looked like a determined change in policy. 

The new owners, bringing in their own man – very much their own man – with a long-term view. 

Recruiting Potter from Brighton was a statement of intent, one the hierarchy wanted the dressing room to hear, see and read.

Potter, too, was given the vows and assurances he sought. That he would be given time to rebuild, to finesse, to shape the squad in his image.

With the recruitment department already at work this window – striker David Datro Fofana made a half-time debut at City while Benoit Badiashile was on the bench and Brazilian andrey Santos has also signed – it seems the rebuild is continuing.

The bigger question, though, is whether Potter WILL be given the time and opportunity to pull the work off – or if the waves of protest become too great for Boehly and Co to ignore.

In Potter’s defence, he has had to contend with a truly horrific injury crisis.

Fofana, the £70m recruit from Leicester, is expected to be out for another month having not played since the start of October.

Both first-choice full-backs, Reece James and Ben Chilwell, remain out, as are midfield heartbeat N’Golo Kante, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Christian Pulisic and Armando Broja.

As for Aubameyang, he seems as interested in playing for  Chelsea as he was bothered about Arsenal in his final months at the Emirates: not a jot.

Yet what riled the Blues fans at City – both those who made the trip to Manchester and the vastly greater numbers who watched on TV – was the passive acceptance of defeat they witnessed.

Fans recognise their team can lose, even if they don’t like it.

But if it looks as if the team is simply swallowing, if the manager appears inert and unresponsive, if it seems that nobody cares, that is a capital offence.

The bitter truth is that Chelsea are, almost, out of the race for the top four, and already out of both domestic cups, with Borussia Dortmund in wait in the Champions League next month.

Under Abramovich, managers were sacked as soon as the club decided they were not going to finish in the top four unless there was a change. No matter at what point of the season that was.

By that metric, there is no doubt, whatsoever, that Abraovich would have pulled the plug on Potter weeks ago.

That he remains in charge now suggests Boehly, at least for the moment, is as good as his word. That he will give the manager the chance to show he can turn it round.

Yet it cannot go on indefinitely. 

Patience is a virtue, yes. Long-term thinking is good. 

And Potter has already proven, at Ostersunds, Swansea and Brighton, that he will come good if he is properly backed.

But this is Chelsea, not Ostersunds, Swansea or Brighton. It is different, tougher – and when the fans turn, they REALLY turn.

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You have to be a truly strong owner to withstand that potential scale of mutiny and revolt. 

For Potter’s sake, Boehly needs to be that kind of strong owner.

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