John Potter's second period at Dunfermline ended yesterday when it was confirmed he would move to Sunderland as first team coach. This is a tremendous opportunity for the popular and hard working coach and one that he thoroughly deserves. He will be much missed around EEP, not least because he is a self-confessed Pars fan and one of the few examples in the modern day game of a player, then coach, who was proud to represent his own team.
Potts joined Dunfermline as a 19 year old centre half in 1999 after a 2 year spell as a Celtic youth team player. He made 28 appearances for the Pars first team before leaving to join Clyde in 2002. From there he went to enjoy the best period of his playing career at St Mirren, from 2005 to 2011, which included promotion to the Premier League and 3 seasons as club captain. A change of manager in 2011 saw a squad clear-out which surprisingly included Potts. His next move was back to Dunfermline and marked the start of a 6 year period and the start of his coaching career.
Joining the club after its return to the top division in season 2011/12, Potts made 19 appearances before being loaned to Queen of the South for the second half of the season. The Pars team suffered relegation and manager Jim McIntyre was replaced by Jim Jefferies, who made Potts part of his coaching staff for the following season, 2012/13. The new-look Dunfermline team topped what is now the Championship until financial issues and eventual administration decimated the playing squad and left Potter and Craig Dargo as the club's senior players, with the bulk of the remaining squad being youth team players. Potts had guided the Pars youth team to the Scottish Youth Cup Final as the club's Under 20s coach but the sudden elevation of many of the young team to the first team, after many senior players were released, proved to be detrimental to both the youth team (the final was lost, to Celtic), and the young first team (a points deduction was followed by relegation to League 1).
After finishing second to Rangers in League 1 but losing the promotion play-off final in 2013/14, the team struggled in the early months of the next season, which they had started as firm favourites to win the division. Jefferies left the club and Potts, by now rarely featuring as a player, was promoted to the manager's role. Sadly, for a variety of reasons it was not a success and the club finished the season in seventh place in the third tier. Potts was retained by new manager Allan Johnston in the summer of 2015, returning to his coaching position with the Under 20s, in addition to working with the first team.
Potts' dedicated work as a coach and as a match observer for the manager, together with his positive manner and professionalism, made him a vital part of the management team as the club won the League 1 title in 2016 and the continuing year-on-year progress since. He has overseen the emergence of players such as Ryan Williamson, Lewis Martin, Callum Smith plus others who have moved on from Dunfermline including Shaun Byrne and Lewis Spence, both now Premiership players at Livingston and Dundee. I was fortunate to be able to attend many Under 20s games between 2015-2017, sitting in virtually empty stadiums or standing near the dug out at Kelty, the venue for many Under 20s Pars home games, in close proximity to Potts, and was very impressed by his method of coaching from the sidelines. Unlike some other clubs' coaches who spent entire games shouting expletives at their young players, Potts was always positive, encouraging his team and giving well-explained tactical advice: the type of coach that would be a dream for any young player to work with.
All the best to one of our own, a good guy and an excellent coach.