TWICE voted Sheffield Wednesday player of the year, Eric Potts was a busy winger who became something of a supersub during one season with Brighton.
The diminutive, ginger-haired Potts had been Wednesday’s man of the match when a packed Goldstone crowd of 30,756 saw Albion beat Wednesday 3-2 on 3 May 1977 to clinch promotion from Division 3.
Manager Alan Mullery clearly saw something in his performance that memorable evening to persuade him to part with a £14,000 fee to bring the Liverpool-born wideman south for the Albion’s assault on Division 2.
It was a level Potts had played at before – under two different Owls managers, Derek Dooley and former Albion player Steve Burtenshaw.
Potts had spent seven years with the Owls and played 159 games but he had grown tired of being selected as a substitute and was itching to get some starts.
“I want to go places…not sit on the substitutes’ bench like I did eight times in the Third Division last season,” he told Shoot! magazine. “The First is my aim and that’s the reason I’m delighted to be joining Brighton.”
The season began well enough for Potts as he lined up in the no. 7 shirt for the first 21 matches of the season. But home grown winger Tony Towner came back into contention in November and took over the shirt, meaning Potts had to resort to that familiar place on the bench.
He was to have only five more starts in the rest of the season, getting on the scoresheet in three of them, but it was from the bench that he made most impact.
Fifteen times he came on as a sub between December and April and scored goals in three of them. Against Sunderland he actually got two in two minutes to turn what was a one goal deficit into a 2-1 win.
Older fans will recall Albion narrowly missed out on a second successive promotion in 1978 but, despite his involvement across the season, Potts didn’t stay in Sussex.
Canny Mullery returned a decent profit on his investment as Preston North End paid £37,000 to take Potts to Deepdale where he spent two seasons.
His next move, for £20,000, was to nearby Burnley in September 1980, as manager Brian Miller sought to bounce straight back to Division 2 following relegation to the Third Division.
A wonderfully detailed profile of Potts, written for clarets-mad.co.uk by Tony Scholes, recorded how Potts scored seven goals in 58 appearances for Burnley, plus nine as a sub.
We learn from Tony how Potts had started his career as an amateur with Blackpool but when nothing came of it he went into non-league football with New Brighton and Oswestry Town. His form at Oswestry attracted Wednesday who bought him for £5,000.
He made his debut for Wednesday in October 1970 but didn’t establish himself in the first team until towards the end of the 1972/73 season.
Once he was a regular, the Hillsborough faithful took to him and voted him player of the season in 1974/75 and 1975/76.
After his season on the south coast, Potts went on to collect a Third Division championship medal with Burnley even though towards the end of his time with the club he lost his place to Trevor Steven, who would later play for Everton, Rangers and England.
After just short of two years with Burnley, he moved to Bury, where he played for a further two years before retiring.
Scholes recalls how Potts played over 350 games for five clubs scoring a total of 42 goals and later played non-league football for Witton Albion and Clitheroe.
Both of his sons have played football. Eldest son Colin was initially with Preston but played all his first team football in non-league.
His youngest son Michael started as a schoolboy with Manchester United, before moving on to become a member of the Blackburn Rovers team that reached the semi-final of the FA Youth Cup in 2008/09.
Released in 2011, he signed for York City in the summer of that year at the age of 19 and on the opening day of the 2012/13 season, as a substitute, he made his Football League debut for York in a 3-1 home defeat against Wycombe.
In 2008, ‘surf’ on pne-online.net reported that Potts senior was a taxi driver in Preston.
Pictures from my scrapbook show Potts in action in Albion’s away kit and an article in Shoot! in which the winger talked about why he made the move south.