Rangers knew what they wanted but didn’t know who they wanted. When the second question was answered, it became clear Jo Potter had the style and the substance. It was the right person, in the right place at the right time.

Appointing a manager at any level is never a sure-fire thing and there are no guarantees of success. Amy McDonald just had a feeling about Potter, a former England international and the assistant manager of Birmingham City. Potter was named as Malky Thomson’s successor in June. By March, she had already earned an extension to her contract, and she is now committed to Rangers until the summer of 2026.

The Old Firm derby defeat to Celtic last weekend was the first that Potter’s side have suffered this season. Rangers remain a point clear of their rivals and Glasgow City, who pipped them to the title on a dramatic final day last term, in the SWPL title race. Celtic stand between Potter and a place in the Scottish Cup final but it is the other Glasgow outfit that will provide the opposition for her first shot at glory in the Sky Sports Cup final on Sunday. A goalless draw on league duty a couple of weeks ago showed that Partick Thistle can be a thorn in Rangers’ side.

Potter arrived in Glasgow at a time when the only way was up for Rangers following a Scottish Cup defeat to Celtic in Thomson’s last match in charge. Come the end of her debut season, she could well have swept the board, and done so while invigorating and overhauling a squad with a fresh focus and new ethos. So far, she has been true to her word.

“If you meet Jo, everything she says she is going to do, she has a tenacity that lets you know that it is going to happen and that she will keep going until it does,” McDonald, the former Women and Girls Football Manager at Auchenhowie, tells the Rangers Review. “With that comes a real modesty as well. You get that as soon as you meet her.

“At the time we were really clear on what we wanted and first of all that was about the style of football that we wanted the new coach to play, and that was an attacking style. Jo came in and spoke about that really well and the standards and expectations to really drive that. She bought into the longer-term vision of the club.

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"She had been at a high level as a player and had so much coaching experience and it felt like a really good match at the time. We knew straight away what we were looking for and Jo ticked a lot of those boxes. She has come in and done a great job and I had no qualms about her leading the programme and taking it forward. She has set the standard.”

Potter has put her words into action and her philosophy on the pitch. The results will always be more important than the performances but Potter's side play with a verve that is entertaining and endearing. Now, it must deliver trophies.

The recruitment of players such as Rachel Rowe, a Wales internationalist, and Rio Hardy, who moved from Durham Women, were statements of intent early in her reign. It was the move to a back three and two recognised forwards that was perhaps the real signal of where Rangers were heading, though. This is a side that plays on the front foot, one which sets out not just to win, but to win well.

"Rangers came short of a domestic treble under Malky Thomson last season but the real truth is we simply ran out of legs and ideas," says the Rangers Review and 4Lads' Stevie Clifford.

"Things had become a bit stale. A lot of the games were hard work and largely uneventful, even in victory. It didn’t always pass the eye test and Rangers needed an injection of positivity and new ideas to reinvigorate the team. 

"Jo 'got it' instantly and began to drive standards and performances which were exciting to watch. The switch to 3-4-3, with two full backs either side of a centre back who would attack at every opportunity, means Rangers play with risk. Jo told me 'It will become less risk and only reward in time and she way right.

"The football is quick, attacking and enjoyable to watch. Players are thriving under her management. 

"The emergence of Mia McAuley and the continued development of Jodi McLeary and Kirsty MacLean is testimony to Jo's vision which includes the academy at Rangers. Alongside exciting signings like Rachel Rowe and Rio Hardy, Rangers feel on the cusp of something special."

Potter was one of a handful of candidates that Rangers spoke to during the recruitment drive but many more names had been discussed internally or put to them from external sources. McDonald naturally had a leading role but she was able to share the excitement and enthusiasm with the likes of Craig Mulholland and Zeb Jacobs. In the closing stages of the process, chairman John Bennett and James Bisgrove, the chief executive officer, also interviewed Potter via Zoom.

By that time, she had already emerged as the leading candidate after an initial meeting in London. That was followed up by time at Auchenhowie as both parties got a feel for each other on a personal and professional basis. Potter had impressed with her attention to detail – she had watched every match Rangers played the previous season – and her vision for change. One of her early decisions was to appoint Nicola Docherty as captain, while training times were also altered as the squad entered a new campaign with all the feeling of a new era.

“She watched, she listened, she learned from people that were in the programme,” McDonald says. “But she was really clear in her point of view and the way she wanted it done. For any manager, you live by the sword and die by the sword and it has to be their way and what they want. Jo is very personable, she valued the staff and listened to them and made them feel valued. She took feedback from the players and began to build relationships early on. She had a vision of where she wanted to go and the players she wanted and we were aligned on the recruitment of players.

“Sometimes in life things are just meant to be and it definitely felt like it was the right opportunity and the right time for Jo. The players really welcomed her demands in training, the consistency in standards and the expectations that she places on people. From that, the players have bought into it and built that momentum. Above all that, she is a good person.”

That personal touch endeared Potter to Christie Harrison-Murray. The Scotland internationalist moved to Birmingham four years ago and worked with Potter and Darren Carter, who succeeded Scott Booth as manager in November 2021, as City finished fifth in the Women’s Championship last season. Potter felt the time was right to move on.

She made the switch across the border with two decades of coaching experience behind her. The choice to combine careers on both sides of the white line placed demands on her time but ten years with the Football Association and two years with Solihull College prepared Potter for the stride forward in her career. She hit every age bracket from a five-year-old to an England international and every session has shaped her messages and her methods.

“She had a huge impact on me,” Harrison-Murray, the City captain, tells the Rangers Review. “She saw the value in having older players within the squad, which not all coaches do. In terms of her knowledge and experience in the game, I was able to tap into that and she gave real detail into my position and as a team in terms of how we played. I really enjoyed working with her and her energy and her passion for football and developing players is infectious. You cannot help but feel that and want to get better.

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“I played against her when she was at Reading and a few other clubs and you can tell when people understand the game and are going to work in it at some level. When Jo came in last year, the minute I met her you knew she was going to be working at the top level. It is really nice to see her hard work is paying off and she is doing really well with Rangers. Knowing Jo and knowing her personality, she is relentless in terms of wanting to improve and she strives to be at the highest level. I think for her it was a good match and Rangers is a big club that provided her with a good opportunity to build her own path in management and push on. It is really nice to see.”

A career in coaching is not an afterthought for Potter and her path has been carefully plotted over many years. She was destined to make the step as a manager but expanded her horizons by undertaking punditry work for the BBC during and after the 2007  World Cup and going into business with City teammates Jade Moore and Remi Allen to inspire the next generation of young talents.

Potter does not seek to overburden her players with details from her own career but those times for club and country naturally shape her outlook and her approach. Her desire to build a winning environment at Auchenhowie started on the first day of pre-season and the results to date speak for themselves. She still has the ability to put the ball at her feet and play a pass or finish a chance herself, but the way that she relays her ideas are the foundations in her blueprint.

“In tactical and technical terms, her level of detail is amazing,” Harrison-Murray, who has played for Queen’s Park, Celtic and Glasgow City and the likes of Arsenal and Liverpool south of the border, says. “She is really good on the grass and she can stop in the moment and really coach the players that are around her in certain scenarios. She is so good in that regard. A number of players would do extras to try to milk and make as much as we could of the detail that she brought to the game and knew about the game. I definitely think she has helped improve me as a player and I know she has done that with others.

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“I think it is just day to day, the small details that might seem insignificant at the time but that are actually so important. There was a real focus on doing the basics really well, the simple things like moving off the ball, your timing. It is hard to explain unless you are in the session but when you see it and are part of it, you just get it. There is a real focus on detail. When you know someone who has that knowledge but explains it in such a simple and concise way, that for me is one of the most important things a coach can do.”

Rangers have won 19 of the 23 SWPL matches that Potter has taken charge of this season, scoring 93 goals in the process. The squad is a mixture of established performers, rising stars and summer recruits and Potter will now look to guide them through the closing stages of what could be a historic campaign. The faith that was shown in her and then reaffirmed is close to paying off in some style.

Her values as a player and a person align with those of the club and those that she has surrounded herself with. Whatever the level, it takes a certain kind of individual to thrive in an environment like Rangers. Those that know Potter have no fears about her in that regard.

“She has that personality,” Harrison-Murray continues. “She is very strong minded but also has soft skills and empathy and understands what it is to be a professional footballer. There is not much that she hasn’t faced in football in her career and having those experiences, being able to draw on them and share them with players, will help her. She has been in those positions and can explain how she dealt with it. She has played in pressure games for England and for her club. She has done so much in football and the players can tap into that. She can lead in those pressurised moments.

“She is such a hard-working person. She will be first in and last out. When players see that, see the energy and passion and all the detail she brings to the game, you want to be part of it. You can see the players enjoy playing and they have got a real style in how they are winning games as well. Winning breeds confidence and when you start to see the results and see the things you have been doing in training paying off, it makes you even closer and even more driven.”

It is not just relationships on the field that have been formed this season. The bond between the players and the support has been taken to another level as fans have bought into the Potter era as much as the squad. Alongside assistant Jay Bradford, Potter has fostered a spirit within the camp.

A fine career for club and country brought just one winner’s medal for Potter. She was part of the Three Lions side that finished third in the 2015 World Cup in Canada but it was at Ashton Gate three years previously that she lifted her only trophy as City beat Chelsea in the FA Cup final. Her first as a manager would be a moment to savour for Potter.

Philippe Clement is not the only treble-chasing boss at Auchenhowie and the pursuit of all three medals at Women’s level is being undertaken with vigour. Chairman Bennett is expected to be in attendance at Tynecastle and he is a firm believer in and backer of the Women’s setup. Rangers were the first club to professionalise the female game in Scotland and the passion that those in the corridors of power have for providing women and girls with equal opportunities will ensure that Potter always has the support she needs to strive for success.

“For me, I cared so passionately about the club and the big thing for me was to have the right person in the right place at the right time for Rangers to take that step forward, particularly coming off the disappointment of not winning the league,” McDonald, who left Rangers in November to take up a position with the Premier League, says. “It was important that everyone felt a collective shift with whatever appointment we made and it was clear when we met and spoke with Jo that she was it.

“Jo will be taking one game at a time just now and won’t get ahead of herself but she will want to go and have a good go and test herself in Europe because she wants to be the best and be among the best. She will drive standards and herself to be able to go and achieve that."