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Powell out to make it a happy Valley

SERIOUS BUSINESS: Powell understands his responsibilities

WHEN YOU talk to Charlton Athletic manager Chris Powell you are left in no doubt that he is proud to be in charge of a club that he’s had a love affair with for 13 years.

Powell might have played for seven other clubs but none of them have captivated him like his beloved Charlton. Having played for the club in three spells, he is now the main man tasked with returning the south-east London outfit to their glory days.

Powell was appointed manager of the League One side on January 14 2011 signing a three-and-a-half year contract. After a decent start in the hot seat results were not the best. It was time to stamp his authority at The Valley.

“I could see that there were a few things not to my liking when I arrived at Charlton and I just had to get through the season,” Powell told the Voice of Sport.

“I’m glad I went through it because all managers, especially aspiring young managers, need to go through a few scenarios to make them a stronger manager.

“I knew what needed to be done within my group and at my football club.”

Powell is quick to give credit to his time at Leicester City, where he was briefly first-team coach. While there Paulo Souza, Nigel Pearson and Sven-Goran Eriksson all influenced him.

“I played under some fantastic managers and coaches but you do find your own way. But you do remember the man management and leadership skills of the people you played under.”

The unexpected sale of right-back Carl Jenkinson to Arsenal in June for around £1 million gave Powell funds to bring in the players on his wish list. To date 18 have been signed and it’s a case of so far so good for all concerned with Charlton riding high and unbeaten.

It’s been a dream start but Powell is aware that it is early days. He’s also aware that his special relationship with the club will only be maintained with positive results.

“They [the fans] know that I’m one of them for sure. It’s my fourth spell at the club and it is a special place for me.

“Some people will question me going back. But they’ve been fair. I know what they want and I know what they want come the end of the season. I want to give something back to them for definite.

“I couldn’t have asked for anything more really in respect to the start we’ve had.

“I have a new group with 18 new signings and I’m really pleased with what we’ve done so far.

“But we have a long, long way to go and I realise the pressure that we are under because we are seen as a big team in League One and our set up is of a higher standard.”

This correspondent was at The Valley for Charlton’s opening day fixture against Bournemouth. Powell’s team ran out 3-0 winners and it was clear to see that he has his team playing, if not quite like Barcelona, with a style that is pleasing on the eye.

“I’ve always said that I’ve got to be true to myself and I do like to play football. I am aware of what the fans are looking for after my experiences of last season,” said Powell, who gained five senior caps for England during a notable career.

“I fully understand what we need to do and that’s why I got the new players in very early to get them into my line of thinking and to know what I wanted from them on the football field but also off field as well.

“It’s been a good start for us with a good pre-season and with a lot of testing games. We realised what we have to do this year.

“I am quietly happy with the way things have gone but there is another 40-odd games to go and there is a lot of football to be played.

“My team are showing me all the attributes that I like when we don’t have the ball and we have a touch of flair as well, which is something I’ve wanted us to play with as well.

“Nothing will be given to us this season and we will be seen as a scalp. We just need to be consistent and stay in the upper reaches of the division.”

The sight of a black manager or coach in the dug out in the English game is a rarity, never mind two at the same time.

But one of the best and earliest moves Powell made when appointed manager was to secure the respected services of coach Alex Dyer as his assistant.

DREAM TEAM: Dyer (right) is vital to both Powell and Charlton

Dyer was poached from West Ham and Powell is delighted with his acquisition.

“Alex is a wonderful coach. I knew that he would be a good number two for me. He keeps the squad bubbling. He’s a good coach in his own right and puts on good sessions.

“Alex has a good way about him. He’s a good man for me to lean on. However, I know that everything starts and ends with me.

“I can rely on him and he gives me a view on what’s needed because I may not always see it. He’s very important to me.

“I have a young and vibrant coaching team with me at Charlton.”

Powell, who served as chairman of the Professional Footballers' Association from November 2005 until he retired, is acutely aware of the shortage of black managers and coaches in England.

Now that he has landed a post himself, and employed Dyer, he knows that they are under the microscope.

“We are very aware of our positions. From the day I was appointed I’ve been aware of the responsibility we have.

“We know there’s a lack of black managers and coaches and that it doesn’t reflect what we have on the playing side.

“People like me and Alex, Chris Hughton (Birmingham City), Terry Connor (Wolves), Chris Ramsey (Tottenham), Noel Blake (England) are all aware.

PIONEER: The late Keith Alexander, the doyen of black managers

“The roles that these guys and the late, great Keith Alexander have had in inspiring the likes of myself is second to none.

“I can’t explain how vital those guys have been. So now that I’m in this position, I know the way that I conduct myself is under scrutiny. I know the role that I’m in can inspire.”

The Rooney Rule, introduced by the NFL, compels clubs to shortlist black managerial candidates, is something that the English game is chewing over.

Powell has his own views on the controversial idea:

“The Rooney Rule is something that could happen but I think it’s a long way off in this country.

“It has taken time in America but the proof is there that it works.

“I just want to make sure that people aren’t just doing it because they have to. Rather they are doing it because they feel that a black candidate is qualified and is a viable option.

“I just hope that football’s decision makers do get together and see it as an option that could be used in this country.

“There are a lot of black coaches at every level that have been around for a long time.

“I want that glass ceiling to be broken so that black managers and coaches can make a living and make a difference in the game.”

But for all the challenges of management it is obvious that Powell, 42, is enjoying the role as Charlton’s figurehead.

“It is full on. I did manage to get away on holiday but even then I was meeting my owner!

“You have to do your due diligence on players. You have to not only manage your players but your staff.

“It was a shock to the system last season because I was just the coach which means that you are never truly in the hot seat.

“Being a coach you can still take a step away. But as a manager everything comes your way; whether that be from the board, supporters and press. As a coach you don’t have to deal with that.

“You have to learn to delegate and work your times out. People like Alex and Damien Matthew are important to me, because they can handle things should I not be there.

“But I’m truly loving the role. When you win it is a fantastic feeling because that is shared with all the players, staff and supporters.

“I want to be in management for a long, long time.

“Everywhere I go I know the eyes are on me. I go to my local barbershop and they all want to talk football and call me ‘coach.’

“It’s a good feeling. The family is proud. There’s a lack of role models and I know that I have a lot of support from the community and I’m grateful for that.

“I know for it to continue that I’ve got to be a success. I’ve been given a very good opportunity. It is up to me to take it. If people are impressed with that that’s fine.”

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