After leaving Charlton Athletic last March, Prostate Cancer UK ambassador Chris Powell returns with his Huddersfield team for the first time this Saturday. We caught up with Chris to get his thoughts on the match, and his career, and friendship a year on since leaving the Valley.
How are you feeling yourself, are you looking forward to the game at the Valley?
I’m looking forward to it because obviously with all my links to the club, having three stints as a player and my last stint as manager, I’m always synonymous with the club. Huddersfield played Charlton at home, earlier on in the season before I was appointed a manager. Now that I’m going back there with my team, I’m looking forward to carrying on with what my team has been doing, especially on the road, and want to continue that. It’s obviously a big day for myself and Alex [Dyer], but we go there now with our new team and get our results and points on the board with what we want to achieve.
Will it be weird for you to come out of the tunnel?
It will be strange to walk along the west stand, and normally I turn right into the first dug out, but that’s what I’ve got to do. I’ve been back once before as a player with Watford but I’ve always wanted to, in the back of my mind, go back into it after what happened. I made sure I saw everyone at the training ground and stadium the day I left, but it was the relationship I had with the fans that was second to none. I got some terrific letters and emails forwarded onto me, but there’s nothing like being there with them - shaking their hands. It’s slightly different for them now with what’s going on with the club. It’s perfect now I can go back with a new team and say thank you. So, yeah, I’m looking forward to it.
A year on, do you think back?
I always felt that I was capable of managing at this level, I’ll always be thankful that I was able to start at Charlton and use my relationships were I was obviously able to learn on the job - my first job being with the coach of Leicester. The fans could actually see what I was trying to do. With Alex and our staff, I was able to get a group of players.
Moving on having a year in the championship and doing so well, and not being able to build on to it, was really heart breaking for me.
I was learning all the time as a manager at the championship level and handling it but of course I’m going to make mistakes, and I made mistakes – anyone in any job will. I just felt the way it ended wasn’t the way I wanted it to. I knew from the takeover that it was more likely going to happen. And, in hindsight, I was trying to shield the players and supporters from it but everyone could see what was going on. I knew I could manage at this level and here I am now managing a new club, and we’re doing ok and we’ve just snuck into the top half. We’re playing well above where we’re expected to be budget-wise, and I’ve got some good players and we’re slowly growing. Regardless of the outcome and the score, I’m able to go about with my head held high knowing I’ve done some good things.
Does it sadden you how the club has veered?
I’ve gone on record saying I’m very pleased that the team stayed up – I was happy on that front. We had so many things against us; I was hoping they could just settle down and get the players that could play at that level. You can’t underestimate how tough the championship is to play. We managed to get a few players in but what I needed at that time was to come out, and as much as I didn’t want it to happen, in the six months I was out it gave me clarity on what’s needed to reenergize and know what I would do next time.
I learnt from that period, and sadly for Charlton fans, they had absolutely no say in the running of their club. All they ever want is to have a slight input and an opinion but also some knowledge on the club they give their hard earned money to. That one thing I’ve found with Huddersfield the chairman is a long time supporter and he tells the fans absolutely everything, they deserve to be told. So I can see from the outside looking in on what’s happening. They know the club is part of the network but they just want to know what the future for them is. You’re looking at the turnover of manager and players, so it must be pretty tough being a Charlton fan at the moment. Hopefully it will change in the future but no one knows.
How close are you from marking your mark with Huddersfield Town?
We are punching above our weight but what I’m pleased about is I’ve embraced the staff and they’ve embraced me, and the club. They’re obviously looking at it and thinking, where do we go in, and I’ve told them and the chairman has told them that we’re forever evolving and things take time. We don’t want to rush it and do things we’re not suited for yet.
We do have a good harmony among the group; we’ve got quite a young team with players who have just played the first full season of the championship, which is a hard place to learn your trade. They’re handling it really well. When things haven’t gone too well for us, we’ve pulled out some really good results when maybe people have written us off, and that’s a good trait to have.
It’s a long way from London but I’ve embraced the area. Living up here and getting use to travelling around freely instead of getting stuck in traffic, that’s been good. But we’re still a session squad, so I’ve had virtually a full season - I’ve managed them after 5 games, and they’re a good bunch and quite adaptable. We do change on the pitch and they embrace new styles and it’s good for their education. All we’re trying to do is give the fans a team to be proud of competitively.
Huddersfield play at Chris' former club Charlton Athletic on Saturday and face some crucial fixtures immediately after (at Brentford, then Rotherham at home).
After the Charlton game we’re in London again – Brentford have carried on the momentum of the last season – that’s the key. I think they’re trying to end the season in the right way. It’s a tough assignment for us, that is for sure. As for Rotherham, they’re fighting for their lives, they’ll always be competitive.
Defender Joel Lynch (groin) is his only injury at minute. When is he likely to be back?
He’s looking to join in, maybe next week, so we are hoping he could have an outside chance for Rotherham. He’s been out for a while but its given an opportunity for one of the young centre halves Murray Wallace who has been here for a couple of years to play. He’s learning and doing well. And that bodes well for me that I’ve got someone like him to step in alongside Mark Hudson who is the elder statesmen of the group but a good leader for me and for the football club.
Goalkeeper Alex Smithies is currently in top form, made three super saves on Saturday to earn draw against Cardiff City. Is midfielder Jonathan Hogg over his recent thigh injury?
Alex is signing a new deal. He’s only 24, came through the academy. He’s very popular and a very good goalkeeper. I’m really happy with him, and happy to have Jonathan Hogg back. he’s been a real combative midfielder and he’s been out for a bit with an injury. But he’s come back and he’s really impressed this season alongside Jacob Butterfield and Connor Coady, so good to have those lads back for the run in.
Chris is backing our campaign to get men together with their mates, it's clear he values the importance of staying in touch with his friends.
Recently at Huddersfield one of my PE teachers came up to the game. He’s been up twice, once with his brother, once with his wife. It goes to show that you are proud of them. They are proud of you. They are still in contact,. That’s great for me.
I always think that if you find friends in your business and in your chosen field, even though you move on as you do in football they are still in contact with you. It’s a bit easier now with emails with texting, with social media. I suppose that’s the power of it all. You can be ion contact with people you got on well with but maybe have lost touch with them, and they have gone down a different road. Now 20 years down the line you can still be in contact and that’s great.
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