Chris Powell ‘honoured’ to go from White Hart Lane terraces to our dugout
Fri 30 April 2021, 11:00|Tottenham Hotspur
Somebody pinch Chris Powell – he’s worried he might be dreaming.
A former England international with over 750 career appearances to his name and now a seasoned manager, the former left-back never wore our famous Lilywhite shirt as a player but has nevertheless always been a big fan of the Club.
Indeed, he remembers sneaking out of his south London home as a child to travel across the capital and watch us play at White Hart Lane, idolising Steve Archibald among many others down the years.
Having joined our Academy in a senior role as Head of Coaching last summer, where his position dovetails with that of Head of Player Development Ryan Mason, he now finds himself serving his boyhood team as Interim Assistant Head Coach, working alongside Ryan in a first team dugout full of top professionals with Spurs running through their veins.
“Sometimes I don’t think I have the time to realise how much this means,” smiled Chris after a first team training session at Hotspur Way this week. “Even for a short while, it’s something to be proud of because we can champion the people we have at the Club who have good qualities and who have either got experience of managing and coaching, or are just starting out. We’ve got the Club at heart, we care deeply about what happens and even for this short period, we only want the best, then whatever happens in the summer happens and we revert back to our roles, but we carry on loving and supporting the Club.”
Born in Lambeth, Chris started out at Crystal Palace before representing Southend United over a six-year period. He subsequently won promotion to the Premier League three times with Derby County, Charlton Athletic – a club he represented during three separate spells as a player and later managed – and West Ham United, while he also played for Watford and Leicester City, winning League One with the latter side in 2009.
Appointed manager of Charlton in 2011, he guided the Addicks to the League One title in 2012, before later managing Huddersfield Town in the Championship. A spell on Derby’s first team coaching staff followed in 2016 before he took over as manager of another of his former clubs, Southend, in 2018. He has also served as assistant manager at Dutch side ADO Den Haag, while he retains a coaching role under Gareth Southgate with the England national team – something he feels positions him perfectly to work with a first team squad here at the Club featuring a number of Three Lions players.
“Harry (Kane) is the captain and the leader of the England senior side and I’ve met Winksy and Eric Dier, so that’s been really good,” he said. “I’ve seen Japhet (Tanganga) when he’s been with the England Under-21s so it’s good to see some familiar faces – that always helps – but you’re dealing with players who have played at the highest level. When you look at Hugo Lloris, who has lifted the World Cup, he’s just accepted us as if nothing has really happened because I think he knows professionally that you have to get on with it and it’s been the same with the others, with Toby Alderweireld and some real big players that play for their countries, play international football and real top-level elite football. They’ve been great and I can only take them as I see them and vice versa.
“In terms of our targets, we can do it, no doubt about that. We have the quality, we have the professionalism, we have winners in the dressing room and people may argue about what’s happened over the course of the season but there’s no doubt in my mind, seeing them at close quarters, how good the players are. The will to win is there and I think they recognise they still have a lot to play for, not only as a team but individually as well. I think pride always comes into it with regards to your own career but we’ve got to show that we have unity and we have a team that can bounce back from any adversity and that’s exactly where we’re at. That has to start from the Sheffield United game. We’ve got Wolves and Villa to come at home and obviously some tricky games away at Leeds and Leicester but if we’re anywhere near our full capabilities, we can pick up the points that we need.”
Back to Chris as a person and the story of how he became a Spurs fan…
“I’m from south London so there’s always this argument of ‘why don’t you support a team from south London?’ but I had family over in Walthamstow when I was a boy and Spurs just became my team,” he explained. “I was never allowed to come across the water to watch Spurs but I plucked up the courage – didn’t tell my mum and dad – I came over in 1983, my first game, my first hero – Steve Archibald – scored and we beat Notts County 1-0. That was the start. I stood in the Paxton Road end and started to watch the team regularly at home and away as much as I could. I couldn’t go to too many away games but I remember going to Ipswich, we won 3-0 in the mid- to late-1980s, I got on a train from Liverpool Street full of Spurs fans and I can tell you countless games… I’ve still got most of the programmes!
“My first final – Coventry – I went on my own in 1987, everyone knows what happened with the kit and the Holsten logo and everything. It’s always been my team, no matter what. Strangely I didn’t score too many goals in my career but two of them were against Spurs – one at White Hart Lane and one at the Valley! I’ve got so many heroes and I’m a little bit of a Spurs trivia man, when you ask me about lesser-known players – Timothee Atouba, Erik Edman, (Paolo) Tramezzani – I can remember them all but if you have to pin me down, Steve Archibald was my first real hero, he really was. Then through the years, Chris Waddle was a big one for me, Gareth Bale, which is odd now that I’m working with him because I’m thinking, ‘the amount of times I’ve cheered your goals’ and jumped on people I don’t know in the stands because they’ve got the white shirt on!
“It’s just great that I’m here now, primarily lending my experience to young players, but I find myself involved with the first team for this six-week period and then I go back to being a fan. One story I can tell you – leading up to the Man City game at Wembley, I was trying to work out how I was going to get a ticket and I was saying ‘I need a ticket, I need to go!’ because with COVID, tickets are tight… I didn’t expect to actually be sitting on the bench! I would’ve been quite happy to sit with the 2,000 fans supporting my team as I always do, regardless of what happens.
“I’ve been at the Club since last summer in the Academy dealing with the Under-17s to Under-23s and especially Wayne Burnett’s Under-23 side – I’ve been working alongside him and seeing how well he works with them – but then it was all change last week and here I am, a boyhood Spurs fan, being in the dugout for seven games. I’m more than honoured to do it, to work alongside Ryan and Michel Vorm, Nigel Gibbs and Ledley King. Everyone has got together and recognised that we’ve got a lot of hard work to do to make sure that this team finishes in the best way it can. Everyone has been very good, we’re all proud of this Club and we just want to do well.”