#5 – Chris Powell
The most predictable selection since I picked out all the purple Quality Street chocolates the moment the tin was opened prior to Christmas; Chris Powell was always going to occupy my left-back slot.
This is, after all, a blog named after Chris Powell. This is Chris Powell’s Flat Cap’s favourite Charlton XI. I may have made indicated on one or two occasions that I’m fairly appreciative of Chris Powell’s existence.
And Powell the player gave me if not the best moment I’ve experienced at The Valley, then certainly a moment that has yet to be topped. Some goals have come close, Johnnie Jackson’s header against QPR last season level, but if something happens that sparks more emotional scenes in the Upper North, I’ll be in desperate need for a five-month-long lie down.
Unbeknown to less informed me, the six minutes Powell was given by Alan Pardew against Coventry in the final game of the 2007/08 season were to be his final six minutes in a Charlton shirt.
The roar of appreciation, however, as the then 38-year-old entered the pitch pretty much gave it away. Pardew kind enough to give him something of a send of, but not quite so kind to extend his contract; the then Charlton manager’s wasting of money meaning the club could not afford to keep a relative veteran, not even in a player/coach capacity.
Powell was the past. Jonjo Shelvey, the player he rather romantically replaced, the future.
But, with the chants of “Chrissy Powell” still ringing around The Valley’s walls, Powell provided something truly unforgettable for those present. The ball sitting up perfectly for Powell inside the box, the full-back finished emphatically and sparked unforgettable scenes.
To compare it to that Jackson goal, there was not a roar. Not the sudden outburst of sheer joy that the most dramatic of wins brings. No one picked up any bruises.
It was a goal that extended Charlton’s lead in a match that meant very little to the Addicks. If Greg Halford had scored the goal, it would have been effectively meaningless.
However, that this was Charlton legend Chris Powell scoring in what was effectively the last kick in his 270th and final game for the club brought about displays of passion and intense pride among the celebrating supporters.
There were probably even a few tears as Powell was lifted in front of an adoring Covered End. Most of them mine. The rest of them Powell’s; that he got to enjoy his final time on The Valley pitch, taking in an incredible amount of applause and appreciation during the lap of honour, as a Charlton player with his family equally as emotional.
Alas, the argument for picking Powell isn’t as comprehensive as you might expect. Of those 270 appearances, I saw just 53.
By the time I had made my first appearance at The Valley, it seemed Powell had already made his last in Charlton red. The then 34-year-old struggling to get into the team with Herman Hreidarsson and Paul Knochesky ahead of him.
In fact, 16 days after I saw the Addicks beat Aston Villa 3-0, Powell had been loaned out to West Ham. A move that would become permanent later on in the 2004/05 season.
I was aware this wasn’t necessarily good news, and certainly upsetting to most Addicks that a hero had departed SE7. My dad, I presume in a desperate attempt to convince going to watch Charlton would be a good idea sooner, had made his status clear to me in my pre-Charlton life. ‘Chrissy’ was well known before I even took an interest in football.
But I quickly grew fond of Hreidarsson. He was charismatic, enthusiastic, and a bloody good footballer. I recall an excellent volley against Everton that I celebrated with vigour, largely because it was the Hermaniator. Who’s Chris Powell?
Chris Powell, I was soon to learn, was a wholehearted, fully-committed player of some quality despite his age suggesting the Premier League was not for him. He returned for the following season and, possibly helped by my dad’s appreciation of the man, I adored him from the off.
He was as fantastic as any other member of the squad during that brilliant start to the 2005/06 season. Superb at the back and still a threat going forward, Powell proved his return was more than just an act of sentiment.
It was also clear that this ‘nicest man in football’ tag he had wasn’t wide of the mark. The most willing of all the players to speak inside the dressing room when I was mascot for the game against Fulham in 2005, Powell ruffled my hair and signed a photo of himself with the words ‘be good’. Sound advice, Chris.
Nine years later, the same man would sign a shirt of mine with ‘Powell 3’ on the back with the caption ‘UP THE ADDICKS’. Halfway through writing that, the Huddersfield boss turned to me and said ‘I probably shouldn’t be saying that now’, smiled, and carried on anyway. As star struck and mesmerised by his persona as I was the first time I met him.
And during that recent meeting, while he was featuring on Sky Sports’ Fantasy Football Club, that goal against Coventry was shown. He bemoaned that a lack of goals were shown in his montage, but there was an immediate half-smile across his face when it appeared. Mine more a stupidly gormless full smile.
It was the perfect end to a fantastic Charlton career. Even in that final season as an Addick, having departed to Watford for one campaign and come back to The Valley for his third spell, Powell remained passionate for the Charlton cause and a decent player.
Certainly not the player he once was, but more than effective in the 19 games he played; 17 of which came before 2008 had been reached. Injury and Pardew being Pardew meant Powell was excluded for half of the campaign.
But, if possible, it probably added to that incredible moment on the final day of the season. There was excitement to see Powell in the match day squad, let alone on the pitch and scoring.
I don’t have the authority to write as glowingly in memory of Powell the player as some would. I didn’t see the England international, I saw a player towards the end of his career who sometimes struggled to get into the team, especially under Pardew.
But, even in the two short spells Powell spent in SE7 during my time as an Addick, I still got to see a player of high quality, who continued to give his all right up until his final six minutes. He was always going to be my left-back.
What a man.