The Monday Profile: Nick Powell

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Image available under Creative Commons © Jan Tik

In our recent analysis of the PFA awards, my fellow blogger John McGee highlighted the disagreement that can ensue when debating the worth of leading young players.

With Jordan Rhodes valued by the press as a knee jerk £6 million, John pointed out that Adam Le Fondre, the man whose two goals fired Reading to victory over Southampton in the Championship’s recent summit meeting, cost a mere £350,000.

Prices seem to be all the more outlandish for players the tenderer side of twenty. One recalls Aston Villa’s £6 million for Fabian Delph, the £5 million disbursed by Arsenal for the services of Theo Walcott and the £12 million the same club forked out for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Much depends on the purchasers of course – for Arsenal, these sums are sizeable but affordable – so probably worth the risk. Hence, for Crystal Palace to meet their fans’ financial expectations for Wilfried Zaha or Birmingham City for Nathan Redmond, it will have to be one of the really giant enterprises that comes knocking.

Nick Powell is plying his trade two leagues below Zaha and Redmond but his progress is no less significant. Accolades have been piling up for the Crewe midfielder in recent times: caps at various levels, appearances at last summer’s under-17 World Cup in Mexico, and a Football League Young Player of the Month award – and all that with the kid only turning 18 in March.

What’s more, he has developed into a team player quickly – scoring 14 goals in 54 appearances for the Alex and his position as midfield fulcrum has helped inspire the Cheshire club into an unlikely late run for the play-offs – scoring a dramatic late equaliser against Torquay on Saturday and leaving the Railwaymen needing only a point at home to Aldershot to book a place in the 4 team mini-tourney. Indeed, the last defeat suffered was way back in February at Southend and fifteen games have passed since.

Looking at the fees Crewe have received for previous academy graduates, there is some variation, with the record fee received standing at £3 million for both Seth Johnson and Dean Ashton – the latter in particular taking some time to head out from Gresty Road, cementing his place as one of the second tier’s best strikers before leaving.

But chairman John Bowler’s recent announcement that Alex had made a £962,736 loss for the 12 months up to the end of June 2011 will catch the attention of amateur accountants and directors have had to make interest free loans to keep things ticking over.

Powell is already good enough to command a fee amounting to several multiples of that deficit and now he is 18, will not be subject to the ravages of the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) – so Crewe can breathe a sigh of relief on that count at least. With gates perennially low, even during an encouragingly long spell playing second flight football, the Railwaymen exemplify the realities England’s smaller concerns must face.

If Powell does leave, it seems likely that the fee will top the £1.5 million quoted in a Metro article at the weekend – Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City are among the rumoured suitors and can surely be expected to cough up more.

Current Director of Football Dario Gradi has always been loathe to allow his best youngsters to jump ship too early but the Alex academy costs £500,000 a year to run and its whole existence is predicated on returns – with a bevy of additional talents to keep the club on an upward curve, selling this angular future leader of a midfielder could keep Crewe sustainable for a decade.

Rob Langham (pen name: Lanterne Rouge) is co-founder of the defiantly non-partisan football league blog, The Two Unfortunates, a website that occasionally strays into covering issues of wider importance. He's 44 and lives in Oxford while retaining his boyhood support of Reading FC. He tweets as @twounfortunates and has written for a number of websites and publications including The Football Attic, Twisted Blood, In Bed with Maradona, A United View on Football and The Blizzard.

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4 Comments on "The Monday Profile: Nick Powell"

  1. Tim Robinson says:

    Powell has been mainly been used as a striker. At league 2 level you really need to get your best players as near to the opposition’s box as you can. But he quite a difficult player to pigeon hole. He has the skills and elusiveness to thrive as a Pires-style winger, but the demanding nature and desire to get involved of a classic no. 10. At just over 6 foot tall, he is big enough, and strong in a lean way to deal with the more physical aspect of League 2 football. And he has seen plenty of that, especially as his reputation has grown.

    So how good is he? Well, I saw Rob Jones, Dean Ashton, Seth Johnson and Danny Murphy all go onto play for England after making their Crewe debuts at 16 and personally I have no doubt that he will follow in their footsteps.

    Is he good enough for a top 4 side’s first team already? No, unquestionably not. But, I could see a big four team buying him and giving him a season at a top Championship club. He might also fit in at somewhere like Swansea or Reading.

    How much would it take for Crewe to part with him? Well the Alex have a reputation for being a bit of a soft touch when it comes to transfer negotiations by if they let him go for any less than £3.5m they are really stupid. And they should make sure they get a hell of a lot of clauses thrown in on top, because the top is where this lad is going. Fast.

  2. Lanterne Rouge says:

    Great comment Tim. As a Reading fan, I would certainly be excited if the club signed Powell but in many ways, it would be nice to see him stay at Crewe – if Bowler can get the kind of money for one or two of his other good youngsters that the club received for Brayford and Bailey a couple of years back, they may stave off Powell’s suitors.

  3. Ben says:

    Very doubtful that Crewe will be able to cling on to him. I imagine he’ll be at a Championship club next year – possibly as a purchase but more likely as a player loaned out by one of the Premier League sides. It’d be pointless if he’s bought by a club in the top flight and then stuck in the reserves – that happens to too many players who’d be much better off staying put (or alternatively tempering their ambitions or their agent’s greed when it comes to selecting where they want to go).

  4. Eoghan Darbyshire says:

    Quality player, could see he was head and shoulders above the rest of the league 2 cloggers when Crewe played City at Valley Parade.

    This didn’t stop my incandescent anger towards him for the most outrageous dive I have ever witnessed, to win Crewe a penalty. If he can keep incidents like that out of his game I’d be much more willing for him to be a success at the top level!

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