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The most surprising social media star of England’s European Championship is coach Chris Powell, whose giddy goal celebrations are fast making him another reason to appreciate this squad.
When Harry Kane scored the clincher in the last-16 win over Germany, Powell was as lost as any supporter in Wembley as he cantered around the touchline. He was the same after Kane trebled England’s lead in Rome on Saturday, and when Jordan Henderson scored the fourth against Ukraine, Powell bagged a piggyback from Jack Grealish.
“I have seen Chris’s goal celebrations and love them,” said Harry Maguire. “We are all huge England fans, whether we are sat on the bench, coaching or sat in the stand and not involved.”
Powell won five England caps under Sven-Goran Eriksson, who later mentored him as a coach at Leicester, and those celebrations reflect his pride at representing his country again, as well as his role in Gareth Southgate’s backroom team. Always cheerful, he is often the member of staff to raise energy levels during the more nervous moments in the England bubble.
“Chris has been brilliant around the camp,” added Maguire. “There are some days when you are waiting for games when you can do with that positive vibe and energy around the place — and he brings that. He’s brilliant as a coach and off the field.”
Powell is more than a cheerleader, though. Aside from Southgate, he is the only member of the backroom staff to have played for England and is an important conduit between the manager and the squad.
His elevated status in the camp was underlined last month when the FA organised a ceremony for the squad to be presented with their legacy caps: a unique number corresponding to the order in which each made their debuts. Southgate (1071) and Powell (1103) were also given their own.
The former Charlton player and manager was an important part of the discussion around the squad’s decision to keep taking the knee and emerged as a respected voice in the camp after the players were racially abused in Bulgaria in 2019.
Powell was deeply impacted by the events in Sofia and later described the unity displayed by the squad as “a seminal moment” for the game.
Powell joined Southgate’s staff in 2019 as part of the FA’s elite coach placement programme, designed to give opportunities to BAME coaches. His placement was initially supposed to end last summer, but he stayed on for a further year after the tournament was delayed.
He is now considered part of the furniture and, with Southgate set to be offered a new long-term deal, Powell could continue with England to Qatar 2022 or beyond.
The 51-year-old also holds a senior role in Tottenham’s academy, where he is head of coaching, and he was part of Ryan Mason’s first-team staff at the end of last season, following Jose Mourinho’s departure.
Powell is said to be enjoying both his current positions, but those who know him think he could eventually return to management.
“We’ve had conversations,” said Alex Dyer, who was Powell’s assistant at the Valley. “Every now and then he gets a little urge that he wants to go back and have another go at it. It wouldn’t surprise me if he does. I know he loved being a No1.”