Soldiering on at 91 - Sir Stan's pal still coaching and happy to pass on his football tips


Last updated at 01:11 04 January 2008

As Ivor Powell

drew on his

recollections of 74

years in football,

sitting in Bath

University's sports

complex refectory, a

young athlete hovered

nearby, finally choosing

his moment to come

over and offer congratulations

to a coach he

knew by name and

reputation only.

"I heard about your award,"

said young sprinter Debo

Ademuyewo. "I just wanted

to say well done."

The pair had never spoken

before but news of the MBE

that 91-year-old Powell

received in the Queen's New

Year's Honours List has

swept around one of

Britain's premier centres of

sporting excellence.

Scroll down for more

ivor powell

The episode was indicative

of the esteem and warmth in

which Powell is held.

And of

the fire which blazes within,

a burning desire to pass on

his knowledge and passion

to the Team Bath players he

still coaches.

When he talks, his eyes

twinkle with intensity.


he sets out the five characteristics

that he says are

essential to every footballer

who wants to fulfil his talent

— aggression, determination,

the will to win, work rate and consistency of

performance — he clenches

his fist so firmly that the

white of his knuckles shows


It is impossible not to fear

in hindsight for the opposing

players who came in contact

with the fierce-tackling halfback

whose professional

career took in Queens Park

Rangers, Blackpool, Aston

Villa and Wales.

One fears also for the raw

RAF recruits who marched

to his tune as a drill sergeant

PTI during the Second World

War and for the thousands of

players he has knocked into

shape in a 50-year coaching

career that took in the early

years of Don Revie's reign at

Leeds United.

Through it all, Powell has

remained steadfastly true to

one abiding principle.


said: "I never ask anybody to

do anything that I have not

done myself — and they all

know that."

Powell has led a remarkable


He worked down the

local mine in South Wales on

leaving school at 14, walking

a mile-and-a-half underground

from the bottom of

the lift cage shaft to the coal

face at the start of his shift

and making the reverse journey

eight hours later.

When the war interrupted

his professional career, he

picked out one of those

RAF recruits — a certain

Stanley Matthews — to play alongside him for Blackpool

as a guest in the wartime


The pair became

such firm friends that

Matthews — who went on to

sign for Blackpool in 1947 —

acted as Powell's best man

at his wedding.

In 1943, Powell was posted

on active service to India

where, after a period on the

front line, he joined up with

the forces' football team to

play 46 matches in one 55-day spell to entertain troops.

He was even presented to

Mahatma Gandhi on one


His enthusiasm is

infectious and spending an

hour in his company stirs up

not only nostalgia for a past

which included great names

such as Raich Carter, Frank

Swift and Joe Mercer but

also a zest for the present

and the future.

Powell added: "I've had

that energy and that drive

ever since I got the chance to

join Queens Park Rangers.

Scroll down for more

ivor powell


clenched my fist that day

and said to myself wholeheartedly:

'I'm not going

down that bloody pit again'.

"I've seen the snakes in

India, I've seen the jungle

and I've seen action but what

made us so proud was being

able to go all over India

playing football to give the

others hope that they could

face the situation of war.

"I played with and against

so many good players but

Stan Matthews was the best.

"The greatest player this

country has ever produced,

in my opinion.

"I was reading the list of

new recruits on the seafront

in Blackpool where we used

to do drills and saw the name

of 'S Matthews' on the list.


asked him to step forward

and he came out from the

back of the bunch.

"When we played for Blackpool,

I played behind him,

right-half to his right wing.

I'd give him the ball and say:

'There you go, Stan.'

Scroll down for more

ivor powell


didn't see the bloody ball

after that because he'd be

off, up the line, weaving his

way to the by-line before

pulling it back into the area.

"I always knew what he

could do and what he would

do, so when I played against

him for Wales or at different

clubs later in our careers, I

was in there with a tackle

straight away.

"You couldn't

dilly-dally with him."

As a coach, Powell admired

the discipline instilled by

Revie at Elland Road and

the structure by which every

player understood his role

and his position.

"The point is that the

players I played with are all

gone now. That's the past.

"It's the present day which is

the most important," said


"I can't say that the football

back then was better than

the football now, or the other

way round, but what I can

say is that when I was on the

field I knew what I had to do,

what my job and my position

was. Can you say that now?"

As for coaching Team Bath,

he will continue for as long as

his health allows.

When an

infected toe was too painful

to put a shoe over recently,

he turned up in his slippers.

"If I thought I was a hindrance,

if I thought I wasn't

doing my job, I would fully

agree with not being here at

all," he added.

"But while I'm

here and I get the satisfaction

and the pleasure out of

it and also the help of the

players I have under my

wing, I'll carry on. I'm not

tired of it at all."