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Chris Powell Q&A Report - Monday 24th September 2018
By Kay Fogg

On 24th September, the Shrimpers Trust were delighted to welcome SUFC manager, Chris Powell, along to the Shrimpers Bar for an open Question & Answer session with supporters.

Trust Vice-Chairman Paul Yeomanson hosted the evening on behalf of the Shrimpers Trust and, after welcoming everyone along, shared the good news that the Trust along with the Club have been jointly shortlisted along with five other Clubs and Supporters' Groups for the Supporters Direct and Football Business Award for 'Best Club/Supporter Group Relationship of the Year'. The other five Clubs nominated are Cambridge United, Fulham, Rochdale, West Brom and Portsmouth, and the awards evening will take place in November.

Around 50 supporters took the opportunity offered by the evening and enjoyed a pleasant time in good company as Chris answered a wide variety of questions candidly and with a good deal of humour.

Questions ranged from asking why there is an apparent reluctance to make early substitutions to the issue of captaincy; social media use to why certain players weren't being utilised; the influence of the PFA – of which Chris had been Chairman for some time, and was still a Trustee – to the standard of match officials, plus updates and news on various individual players.

Chris was particularly pleased that young starlet Dru Yearwood, had come through a competitive game earlier in the day, having played for 60 minutes and looking as if he'd never been out at all. Rob Kiernan is about to start his own mini-season and Sam Barrett has had recent major surgery but is coming in every day. Norman Wabo has opted to go out on loan to get some much needed match time. Shawn McCoulsky hadn't been allowed to train or play until the end of July due to a serious health condition so is still coming back to full fitness.

When asked why substitutions were left till quite late on in games, Chris said that he felt you have to look at the flow of a game, and not be restricted by options. You had to give the players out on the pitch the chance before making substitutions which could upset the balance of the team. Suspensions and injuries this season have already had an impact on the effectiveness of our substitutions as we have been restricted in available choices.

He also responded to a question on Theo Robinson's effectiveness by saying that he was a good option for us as he brings something different and can influence games by coming on as an impact sub, as he has done through a large amount of his career. He's scored more goals by coming off the bench than he has when started.

We still have the oldest squad in the league, down to 28 from 30 the previous season under Phil Brown. Chris said that he wanted to evolve the group which is why it was so pleasing that our youngsters were getting chances and, taking them when offered. He singled out Michael Klass and Isaac Hutchinson as two who have done so particularly well.

There was a lot of discussion about the selection of Mark Oxley as captain, with several supporters putting forward cases for previous incumbents such as John White and Ben Coker. The selection of Oxley had been partly down to considering him a “regular” in the side, although Sam Mantom had picked up a lot of the responsibility in the middle of the pitch. Chris said that he had considered doing what Brentford are doing this season, not having a regular captain but rotating it, however, he understood that this is not popular with supporters. Chris added that Coker had been offered a new contract last season which had been turned down which had further influenced the decision to select Oxley.

Further questions surrounded the recent emergency loan of David Stockdale, and the difference in his venturing off his line to punch as opposed to the perceived “Club policy” mentioned by the questioner, to remain on the line. His loan also meant that youngster Nathan Bishop remained on the bench and Chris explained that he made the decision to sign a goalkeeper on loan as he didn't want to risk destroying Bishop's confidence at the age of only 18. Ted Smith is coming back to fitness and ideally, Bishop, whose attitude has impressed Chris, should be out on loan getting experience and game time. Chris discussed this all with Bishop and Lee Harrison, the goal keeping coach, and noted that Bishop had done very well in the Checkatrade game against Cambridge United, and that the Checkatrade is a great vessel for the development of youngsters in this way. He was adamant that he did not see a place for Premiership under-23s sides in this competition, it is an EFL competition.

Chris explained his scouting structure and those in attendance were largely pleased and surprised to hear that Ian Benjamin is currently scouting for us in the Midlands area. Roger Cross heads the team of scouts and we have two further scouts in the South and one in the North. Scouts will also usually watch our opponents two or three times ahead of our games against them.

Tom Hopper had impressed with his attitude and application, and, despite seemingly being a “marked man”, had got on with the job at hand. Chris likened him to Brett Angell and hoped that, at age 24, he would develop in a similar way with us.

Asked about Phil Brown's former players, some of whom are on long contracts, Chris said that he had moved some on, but he couldn't change them all – finances simply wouldn't allow it. Some players wouldn't be able to be loaned out. He was asked how he would have coped with Nile Ranger, and he said that it was a real waste of talent as there is a good player in there, he knew of him at Newcastle and sometimes, as we saw at Sheffield United, he could be unplayable. Unfortunately, his reputation goes before him now.

We work on set plays in training and the importance of having a settled team to work with is so vitally important. One attendee had calculated that we've had 52 corners so far this season and that the last time we scored from one was back in April! With our budget people expect us to do well and Chris doesn't want too much pressure put on the players.

As the evening wound down, Chris was asked about his time in the England set up and he said it had been a terrific experience, and gave all the clubs he'd played for a huge lift. He'd been surprised to get the call up to the squad whilst playing at Charlton aged 30, but had enjoyed working with Sven Goran Eriksson and had learnt a lot from him.

Finally, Chris was asked that favourite question of who were the best players he played with and against. He said people would probably expect him to say Collymore from his time at Roots Hall, but he chose Ricky Otto – his skill was above our level and he'd enjoyed his friendship as well, and especially welcoming him back to Roots Hall towards the end of last season. While elsewhere, he listed Paulo di Canio, Teddy Sheringham and Paul Scholes amongst others. Without any doubt, the best player he'd played against was Cristiano Ronaldo.

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