CHARLTON Athletic boss Chris Powell gained a valuable insight into Steve McClaren’s ‘forward-thinking’ coaching techniques during his time as a player at Derby County.
McClaren was a Rams coach under Jim Smith when Powell arrived at the club back in January 1996.
Together, they won promotion to the Premier League that season.
Today, 44-year-old Powell goes head-to-head with McClaren in the dugout at The Valley.
“I have a lot of time for Steve himself and the football club, which gave me the opportunity to play in the Premier League,” said the former England full-back.
“I had a really good time up there. It was the first time I had moved from the south and it was a really terrific time in my footballing career.
“Steve was a really, really good coach and a real class act, I felt.
“We all know what has happened with him regarding the teams he has managed, but aside from all that, there’s a good football man there.
“I have kept in touch with him over the years, on and off, and have always had a lot of time for him.”
McClaren, now head coach of the Rams, has guided the team to five successive wins – lifting them up to fourth in the Championship table.
Derby have lost only once in 10 games since the former England boss succeeded Nigel Clough at the helm.
Powell added: “During my time at Derby, even though I was only 26 or 27, I saw what it took to be a coach.
“Steve was clever, forward-thinking and did some things that people hadn’t done before.
“We (Derby) played with a different style. We had three centre-backs, with a sweeper who came out with the ball and sometimes played in midfield.
“I was a wing-back and had to get used to that role. Then we had one behind the two strikers.
“It was a really clever way of playing. Not too many teams played like that and we were very successful.”
Powell went on to make 101 appearances for Derby before joining Charlton in the summer of 1998.
“I was really proud to be a part of their history,” he said.
“I was player of the year in the last season at the Baseball Ground and I remember playing in the last game there, wearing white boots as a homage to one of Derby’s players from the 1970s (Alan Hinton).
“I also played in the first match at Pride Park and, looking back, I was part of some pivotal moments in their history.
“I’ve got fond memories, but it was a long time ago and now I really need to get my side going and care about what Charlton do.”
Charlton are currently hovering just outside the relegation zone, with only one win in their last six games.
Derby, meanwhile, are the form team in the division – and the top scorers with 40 goals from 19 matches.
“We know they are playing well and there is a real confidence and verve about them at the moment,” said Powell.
“It’s a game we have to be right for. We understand the way they have been playing.
“We’ve watched them and done our homework but once a team is playing with real confidence and in that uninhibited way, it can go well for you.
“But equally, in the Championship, any side that is in form can play against any other side and it can go the other way.
“We’ve got to look at it as an opportunity to halt their good run and get a positive result.
“We need it – we know we need it – and we need that kind of siege mentality among the football club and the players at the moment, because we know we are in a fight and a real battle, not only against Derby but in our forthcoming matches.
“We will have to really be at it. We will need to attack and defend in equal measure and do the right things both in and out of possession.
“We are going to have to work hard for it, that’s for certain. We will have to be ready for a side that is playing with real style at the moment.”