I bet I’m not the only Addick who immediately jumps to attention when the camera zooms in on England preparing to make a substitution. Not only because I’m eager to see if we are about to unleash Grealish or steady the ship with Henderson but primarily because I’m looking for a passing glimpse of Chris Powell. How proud I felt to see him arm in arm with Southgate, Steve Holland and fellow England assistant coach Graeme Jones belting out the national anthem ahead of the semi-final.
In one recent article, the journalist somewhat naively commented to Harry Maguire that Powell “seems quite a positive person”. To Addicks who fondly remember his time in charge at The Valley, that’s about as perceptive as noticing that Her Majesty The Queen wears a hat on formal occasions.
I’m glossing over the fact that Powell and Southgate came through the youth ranks together at Crystal Palace – I know for certain that Chris Powell has put those days long behind him. But it undoubtedly helps that, like the gaffer, he is himself an England international. It’s at this point that Addicks cheerily tell their mates, “He nutmegged Guardiola on his debut, you know.”
But our ebullient former player and manager is not the only Charlton connection in the current England squad.
Nigel Adkins handed Luke Shaw, then 16, his first team debut at Southampton in January 2012. The left back went on to make regular appearances in the Premier League while moving through the England U17 and U21 ranks. Shaw has been a revelation at this tournament, an unlikely hero illustrating a triumph of spirit and perseverance over insult from Mourinho and serious injury. While he may not have a direct CAFC connection, we can certainly lay claim to one of our own nurturing him in his early footballing ways.
And it’s a similar story with Gareth Southgate. Back at the CAST AGM in 2017, Academy Manager Steve Avory explained that he used to be Southgate’s PE teacher: “He was a good all round sportsman and he was humble, a good learner and he was driven and competitive but I wouldn’t have predicted he would reach the heights he did. He had a solid family behind him in middle class Crawley. I remember him saying that when he joined Crystal Palace how tough it was adapting to life with young players from a different background who could be quite hard on him. He found the training and playing environment a culture shock. The Palace manager at the time (Alan Smith) took him under his wing and said he’d be proud of him if he was his son, but that he was too nice and he needed to toughen up. And he did.”
What’s more, Avory also revealed that he’d tried to encourage young Southgate to play for the school cricket team. Thankfully the man now leading the country’s finest into their biggest match in 55 years chose to follow his destiny in football instead.
Let’s hope our Three Lions - with a sprinkling of Charlton magic dust - can bring it home.