Looking to make his way in the game, England's Nick Powell could not wish for a better foundation.
An academy product of Crewe Alexandra FC, a club which has helped to mould the likes of David Platt, Dean Ashton and Danny Murphy, Powell took another step forward in his career on Tuesday. Scorer of England's second in their 2-2 draw against France in Group A of the UEFA European Under-17 Championship, the central midfielder is all too aware of the influence of long-serving Crewe manager Dario Gradi.
"Since I was six they've helped me come through the club," he told UEFA.com. "It's a real family club so there's a nice atmosphere around there. [Gradi] started helping my age at the U12s but he goes right through the academy so you always see him around the place.
"He's moulded me into different positions which is always helpful. He's always been there – 20 something years now. I don't really know [my best position] anymore – we've tried so many but it depends on the formation we play. I'm versatile, I'll do anything wanted of me."
Joined in John Peacock's squad by club-mates Ben Garratt and Max Clayton, Powell feels he has settled in nicely at England's base in Novi Sad, Serbia. "It's nice to see a couple of faces you see every day anyway, but the lads are all good," he said. "There's some banter going around. The atmosphere's good around the hotel, which is five star, so there are good facilities too."
Among England's most impressive performers on the pitch on Tuesday, Powell has some way to go to be the best on the computer game he and his team play in their spare time during the tournament. "Who's the best? Not me – [I play as] Arsenal. Probably Raheem [Sterling]."
Sterling's Liverpool FC team-mate Steven Gerrard, as well as the inimitable Lionel Messi, are players Powell admits to particularly admiring. First, though, his focus on shrugging off France and preparing for Denmark – 3-2 victors against Serbia – on Friday.
"We were a bit disappointed after going [ahead twice against France], but I think it was a fair result," he said. "I was a bit off – that's why I got cramp. I haven't had many games for my club recently. The team played well until the last five or ten minutes when we were under pressure. Still, it was a fair result.
"We were happy with draw – not losing your first game is always important – but we thought we could have won it. We've been concentrating on France but now it's all about Denmark."
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