CHRIS POWELL may have exuded considerable good humour at his press unveiling as Huddersfield Town manager 10 days ago, but Alex Smithies has seen enough to suggest he has another side too.
The 45-year-old’s Town chapter begins in earnest this afternoon when he is unveiled to home supporters ahead of getting to work in his first date in charge against Middlesbrough. The well-wishes have been considerable since his appointment, but he is here for business.
When discussing the amiable Londoner, thoroughly well-liked and respected in the game as a player and manager, one phrase has stood out since he arrived for his new adventure up north. ‘No-one in football has a bad word to say about him’; utterances of not just Town chairman Dean Hoyle, but several others as well.
It is easy to see why once you get close to Powell. Straightforward, genuine, approachable and articulate are words which soon spring to mind when describing his character. It’s no small wonder a fair bit of media work came his way following his controversial sacking by Charlton in March.
Hoyle is clearly a fully paid-up member of his fan club already and another of his early lines on Powell is a telling one. Namely that if he was a footballer, he would love to play for him.
Fully motivating his squad, with the process started by caretaker-boss Mark Lillis, for the battles ahead has indeed been high on Powell’s brief. Lots of hard graft is in store, but we are all in this ‘together’ is the Powell mantra.
Positivity will radiate at the Canalside and work will be enjoyable, but Powell will expect plenty back too.
For goalkeeper Smithies, now working under his sixth manager at first-team level at Town at the age of 24, the early impressions have been good ones.
But now the real stuff begins.
He said: “We have had a bit of a break and we have seen his new ideas and it has brightened the place up a little bit.
“Everyone feels like we needed a lift as it has not been a great start to the season.
“But the new manager has come in and added a little bit of a spark and I think everyone needed that.
“He seems quite calm and good to talk to and you feel like players can go speak to him, if you need to ask for any advice or anything like that.
“He puts his point across well and from what I have seen, he has some really good ideas. I think he will work well for the club.
“He seems approachable, but at the same time, you probably would not want to get on the wrong side of him. That is exactly how you want it to be.
“I think when players are doing well, he will fill them with confidence and I think that could be a big aspect of how he works. I think Mark Lillis was similar; he put his arm around you and made you feel good about yourself.
“If we can have players full of confidence, they certainly have the ability. Hopefully, that will rub off and turn into results.”
A few of the above certainly would not go amiss on home soil where Town have not won since March 1 and been beaten six times in nine outings.
It’s a far cry from a few years ago when Town prided themselves on home rule, in 2011-12 and 2010-11, they only lost three times in each of those league campaigns, with Golcar lad Smithies, the club’s longest-serving player, keen to go back to the future.
And it all starts from the back.
On the recent home form, Smithies acknowledged: “It is not a good statistic, is it?
“When you look back on previous seasons and when we went on our unbeaten run, our home ground was a stadium teams feared to come to as you knew we were so good there. We need to make it a bit of a fortress at home again.
“We have to start games well and get the fans onside and show a bit of passion and resilience and be a bit more ruthless in both boxes and hopefully we can get our ground to what it was like in previous years.
“The manager wants to play nice football, but the be-all and end-all is results. He doesn’t want to lose 4-0 and play well, he wants to win games scruffily. There is no point losing games, having played well.
“He is looking at everything and he seems to be very thorough, which is what you need to be and we can’t have any passengers.”
On Town’s concession of 13 goals in five Championship league games, only Carlisle have shipped more, he added: “It is frustrating, because ultimately it is how a goalkeeper is judged; how many clean sheets he has kept and goals he has conceded.
“We have to pull together and be a bit more resilient and ruthless to keep the ball out. That is going to be very important in the next few games.”
Today may be about introductions, yet it is also about reunions with Adam Clayton returning to his former club exactly a month after leaving Town and Jacob Butterfield facing his former employers.
It’s added spice to an attractive game on paper, but Smithies is solely focused on business.
He added: “It’s strange as Adam has left us and quite quickly we are playing against him. He will be up for the challenge, but so will we.
“For both Adam and Jacob, it is an important game, but we have not been talking too much as it being against Adam. He was important for us for the past two seasons, but he has left now and we will be doing everything in our power to ensure that we beat Middlesbrough.”