‘I’ve seen tongues hanging out’: Chris Powell talks Sheffield Wednesday, Ted Lasso and Röhl’s revolution

Is time running out on Sheffield Wednesday’s chances to control their future? Only if you think of time as linear, some would say.
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When Chris Powell arrived at Hillsborough as part of Danny Röhl’s revolution the club looked to be in freefall. The Miracle of Hillsborough was going to waste and immediate relegation looked a certainty – the speed of the turnaround has been remarkable. 

Wednesday are still in the relegation zone, of course, but after picking up just three points in the opening 11 games of the season they’ve secured nine this month alone, and there’s already talk amongst the fanbase of a ‘Great Escape’.

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Powell has played a part in it… His beaming smile lighting up the touchline, the joyful video of him celebrating Anthony Musaba’s winner against Queens Park Rangers going viral, and his experience and know-how being praised by anyone you happen to ask about him.

For the former Charlton Athletic defender it’s all about the collective, though. And as he works with Röhl for the first time you can hear that he’s been impressed. The players are being pushed, hard, but the benefits are clear to see.

 “I've been a player and you like direction,” Powell told The Star. “You like to see that things are being put in place to help you. And we're doing that. We're not rushing everything, but what we're trying to do is to implement a style of play with the ball, implement the style of play without the ball. And set plays are key, both boxes are key.

“Some teams live for those and I feel we can become a really strong set-piece team… It breeds confidence in not only the players, but in the management and more importantly the fans. They want to see a team that knows what they're doing, that’s organised, and that's all we've been trying to do since the day we came in.

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“I think they know that the intensity that he wants is something they're going to have to get used to... You've seen the workload, you see it's increasing. They understand, they know that if they don't do it then they might not play. He's been very clear, they've got to do the work.

“We've got to drive it to support the coaches and staff to keep driving the boys. It will be tough for them, you know, I've seen a few tongues hanging out, but they'll benefit from it – and that's the big thing. Their mentality changes, their body language says, ‘I can do this’, then all of a sudden that's going benefit the team. And we've already said to them that this is what we're looking for.”

Powell may be a Premier League legend, a former England international and coach as well as a successful manager, but for many he’s the man sitting next to Arlo White on the hit show, ‘Ted Lasso’. In a short space of time he went from being an advisor to becoming a fully-fledged actor, trailer and all, in one of the most popular series of a generation. So how did that come about? 

“So I got a call in 2020,” Powell explained. “I’d just left ADO Den Haag because of lockdown. So I’d been out in Holland, got home, and then I got a phone call from Rob Wadsworth who is an agent in digital sports marketing, someone I've dealt with over the years. And he just said, “I've had a script land on my desk… It's about an American football coach taking over a Premier League team.”

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“Straight away I said, “But that won't work, will it? That just won't work.”. And he said, basically that they'd asked him to get someone to coach the players or support actors. I wasn’t doing anything, I wasn’t working for England or Spurs, so I went along. Basically what they wanted was a bit of realism to sort out the practices that were going on, either that were in the script or happening in the background. They just wanted it to look as if it would happen at a Premier League club.

“I was like a coaching advisor, really, and I'd go in maybe twice a week whenever they needed me. Then, what happened was, I did a game on Sky as a pundit, I can't even remember what it was - maybe a Charlton game or Leicester, and one of the production team saw me and were like, ‘Oh, that's the guy who comes in and coaches the players… He's pretty good’.”

“So whoever that was, thank you,” he laughed, before joking, “Because after that they said, “Oh, we've got a space, we've got a commentator, would you want to do it?” I said well if you're going to pay me yeah… Of course I said yes. 

“I'll tell you a quick story. When I was a coaching advisor, they would just put me to one side and we'd eat last, you know, with everything we got dealt with last. The next day, when I came in as co-commentator, they took my suits, they gave me my food. I had my own trailer. it was a great experience… And obviously it blew up.

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 “I mean, season one, if you look at season one and the balls and the kit, it’s not like how it was in two and three. I don’t think they were sure if it was going to be a success, but for me it was all about timing. It was lockdown so people were at home and they wanted to feel good - and the show is a feel good show about relationships. Football was just the vehicle for it. Actually it was about love, relationships, bouncing back, resilience, being away from home, understanding other people, other cultures. Everyone related to it, it was relatable, it was and still is. And I mean how it's blown up has just blown me away. 

“It was one of the best experiences of my life. I made some good friends, with the cast, but also with Jason (Sudeikis), who played Ted, and Brendan (Hunt), who was his coach. I think what made it work was that they were true to the game in this country. I think they took on board all what English football brings and they stayed true to it… I think that's why it's a hit here as well as in America because it was based here, it was the Premier League and I think they just felt that they had to be honourable to where the game was first played.”

So how could anyone who’s been a part of Ted Lasso be a pessimist? Time is linear, especially in football terms, but Wednesday’s isn’t up just yet. Röhl hasn’t got it up in the dressing room like his American TV counterpart at AFC Richmond, but there’s one word that is bubbling around the club right now after their recent resurgence.

That word? Believe.

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