It’s said you need an element of luck to succeed as a football manager – poor Ivor Powell had none while at Port Vale FC…
Time at the club:
1951-52 as player/manager and manager
The case for the defence:
Well, there’s two things really – time and good fortune. A year’s not a great deal of time to assess someone’s impact (and in Powell’s defence his later spells at other clubs were more successful) and he also had bad luck with results. He was forced to sell players to pay for the upkeep of Vale Park and a key performers Garth Butler had to retire through injury.
The case for the prosecution:
Admittedly there’s much more of this. Appointed as player-manager, this was Powell’s first managerial position and he ended it with a win ratio of 10%. He also didn’t endear himself to the players, something he could easily have resolved. For instance, club legend Roy Sproson said Powell “used to treat players like kids” while Colin Askey said Powell “was a sergeant major-type as a manager.”
Powell also didn’t help himself on the training pitch coming across as a comedy figure. Askey spoke about one incident saying: “He was trying to coach our winger, Mick Hulligan. Mick’s free-kicks hadn’t been too clever that day, so Ivor said, ‘Right, let me show you’. Ivor put the ball down just outside the penalty area, took a run-up and, as we all watched, he blasted the ball right out of the ground and off down Hamil Road. He did his best to recover the situation though. He turned around to Mick and said, ‘Now, you see, that’s what you were doing’.”
Powell was dismissed in December after a run of just one win in sixteen games. That’s pretty rubbish management…
So, he didn’t do himself any favours with his attitude but what else went wrong for Powell? Well for a start the fixture list didn’t help. Powell was dismissed in December after a run of just one win in sixteen games. That’s pretty rubbish management. But that run of fixtures was awfully tough – for a start, nine of the fourteen were away (including a run of three away games in a row in September). Powell’s home form wasn’t actually that bad and the team were unbeaten during the period with six draws and a win. However, perhaps the most damning element of Powell’s reign was the way his successor Freddie Steele performed. After taking some weeks to settle in, Steele guided the team to a spell of eight wins in eleven games as he steered them to midtable safety. It just wasn’t to be for Powell at Vale and as Sproson commented after his departure it was “a complete relief” to see him go.
Despite that Port Vale spell, Powell turned his managerial career around. He had a three year spell with Bradford City and won promotion when boss at Carlisle United. That promotion was undoubtedly a career highlight, something his spell at Port Vale most definitely wasn’t.