Published: 00:00, 12 January 2018 |
Updated: 09:17, 12 January 2018
Any young footballer looking for guidance when it comes to staying grounded just as your career is taking off should have a word with Jack Powell.
The 23-year-old scored both goals as Ebbsfleet won 2-1 at Maidstone on Tuesday night but his post-derby celebrations were low-key to say the least.
Powell's partner Shana gave birth to their second son, Jaxon, last Friday so his day off was spent changing nappies rather than nursing a hangover. Having become a dad aged just 18, the midfielder knows all too well that every choice he makes has consequences for others.
"I felt I was quite mature at a young age but it's a totally different maturity," Powell said. "You've got people relying on you, who you're responsible for, so your mind doesn't get a second to rest.
"My first son, Shay, is five now. I was still at West Ham when I had him but I was never really into going out and partying as youngsters are. I enjoy myself on the odd occasion but I was always a homely person so that didn't change too much. It's just the responsibility you've got when you have children.
"Football is mentally tough. There are always times when you're looking for that little bit extra. You dig deep and find something to inspire you and I've got two unbelievable reasons to do that.
"I use them as motivation as well as my missus. I want to provide for them, as all fathers do, and football seems to be the way I might be able to do that."
The early signs are good. Powell, released by Millwall in summer 2016, has since scored 22 goals in 80 appearances for Ebbsfleet and already had a promotion on his CV. He's putting points on the board, not just food on his family's table.
Powell's willingness to listen to constructive criticism is one of his great strengths, with a natural ability to score free-kicks also pretty high on that list. Fleet have stepped up a level this season and so has Powell.
"I feel more versatile," he said. "I've never played out wide, which I've done this year and it's about getting your bearings and your positioning. I feel like I'm an intelligent footballer so it's just what the games requires.
"There's been times when I've played really close to Danny Kedwell and almost been a second striker, so that has different things you need to do. I think I'm improving by the day.
"The manager (Daryl McMahon) was a central midfield player and we've got Andy Drury, Dean Rance and Jack Payne, all players that have played loads of games at this level and higher. I've got some good people around me to learn from and I can't ask for much more.
"In training, the intensity's high and that's how you learn. You train hard and play with good players."
The learning curve has bumps along the way, of course. Powell was dragged off at half-time on New Year's Day after Fleet had, to quote McMahon, "melted" against Bromley and conceded three goals in 20 minutes. They played better against Chester on Saturday but lacked a cutting edge and lost 1-0 before putting things right at the Gallagher Stadium.
"Since I've been here, we've never lost three on the bounce so we needed to bounce back," he said. "We showed good grit and determination. Sometimes we get disappointed if we think that's the reason we haven't picked up a result and that might have been the case recently.
"All of us midfield players feel we could do both sides of the game. If it looks like we're being over-run, we're disappointed but I think we showed we can mix it on Tuesday."
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