FA medal for talent scout

Eric Powell with Paul Arnison
Eric Powell with Paul Arnison

A TALENT scout who has helped hundreds of young footballers achieve their dreams was able to compare medals with one of his success stories this week.

Eric Powell has spent thousands of hours standing on windswept touchlines over the last 50 years in the hope of spotting young players who could go on to make a name for themselves.

In recognition of his dedication, Eric, the granddad of current Pools ace Gary Liddle, was given a medal from the Football Association to mark his 50 years in the game after working for the likes of Everton, Newcastle United and Manchester City.

Town-born footballer Paul Arnison, who recently picked up a medal of his own after helping Darlington to Wembley glory in the FA Trophy, was reunited with the man who set him on the road to the Football League earlier this week.

Paul was spotted by Eric when he was playing for English Martyrs School’s under-11s, and he secured him a contract with Everton before getting him fixed up at Newcastle United where he went on to captain the reserve team.

Paul, 33, said: “I owe so much to Eric Powell, he spotted me when I was 11 and has always been able to give me guidance and advice throughout my career.

“I am one of many lucky people who Eric has helped to get established in the game, and make a career from it.

“He would follow me around the area watching my games at English Martyrs, and on Grayfields and the Rec for local teams.

“He got me a two-year scholarship at Everton under Howard Kendall, and he would pick me up from home and drive me to Merseyside, no matter what the weather. Nothing was ever a problem to him.

“When he quit Everton to join Kevin Keegan at Newcastle United, he made everything possible for me to join him at St James’s Park, and for that I will always be grateful.”

Paul, who signed for Hartlepool United after leaving Newcastle before ending up at Darlington after spells with Carlisle United and Bradford City, added: “It was great to see Eric again, and I’m delighted for him that he has been given the long-service award from the FA.

“They don’t give many of those medals out. He is very proud of it, and rightly so. People like Eric are the unsung heroes of the game.

“He has played a huge part for many young footballers across the decades who have earned a good living from the game. He is hugely respected, and trusted by everyone he comes into contact with.”

Eric, who lives in Yarm but continues to keep an eye out for new Hartlepool talent despite being in his 80s, was instrumental in the careers of Middlesbrough legends Willie Maddren and David Mills back in the 1970s.

He was given his award by Boro boss Tony Mowbray, and was also invited to be a special guest at Newcastle’s recent home game with Birmingham City.

He said: “It was wonderful to spend time with Paul, and I’m very proud that a young boy from Hartlepool has made a good living from the game.

“His recent win at Wembley for Darlington is something he should be very proud of, he is a lovely lad, and a credit to the town of Hartlepool.

“We were able to check out each others medals that we both collected recently, and remembered the times we shared as he was starting out in the game here in the town in the early 1990s.

“I have looked after thousands of young footballers over the years, but there were not many nicer kids than Paul. He was totally focused on making the game his chosen career.

“Youngsters like him have made my long, long service to the game an absolute pleasure, I would do it all over again if age would let me!”