Crewe Alexandra's Nick Powell wins League's young player award

By Paul FletcherBBC Sport

Crewe's highly rated 17-year-old Nick Powell has won December's Football League Young Player of the Month award.

Powell, strongly tipped for a move to a Premier League club, is an attacking midfielder who has come through the ranks at the League Two club.

"This award is a great achievement for me - I think I've been in good form over the last few months," said Powell.

Crewe director of football Dario Gradi added: "He has always stood out as a talent. He has always been different."

Powell has been at the club since the age of five, and after becoming a regular in the first-team squad as a 16-year-old, has this season fully established himself in the first team.

Former boss Gradi, who now heads the club's academy in addition to his director role, points to a goal-scoring performance against AFC Wimbledon on 15 October as a key moment in Powell's fledgling career.

"As Nick walked off the pitch at Wimbledon, I thought 'this is it, he has arrived'," said Gradi, who was in charge of the Alex first team for 1,404 games before stepping down from his second spell in charge in November.

"That was his best game by a long way and he has carried on with a series of mature performances since then."

Powell - an England international at youth levels and a member of the squad at the Under-17 World Cup in Mexico last summer - has played in numerous positions across the Alex midfield and forward line, and capped an impressive December by netting twice in the 5-2 victory at Bristol Rovers on New Year's Eve.

"I am hoping to score a few more goals, especially tap-ins, as [Alex manager] Steve Davis has told me they are a key part of my game and I am looking to get up to 12 this season," said Powell, who - evidently unfazed by his first major interview - adds that he models himself on France's legendary World Cup and European Championship winner Zinedine Zidane.

"Ideally I'd like to be known as in-behind [the main striker] player. My balance is good and allows me to run with the ball but because of that I get kicked a lot.

"I just have to stay level-headed and get on with it."

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger is understood to rate Powell very highly, while former Alex boss Steve Holland, who was instrumental in bringing through youngsters like Dean Ashton and Seth Johnson before his ill-fated stint as first-team manager, is now on the coaching staff at Chelsea.

"People tell me about the speculation [in the newspapers] but I am a Crewe player at the moment and want to do well with them," said Powell.

"I would love to carry on through the levels with England and play for a top Premier League club. We'll have to see what happens."

Having made his first-team debut as a substitute at Cheltenham in August 2010, Powell is now a role model for the younger players at the Cheshire club.

"The kids come and watch the first team and when you ask about their favourite player then straight away they all say Nick Powell," said Gradi.

"He is right up there as a talent but he cannot be bracketed [with other players]. He is not like Seth Johnson, Danny Murphy or David Platt. He likes to run with the ball and be clever and he does it very well."

Powell's evident self-confidence is not lost on the veteran Gradi.

"Nick thinks he should be playing for Arsenal already," he added.

"If he can keep his head right - and there is no reason why he cannot - then he could go on and become something quite different."

And whatever Powell's eventual Premier League ambitions, the Football League's head of youth development David Wetherall reckons the youngster is at the right club to continue his progress.

"Nick is developing fantastically well at Crewe and is undoubtedly a rising star in the game," said Wetherall.

"He has great experience for a player of his age and I look forward to watching his career progress in the coming seasons."