Ivor Verdun Powell was born in Bargoed in South Wales on 5th July 1916. He was the seventh son in a family of ten. He worked down the coal mines with his father and brothers until a QPR scout spotted him playing for his local side.
Ivor arrived as an amateur, but didn’t initially make it into the R’s first team and had a short spell at non-league Barnet before returning to Shepherd’s Bush in September 1937 when he signed as a pro. The 1937-38 Handbook records that he made 4 London Combination appearances for the R’s the previous season. He made his debut on 28th January 1939 in the 3-0 win over Walsall at Loftus Road.
At the outbreak of war Ivor joined the RAF as a physical training instructor. It was when he was posted to Blackpool that he became great friends with Stanley Matthews who was best man at his wedding to Joan Browell in 1943. Whilst stationed in Blackpool, Ivor guested for the Tangerines, making his debut for them against Liverpool in March 1941.
He made his international debut for Wales against Western Command at Wrexham in 1942. Later the same year there were further appearances against an RAF side and also England at Molineux. The following year he made three appearances for his country against England and his first full cap was also against England in 1946 in Manchester.
Ivor later wrote an account of his time in India for the Club Handbook:
‘Billy McEwan (fellow R’s player) and myself were stationed in Bombay, and our team comprised many stars. The number of matches played probably constituted a record in the annals of football. The first tour commenced in September 1944, and 27 games were played in 33 days which involved a trip of 7,000 miles. The second tour was a little more active, with 53 games in 73 days, and a mere 10,000 miles covered. The third tour gave us 46 games in 90 days with a mileage of 12,000 miles. With eight days remaining of this tour, seven games had to be played, and even on the Sunday we had to attend a Church parade.
At Razmak, on the North-West frontier, two battalions of Indian troops had to be posted in the hills surrounding the pitch to prevent the local tribesmen getting within shooting distance of the spectators whilst we ourselves were trying to get within shooting distance of the goal posts. Final figures were 29,000 miles and 126 games in 196 days, which even in India is a trifle hot.’
At the end of the war Ivor returned to Rangers and went on to complete 159 1st team appearances and scored two goals. There was news of his forthcoming return from India in the Reserve programme (v Clapton Orient) dated 9th March:
‘Bill McEwan’s luck is out at the moment. Four of the passengers on the ship which brought him home were found to be affected with smallpox and the entire company were vaccinated and quarantined until 12th March. Ivor Powell sailed from Bombay on 25th February so should be with us in the near future providing he has better luck than Bill’.
He was sold to Aston Villa in December 1948 for £17,500 and later became player-manager at Port Vale and Bradford City. In 1955 he was a publican in Manningham in Bradford before returning to football a year later as trainer-coach at Leeds United.
Ivor went on to manage Carlisle United and Bath City and even coached in Greece at PAOK. His final destination was Bath where he ended up as the long term coach at Bath University/Team Bath. He was inducted into the Welsh Sports Hall of Fame in 2004 and in November that year he went into the history books as the longest serving coach in football history when he led Team Bath into FA Trophy action against Hitchin Town. Four years later he was awarded the MBE and finally called it a day in May 2010 at the tender age of 93.
I had the pleasure and honour of meeting him once. In 2006 the R’s played a pre-season friendly in Bath and just before half-time I asked an official if Ivor was on the bench and if so would he tell him that I wanted to meet him and shake his hand. I will never forget that after the whistle blew he came bounding over to me (in his tracksuit of course) behind the dugout, for a chat.
His vitality and enthusiasm was incredible and whether it had anything to do with his experiences down the mines, but in recent years he was quoted as saying: “Determination, will power, work rate and the will to win. They have been my watchwords throughout my life.”
Ivor Powell was a true legend and inspiration….there will never be another.
(The middle pic was taken from the 1946-47 Club Handbook)