Hull’s Nick Powell is looking to prove he is far from the “lost cause” some painted him out to be at Manchester United.
The attacking midfielder was thrust into the spotlight in 2012, when mouth-watering displays with Crewe earned a big-money move to Old Trafford.
Sir Alex Ferguson was said to have forked out up to £6million for the England youth international, but the long-serving manager’s departure the following year and a string of injuries have stunted Powell’s progress.
The 21-year-old this month joined Championship promotion hopefuls Hull for the remainder of the campaign in a bid to kick-start his career – a loan spell he is determined to use to right some wrongs.
“I have read papers, I have read quotes,” Powell said. “I’ve read pretty much everything said about me and I am not a dumb, little kid anymore like I used to be and just did what I want, basically.
“I’ve not realised… it’s more that you have got to play the game in some sort of way, the football game – you can’t say certain things, you can’t do certain things
“I feel like I have been perceived as a lost cause, a maverick and things like that.
“I feel that is not the truth, but the only way to show that is to play my football and to show people that I am back, not just injury-prone, a nuisance or whatnot.
“I am here to prove football is what I want to do and that I am going to reach the heights that I was meant to make.”
Powell has made just three first-team starts for United since making the move from Crewe, spending some of that time on loan at Wigan and Leicester.
The attacking midfielder was at the latter last term but returned to Old Trafford halfway through a season-long loan, amid reports that his poor time-keeping and attitude had infuriated then manager Nigel Pearson.
That talk annoyed Powell – “I was late once and I couldn’t even drive, so I think that’s pretty good going considering I live 40 minutes (away)” – but the player says he has no regrets about his career up to now.
It has certainly been a fast learning curve since leaving Gresty Road and one he believes United could have helped him cope with better.
“I had never really been injured until I went to United and I think that step up was not monitored properly between me and the staff, as in the jump between League Two and the Premier League,” he said.
“I think that was the biggest shock to my body, if anything, and then obviously the whole football scene changes when you go from League Two and do what you want, living pretty much a normal life.
“It is not a glamorous life in League Two and then going to the Premiership where the littlest thing can be said and you’re in the paper for it.
“It was a big, big slap in the face when some things went wrong, but, like I said, that’s all about football.
“You get the accolades when you want it and the bad publicity when you don’t want it.”
Powell admits the “whole super stardom” thing became a burden at United, but Tigers boss Steve Bruce says he is under no pressure ahead of his Hull debut in Saturday’s FA Cup tie at Arsenal.
The midfielder would be open to staying at the KC Stadium if things go well and he does not fall out with the coaching staff, admitting with a smile it is “no secret” that he has not got on with some managers.
Bruce clearly likes Powell, though, and joked it was “typical Nick” upon hearing he forgot that United were in Europa League action on Thursday.
“I completely forgot about until I went on FIFA online with some friends from back home,” Powell said about the 2-1 loss to FC Midtjylland.
“They said ‘did you see the United score?’ and I was like ‘why? who did they play?’ Then I realised they had the Europa.
“To be fair, I was shocked that they lost 2-1. No offence to the team they played – I can’t pronounce their name and I do not know who they are.
“I feel bad for the team considering the pressure they are under and how they must have felt during the game.
“I just think United are going through such a bad time that any little bad thing becomes a massive thing.”