Wigan Athletic mission led to Powell discovery
And the former Northern Ireland boss believes Powell - who is spearheading Stoke's play-off push in the Championship - still has plenty of gears to access.
The 26-year-old's brace in Stoke’s 3-0 win over Luton on Saturday made it 10 for the season - and five in his last six appearances.
Having elected to join Stoke after his Latics contract expired in the summer of 2019, Powell is hopefully gearing up for a second crack at the Premier League.
“At 26 you definitely believe his best years are still ahead of him," enthused O'Neill.
"He has shown better resilience and a better ability to deal with the disappointment of Manchester United.
"And he is at an age where he has plenty of football left in him.
"He’s a boy you have to try to get the best out of, but what he is doing now is getting the best out of himself.
"He’s got great talent and it’s nice to see him going on to develop that.”
Powell played a key role in Latics lifting the League One title in 2018, when his link-up with top scorer Grigg not only terrorised defences - but also impressed watching international managers.
“I got familiar with Nick when he was playing at Wigan because I was watching Will Grigg a lot for my national job and I would watch Nick," added O'Neill, speaking to the Stoke Sentinel.
"At the time Wigan were in League One and I used to think: ‘God how is this lad playing in League One?’
“Things changed at Manchester United and then he had two periods out on loan which weren’t particularly successful at Leicester and Hull then he had to rebuild himself at Wigan and he has come here.
“I don’t think anyone who has worked with Nick will ever dispute the quality he has had. But I think now he has a focus which he maybe didn’t have when he was younger."
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