Is it 99 and out for Wigan Athletic's quiet man Nick Powell?

Nick Powell
Nick Powell

This weekend, Nicholas Edward Powell is set to make the 99th appearance of his permanent career with Wigan Athletic.

As things stand – with his contract up this summer – it looks like being his last.

An improved contract offer has been tabled by Latics which they hope will persuade him to extend his stay.

But there are sure to be plenty of clubs with plenty of money lining up to take him on to pastures new.

Only Powell knows what the future holds.

And who knows what goes on in the head of his?

Inside the mind of one of the most unique, maverick, different – brilliant – players to ever play for Latics.

It’s not as if we can assess any of his previous statements or remarks...because he famously doesn’t do media.

In an incredibly rare interview with the Latics Community Trust last month, he was asked about his reluctance on that score.

“I don’t know why anyone would be interested in what I have to say,” came the honest reply.

Which merely added to the aura surrounding a player who – on and off the field – is one in a million.

“Nick’s Nick,” is the stock answer given by team-mates, management and senior management – with a knowing smile – when talking about the 25-year-old.

No further explanation required.

The epitome of a man who does all his talking on the pitch.

And how he has spoken during his four seasons with Latics.

The first of those seasons, 2013-14, was on loan from Manchester United.

Powell arrived as a fresh-faced – not dissimilar to now, to be fair – 19-year-old with only one goal to his name from his first year at Old Trafford.

Of course, that came against Latics, in a 4-0 caning at the Theatre of Dreams.

But he wasted little time writing himself into Latics folklore – and into the hearts of the fans – with a memorable first half of the season.

Powell scored Wigan Athletic’s first ever goal in European competition – one of two in the 3-1 victory over NK Maribor.

His three strikes in the competition means he will almost certainly go down as the club’s all-time record European goalscorer.

And his 10 goals by the midway point of the campaign underlined his quality on the field.

But things went off the rails in the second half of the campaign, following the arrival of Uwe Rosler as manager, with only two goals being added.

While Latics were being eliminated from the play-offs at QPR, Powell was appearing at Crewe Magistrates to answer a drink-driving charge.

His spell may have ended on a low, but one team-mate – Gary Caldwell – clearly didn’t bear any grudges.

And when the player became available following the expiration of his United deal in 2016, Caldwell was at the front of the queue for his signature.

Caldwell’s glass was half-full, and he knew what the player could bring to the table if his head was right, if he was indulged, if he was loved.

And after a difficult time with injuries, Powell came to the fore and, indeed, almost kept Latics up single-handedly.

Take, for example, the visit of Barnsley in April 2017.

Appearing as a 66th-minute substitute, with Latics 2-0 down and facing the drop squarely in the face, Powell produced one of the finest performances ever seen in a blue-and-white shirt.

A hat-trick in the space of 11 minutes brought hope, when previously there had been none, and ensured Latics fought on to another day.

Sadly that season ended in relegation, but Powell did more than anyone the following season to ensure promotion at the first attempt.

Shortlisted for player of the season and named in the team of the year, Powell strutted around League One like the conductor of an orchestra.

Rarely pushed into second gear, but clearly far too good for his surroundings.

Halfway through the season, Premier League Brighton came calling.

But Powell – not the club –told them to go away.

Never someone who has been motivated by money, Powell had found the home he’d been looking for.

Again this season injuries have affected him, but he goes into Sunday’s final day as the club’s top goalscorer – as he was two seasons ago, and five years ago, at this level.

When he’s been fully fit, he’s shown he more than belongs at this level – and arguably higher.

But does that desire to kick on exist in the head of a man who is as popular with peers as he is with the fans?

Whose partner has just given birth to the couple’s second child?

Who is settled in his native north west, in a team – a club – set up to indulge him?

Only Nick Powell knows what the future holds.

But if this is the end, it’s a massive ‘thanks for the memories’.

Let’s hope there are far more still to be made.