Chris Backs Matt

Chris Powell believes that Matthew Etherington has the potential to become an England player.

Mattie could get back to action midweek after making a remarkably quick recovery from a groin operation, and Chris will welcome his return.

"I feel sure if he was playing regularly in the Premier League he could make that step up to what is the pinnacle of a player's career," he says.

"Matt is a key player with good qualities and he obviously plays in front of me so I can see at close quarters how good he is.

"He gives good service from corners and free kicks and we will miss that at QPR but I feel we have enough players to cope with it.

"I feel sure Matt will be a key player this year as he was last season when he won player of the year - let's hope when he comes back he will carry on as he left off.

"Matt has a good left foot and people say there is a dearth of left midfielders.

"I think if West Ham get back in the Premier League and he shines he could definitely be one for the future, and one to play in that position - which has always been a problem one.

"Young Nigel as well as Calum have a chance for England as well, I think."

Chris acknowledges that defenders are more aware of Matt now and adds:

"There have been times when he has been double marked even but that means someone else is free so we have to make use of that player.

"If he is then marked we can make use of Matt again - it is a bit cat and mouse sometimes, but I feel Matt has enough pace, skill, and tricks in his locker to get that final pass or shot off.

"It is up to him but also up to us to give him the ball in the right position.

"I have been very impressed with him and let's hope he recovers quickly and gets back in that claret and blue again."

But Chris insists that the show must go on without Matthew and says:

"We saw in the second half of the Wolves game what we may possibly do without Matt; Sergei came on and was quite influential."

Chris knows what it takes to be an England international, of course, but he insists that the recent European qualifiers did not give him pangs of envy, a reminder of the fact that he has represented his country.

"I am never jealous because once you have had a taste of it, even if you don't get it again, you have had it - and it is a great feeling," he says.

"The boys dealt comfortably with Wales and they ended up with six points - we have this knack of knocking England but it is good for the country and for football when they win so let's hope they continue and qualify for Germany.

"We have been getting in the quarter finals recently so let's hope we can go two steps further next time.

As for the David Beckham controversy, with him admitting he fouled Ben Thatcher on purpose to get a yellow card, Chris says:

"He scored a fantastic goal, let's not forget that; the Beckham road show rolls on but we shouldn't forget what a key player he has been over the years, and he showed it again against Wales."

Chris is anticipating with relish the flurry of games coming up and concludes:

"We have worked very hard and we are looking to the many games we have got coming up; it is a hectic schedule and obviously we have got the big Chelsea game coming up in the cup.

"We always train hard; that has been happening during the last two weeks and I am sure we will be ready for the games ahead."