It was only a five years ago that coach David Powderly was cycling to training sessions carrying a ball bag and cones on his back.
Aged 24, he was studying for his FA Level 1 while picking up £20 for coaching after-school sessions in South London.
He was also coaching at South London amateur side, AC Paulista.
Fast forward to 2017, Powderly is now a coach at Charlton Athletics academy and is making speeches in Geneva in front of top FIFA and UEFA executives.
It’s a meteoric rise for one of the most innovative young coaches in the game, who is pioneering coaching strategies with the use of drones.
“Man, I was born in Peckham,” he said with a smile. “And I’m now here in Geneva with people listening to me talk about drones.’
“When we went out for a meal afterwards, I was at a table with the Technical Director of Feyenoord, Technical Directors of Croatia and Belgium and there’s me just thinking, “This is crazy!””
Where did it all begin?
For Powderly, the idea of drones in football arose in 2014.
He was at home watching Barcelona face Bayern Munich, and, like all of us, was in awe of Pep Guardiola’s tactics.
He said: “I was fascinated when Bayern Munich went man-for-man out of possession.
“I really wanted to see it from a different angle and luckily, the image panned out and you were able to see the whole pitch and the movement of each Bayern player tracking a Barca player.
“It didn’t quite go to plan for Pep, but it was a good angle to see.
“It got me thinking, ‘How can I get this into training in my sessions?’ because I want to be able to provide this view for my players and for myself to analyse the footage.
“I was on YouTube one evening listening to music and an ad for DJI Drones came up. So I looked into it, I did research for like four months because I wasn’t sure.
“It was my own money that I was going to be investing and drones weren’t cheap at that time. So I asked myself, ‘Can I seriously justify spending £1,200?’ and I did, I took the plunge.”
Drone purchased and CAA course completed, Powderly shortly set up DPY Productions, a coaching resource and YouTube channel that demonstrated how drones could add another dimension to training.
It was also used to help with the A Licence that he was studying for at the time, with the drone aiding him to analyse the tactical side of the game.
Academy coaches are Addick-ted
It’s also been effective with Powderly’s Charlton U15 side, who he currently coaches.
In a game in which every yard and angle counts, science and technology plays a key part.
As one of his colleagues said: “Using the drones allows us to see the game through different geometries and see what positions the players should be picking up when the team is both with out and without possession of the ball.”
The use of this new technology made so much of an impact upon its inception that it was used throughout the academy and even by the First Team manager, Jose Riga.
“The players and coaches all love it, especially when looking at the tactical part of the game,” Powderly said. “The players can’t wait to see the footage when I put it up.”
Everyone wants a piece of the action
The meteoric rise doesn’t end there.
Earlier this year, England manager Gareth Southgate inquired about the technology and is keen to incorporate drone usage within the set up at St. George’s Park.
“He told me he likes the idea but it is somebody else’s job to try and introduce it,” Powderly explained.
“So I’m hoping we can try and work something out and implement it within the age groups from the 15s, 16s, 17s and 18s.
“Rhys Long [Head of Performance Analysis and Insight at the FA] and I have exchanged emails and he’s keen on it.
“So it’s just about trying to get us all in one room so we can have that discussion.”
But while our own FA ponder as to whether to introduce this innovative coaching technique, it appears that the Spanish are already one step ahead (where have we heard that before?).
FC Barcelona and city rivals Espanyol wanted a piece of the action.
Powderly explained: “Guillem Balague is the Director of Football at a club called Biggleswade United.
“The manager Cristian [Colas] saw my videos on YouTube and asked me to come up to the club.
“I did some filming with them and they enjoyed it. Guillem retweeted it out and it just went from there.”
He added: “I asked Guillem and Cristian if there was any way they could help me get over to Spain, just to watch training and also to bring the drone and showcase what I do?
“So, I went over one half-term. I was at Espanyol in the mornings and Barcelona in the evenings.
“Espanyol were preparing for Real Madrid. There was one day that they didn’t train and I was able to talk to Quique [Sanchez Flores] and ask him if I’d be able to use the drone during their training session.
“I was able to film the tactical sessions and see the patterns, but I wasn’t allowed to share it – which was fair enough.
“But I could film and show him what it looks like.
“I did some filming and the goalkeeper coaches and the staff were like, ‘Wow!’ and the players were like kids, they loved it.
“They then started to ask me questions about rules and regulations and how they could get it at their club. It was just really good.
“Not only were they helping me by giving me access to watch training sessions and record, but I was there giving them some value with the drone. So it was great and I still speak to Quique now.”
They often say that the sky is the limit, but Powderly’s work with drones could see him supersede that furthermore.
Read more: Inside the Manchester City Academy