Newell motors on at Grimsby
Mike Newell has a problem.
Since taking charge of Grimsby Town on 6 October the 43-year-old has spent so much time driving up and down our beloved motorway system that he is in danger of violating the mileage limit on his lease car.
The reasons for his endeavours are simple. Grimsby have collected just six points from 15 League Two fixtures and have not won since 22 March. If Luton and Bournemouth had not started the season with hefty point deductions then the Mariners would be rock bottom. Rotherham began the campaign on minus 17 points but are already three points clear of Newell's team.
It is with a wonderful mastery of understatement that Newell says: "There is a problem here in terms of getting wins."
Almost every night, Newell drives somewhere to watch somebody in action, looking for players who will strengthen his squad. He cannot rely on a scouting system because he does not have a large enough budget for one and he is unwilling to sign players on the recommendation of others.
Not that the likeable and thoughtful Scouser is complaining. His glass is half full and he prefers to focus on Grimsby's potential rather than their current predicament. It is certainly a huge challenge but, then again, when he took his first managerial role at Hartlepool they were at the top of League Two and people advised him against taking that job, arguing that he was on a hiding to nothing.
He is working for what he describes as "honest people" and it soon becomes clear in conversation with the former Blackburn striker that honesty matters more to him in football than anything else. It is a word that crops up again and again.
Newell had 18 months out of the game between his sacking at Luton in March 2007 and his appointment at Blundell Park. He attracted a blaze of publicity in January 2006 when he spoke out against corruption in football, arguing that back-handers and bungs were rife. Newell does not regret what he said but does believe that his comments were mis-interpreted as an all-out attack on agents.
"Corruption in football is not down to the agents," said Newell, who spoke to the Football Association about his claims, although he did not have any written evidence to substantiate them. "It has got to be down to the people in the game who allow it to go on."
The Hatters had won promotion from League One under Newell and finished a creditable 10th in the Championship but there were problems off the pitch and his dismissal came after he criticised the people who ran the club.
"What stressed me out was dealing with the people I had to deal with," Newell told me. "I cannot deal with dishonest people - that is what took its toll."
Newell didn't realise the effect it had all had on him until his enforced break. It took him several months to wind down and he wondered whether he wanted to return to the game.
He did "things that normal people do", picking his children up from school and working on his handicap at Hillside golf course near Birkdale. When he left Luton he could hardly get around a course but is now playing off 12.
Newell's playing career had taken him to 12 different clubs in England and Scotland and it was refreshing to spend some time at home. Newell did not forget about football entirely - he was a regular at Anfield - but he wasn't exactly going out of his way to find employment.
There were conversations with Burnley, Norwich and Shrewsbury, but then the phone was quiet until Mariners chief executive Ian Fleming called to ask whether Newell would be interested in an interview for the vacancy at the struggling club.
Newell was delighted that the call had come from Grimsby. He took it to mean that Grimsby had not already lined up another manager when they sacked Alan Buckley. It meant they were honest people.
He met them on a Thursday and decided he would take the job if they offered it to him. They called the following Sunday and offered him the position.
The itch to return to football had not really taken hold during his 18 months out of the game and Newell now thinks that is was probably a good thing he did not end up at Turf Moor, Carrow Road or New Meadow because he might not have been fully committed.
What he really should have done is left Luton earlier. In his final summer at Kenilworth Road he talked with the likes of Leicester, Ipswich and Derby. "I should have gone to one of them," reflects Newell. "I made an error of judgement in digging my heels in at Luton."
But that is all in the past. When Newell met the Grimsby players for the first time he was excited at the prospect of helping them improve. As with many in the game, he believes there is no better occupation than being a footballer and sees his role as helping his players to improve and maximise their potential - though he is clear that if they are not good enough he will move them on.
Newell did not watch much League Two football during his absence from the game. As he rightly points out - what league does an out of work manager watch when he has no idea what level he will re-enter the game, if at all. He is now bringing himself up to speed on all things League Two. He has already brought Rob Atkinson, Jean-Paul Kalala and Adam Proudlock to the club on loan and is hoping to do more permanent business when the transfer window opens in January.
The theory is that a few new faces will help bring the best out of the players already at the club and he reckons there have been signs of improvement over recent games.
"It might not be a quick fix but I think I might get the time to do the job properly here," said Newell.
And when I asked him why that was the case, he said it was because he was working for honest people.