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Newell motors on at Grimsby

Paul Fletcher | 08:23 UK time, Tuesday, 11 November 2008

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."

newell438.jpgAlmost 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.


  • Comment number 1.

    so he likes honest people???

  • Comment number 2.

    A Good Man, to whom I wish every success, he deserves much respect. Grimsby are a Big Club for giving him the opportunity, lets hope for the sake of both the club and Mike that they turn their fortunes around.

  • Comment number 3.

    Hi Paul

    Do you not mean Adam Proudlock?

    Good post, Mike Newell is a likeable manager. Hope he turns Grimsby around - without taking any points off the mighty Darlo!

  • Comment number 4.

    Mike Newells Barmy Army!!

    Good luck to him, as long as it doesn't mean luton go down ;)

  • Comment number 5.

    Don't like the bloke.

    But he's a half decent manager and Grimsby should improve under him.

  • Comment number 6.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 7.

    It's those damn female match officials picking on him!

  • Comment number 8.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 9.

    irritating looking fella this mr newell!!

  • Comment number 10.

    I'm a Luton fan who would have Mike Newell back in a heartbeat (sorry Mick). He's a decent man whose teams produce exciting, high tempo football at their best. Plus he has a real eye for signings and also managed to improve the players he had.

  • Comment number 11.

    he left luton because he couldn't work with dishonest people,was he right or was he right,just look where luton's "honesty"has got them.a salutory lesson here for all the get rich quick dodgy dealers and penniless poseurs.

  • Comment number 12.

    and i meant to add it's a crying shame for the long suffering fans.

  • Comment number 13.

    I'm a bournemouth fan so I hope he fails dismally so we can get out of the mess we're in!

    Apart from that I like Newell and I rate him and I know he will improve Grimsby. I wish he could succeed and bournemouth get to safety!

  • Comment number 14.

    Nice blog Paul.
    Havn't read a Grimsby blog since early this year about the 'magic' of Alan Buckley. Things have certainly changed since then!

    Watched the first couple of training sessions Newell held and the players respect for him was instantly noticeable. Not surprised really as I think they were as surprised as the fans when we heard Mike would be coming to Blundell Park!

    But he's a good guy and I'm certain we won't get relegated this year. Looking forward to the singings in January.

  • Comment number 15.

    Mike Newell, one of the decent guys in football. Corruption has been endemic within football for so long, but it is on the way with the introduction of the plc and foreigners to our game. I shall never forget poor George Graham for owning up to taking a cut. It was so common place that not taking a cut singled you out as an exception. Everybody did know about it George, but owning up to it publicly makes it known in the world outside football. Poor George got punished for assuming every one knew and accepted what was going on. Well done to Mike Newell for taking the stand and not let his principles be bought. Did an excellent job at Luton and should have had better offers than he has.

  • Comment number 16.

    What an honest guy, likes his honesty. Honestly, its honesty like Mike Newell's honesty that defines "honesty". Honest.

  • Comment number 17.

    Makes you wonder why an honest manager had to wait 18 months before being offered a job. What are the directors of the other clubs afraid of? Surely not some honesty in the game! Well done to the directors, Grimsby deserve to stay up.

  • Comment number 18.

    Sounds really in love with himself if you ask me. This obssession with 'honesty' smacks of 'look at me aren't I wonderful'. As if other managers are just desperate to deal with shady players and boards. They're not they just don't feel the need to get themselves in the press every 5 minutes.

    Never liked him at Luton and I hope he gets relegated at Grimsby.

  • Comment number 19.

    Good blog, Paul. Always interesting and a useful insight into the workings of lower league football and management. All the best.

  • Comment number 20.

    Quote>>> He did "things that normal people do", picking his children up from school and working on his handicap at Hillside golf course near Birkdale.

    Let me remind you...Normal people are probably looking for another job..not poncing around on a golf course for 18 off a huge payoff!!

  • Comment number 21.

    Grimsby's next game is away at Bury. Bury always lose to the rubbish teams and after 4 home defeats on the bounce, its a pretty good bet that Grimsby will get their first win there.

    I'll not go to the game, it will be too depressing seeing us lose to the worst football team in the league, i've seen it so many times before.

    Still, Alan Knill's barmy army etc etc

  • Comment number 22.

    Best of luck to Mike Newell, its tough tough times ahead,but we have to remember the glory days of the 1934–35 season.

    Irelands only Grimsby town fan.

  • Comment number 23.

    Well he must be doing a good job as we got our first win today.Fantastic having a glass of Champagne to celebrate. Nobody can say we are Glory supporters oh and does it feel nice to win a game at last. Up the Mariners and remember we pee on your fish! :)

  • Comment number 24.

    To Paulod21

    Newell never recieved a payoff he was acked for gross misconduct and therefore never given one

    Otherwise correct and a good point most normal people don't get 18 months to better their handicap

  • Comment number 25.

    The long term unemployed do have time to improve their golf handicaps. We now live in a 'leisure' society and Mike was fortunate and clever enough to have an 18 month work-free window to play golf. But golf every day can get very boring and I'm sure he's happy being back in football. Good luck.

  • Comment number 26.

    So honest that he was appointed as Luton manager by way of a rigged "pop-idol" style fan vote.

    This guy talks a good game.

    Up the hatters!


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