Man in the middle: Crusader determined to remain true to principles

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The Independent Football

No one should underestimate the resolve of Mike Newell. Or his unwavering determination to stand by his principles.

He recalls a conversation he had with the late Ray Harford, who was then in charge of Blackburn Rovers, and who asked Newell what sort of manager he himself would make. "I've no idea," Newell remembers telling Harford. "But I will just be myself. And I won't go into my shell."

Anyone who has interviewed Newell will know that his attack on players' agents is not out of character. "As a bunch it's not fair to say I don't like them, but I don't like what they stand for," he told me at the end of last year. "They have no fear and no shame at all. I don't agree with it."

Newell has never had an agent himself, not even when he was completing the move that made him Blackburn's first £1m player in the days when Jack Walker was building a team that would win the Premiership title.

Softly spoken, studious but with a strong will, the Liverpudlian Newell is determined to do things his way in management. It was the same when he was a striker who, he claims, was only "average" but who pushed himself as far as he could through a desire to succeed and a voracious appetite for self-improvement. Newell, who holds the record for the quickest hat-trick in the Champions' League, was called up to the England squad but not capped while Alan Shearer spoke highly of him as an ideal partner.

The 40-year-old Luton Town manager will, nevertheless, be more than a little surprised at the furore over his comments.

"I want to be known for being a manager," Newell said, and he has shunned appearances on television programmes - Sky Sports, in particular - because he does not want to pass judgement in public on his peers.

His crusade against unscrupulous agents is different. "A lot of the players now are given more credit because they're in the limelight every day and on magazines," Newell said. "And that's what the agents want. They say, 'We'll promote you'."

Newell also feels that far too many players are encouraged to seek moves.

"We would never stand in the way of a player who gets the chance of bettering themselves but a lot of people go around looking for the best contract," said the Luton manager. "A lot of it is much of a muchness. A few hundred quid here, or a year here."

He has certainly, now, made his point.

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