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Wednesday, 5 February, 2003, 10:01 GMT
Newell off to a flyer

Hartlepool boss Mike Newell
Newell was named manager of the month
Newcastle captain Alan Shearer is in such good form at the moment he would probably walk into the England side.

But he would have to settle for a place on the bench at Hartlepool.

"He was here for the game at the weekend because Newcastle's was called off," said Hartlepool manager Mike Newell about his close friend.

"But he didn't bring his boots and he wouldn't get in our side at the moment because I couldn't leave anyone out."

Newell has enjoyed a flying start to life in management at Victoria Park, guiding Hartlepool to an eight-point lead at the top of the Third Division.

He was rewarded with the manager of the month award in only his second full month in the job.

But Newell was quick to praise his predecessor Chris Turner.

It's funny because every time we won it was Chris's side and every time we lost it was my side

Mike Newell

"It's started well and we've had some good results, but I can't emphasise how much of a good team Chris Turner left for me here," he added.

"Not just good players but good lads as well. They are well disciplined and I've had a great response.

"I was extremely lucky - taking over a club at the top of the league with a good set of players."

Newell was something of a surprise choice to succeed Turner, who left for Sheffield Wednesday in November.

He had no managerial experience and there was plenty of interest in the Hartlepool job, including the likes of Peter Beardsley and Chris Waddle.

There were suggestions that Shearer had effectively got his mate the job through his friendship with the Hartlepool chairman - an implication which all parties were quick to play down.

Mike Newell with former team-mate Alan Shearer
Newell has remained close to Shearer

"Alan's a good friend and that's common knowledge," added Newell.

"But it would be disrespectful to the people who appointed me to suggest that Alan got me the job or put me forward because they were very thorough in their choice for a new man.

"But if they spoke to him for a recommendation I would expect him to give me a good one because he's my mate - it's a simple as that."

It has not all been plain sailing for Newell since his arrival at Hartlepool.

The club lost two of their first four games under the former Leicester, Blackburn and Everton striker - including a 4-0 thumping at home to Rochdale.

But Newell said he never had any regrets about stepping into the hot seat.

"We won a couple of games early on but it wasn't until we lost two league games that I actually felt I was in the job," he said.

"It's funny because every time we won it was Chris's side and every time we lost it was my side."

Highest level

Newell brought in former Everton team-mate Kevin Sheedy as his assistant and the two have struck up a winning partnership.

"I was lucky enough to be able to get Kevin in," Newell added. "He's very organised and methodical about his job and he's been a great help to me.

"I needed somebody I could trust and I can trust him implicitly.

"He's got a wealth of experience. He has played in World Cups and European Championships and the highest level in the domestic game.

"But he's a very unassuming fella and that's probably one of the things I like best about him."

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