Mike Newell: Winning the Premier League and working with Jack Walker

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Rovers Chat talks to former Rovers player and Premier League winner Mike Newell about winning the Premier League and more...

How did it feel to play under the management of Kenny Dalglish, Ray Harford and Tony Parkes?

“Kenny was the best manager I ever played for. He had been there and done it all as a player and a boss but all he asked was that you give your best. He was always one step or even two ahead of everyone else. He brought in good players and good people something that is overlooked these days.

“Ray was a great coach not because of systems or tactics but because he put on good sessions that kept the boys interested. It was different every day but always game related and competitive. I see some sessions these days and I would honestly walk in if I was a player.

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“Tony Parkes was a club legend and if he hadn’t been there, the club would have ground to a halt. He had the biggest bunch of keys I have ever seen. He was also a down to earth football man who would keep your feet firmly on the floor. He had seen good times and bad at Rovers and he treated them all the same. Together with Kenny and Ray he made sure there was no chance of anyone getting above their station.”

1994/95 wouldn’t have been possible without one man, the Great Jack Walker. What was your relationship like with him and how important was he during your time at Rovers?

“Jack Walker was obviously behind everything that happened and everything that was achieved at Ewood Park. He had been successful in his business by surrounding himself with people who were good at their job. He was a very humble man who loved a joke and the odd bet with the lads. It goes without saying that he was enormously generous but he did everything with a touch of class. He took us to Jersey at the end of our first season in the Premier League and treated us like kings. My relationship with Jack was the same as anyone else that was honest with him. If you shook hands on a deal that was enough.”

You held the record for the fastest Champions League hat-trick, how proud was you and how did you feel when the record was broken?

“It is great to score any hat-trick and we shut a few Norwegians up that night but the Champions League campaign was a big disappointment that season so it took the edge off any personal achievement. For it to stand so long is something that I was obviously proud of. As for it being beaten, I don’t know how you can have a 15 min break for half time and call it a 7-minute hat-trick and anyway. if you look closely Gomis’ second one the ball was already over the line when he slid in. How did I feel? Gutted basically, but it could have been worse Shearer had two in about 3 minutes for Newcastle and could have beaten it. He got 3 eventually but not in time. Unlucky Al. Messi also had a chance a few years ago, when he got two in two minutes and I was desperate for him to beat it so I could say I had a record that stood for nearly 20 years till Messi beat it.”

How different was the transformation from a player to a manager?

“I had always maintained that if I ever became a manager which is something that I always wanted to do then I would not forget what it was like to be a player. Hopefully I treat the players with the respect they deserve. You can achieve nothing on your own and I have learnt a lot from the players and managers I have worked with during my career. There is no secret but I can guarantee you one thing. The better the players you have at your disposal the better your chances of success. Hard work and dedication are also required but anyone who thinks it’s about tactics and coaching badges is deluded. You can’t read it in a book. There is no substitute for class and you can’t buy experience”

What are your thoughts on the summer so far at Ewood park and your predictions for the summer?

“I am working in Saudi Arabia as Head of Football at a club in Riyadh at the moment, so not really up to speed with events at Ewood over the summer. All I can say is I wish you an immediate return to the Championship and one day hopefully to the Premier League.”

Do you have any plans to return to management in England?

“Yes, I still have a desire to be a manager in England again. It will be at an honest club if it happens.

“All the Best to all at Rovers”

This interview was originally published in 2017.

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