IT seemed a strange decision at the time and, in hindsight, maybe it wasn't the best choice Hartlepool United chairman Ken Hodcroft has ever made.

The smart money appeared to be on former manager Chris Turner's number two Colin West taking over, until West appeared to have an eleventh-hour change of heart.

Before Mike Newell was unveiled at Victoria Park just over six months ago, he had never appeared to be in the running.

A Scouser born and bred, Newell, 38, spent most of his career in the North-West.

His links with the region appeared to be a friendship, stemming from their days at Blackburn Rovers, with Newcastle United skipper Alan Shearer.

Hardly a blood link, but when you've got the former England captain on your side, then anything's possible.

Newell was a striker most football fans have heard of, but who never achieved superstar status.

He did pick up two England B caps and four for the Under-21s, but he never really threatened to achieve full international honours.

His career began where many dreams are made - Anfield.

He signed on at Liverpool as a teenager, lasting just over a year before he was farmed out to Crewe.

Any ego he may have developed after being taken on by the Reds would have been quickly removed when Crewe released him on a free transfer after just three games.

At Wigan Athletic he set about relaunching his career. In two-and-a-half seasons he did just that and persuaded Luton to pay £100,000 for his services.

He again impressed, and by 1989 Everton were paying more than £1m for his services.

After two good seasons, where he was at his most prolific in front of goal, he joined Jack Walker's Blackburn Rovers revolution.

It seemed a strange decision to join a team in the then Second Division, but it was the start of great things at Ewood Park. He thrived under Kenny Dalglish as Rovers were promoted to the Premiership for its inaugural season.

A superb run in the top flight, where Newell was always a squad player rather than a first-team regular, saw Dalglish and Ray Harford's side finish fourth and then second before Newell's greatest achievement. It was ironically, for the Liverpool-born player, back at Anfield where he realised the ultimate ambition.

Newell was not in the Blackburn squad that day, but he celebrated more than most when, despite a 2-1 defeat, Manchester United's failure to beat West Ham at Upton Park meant Rovers were Premiership champions.

Newell forged a great number of friendships at Ewood Park, but a season later Newell was back on his travels. It was Birmingham first and then a number of clubs around England, as well as Aberdeen, before finishing his career at Blackpool in 2001.

A move into management seemed a natural step, and he was taken on at Tranmere as reserve-team coach. He had been out of the front-line of the game for a while before Hartlepool gave him his first taste of first-team management.

Despite ensuring they were promoted for just the third time in their history, Newell could not bring the Championship the fans so desperately wanted.

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