Joker Newell has no more ace to play
At this rate, Luton Town boss Mike Newell will fade out of the limelight in the same way as most bright young English managers. His stock is falling faster than Middlesborough attendances; his reputation is on the line. Spare him a thought this Christmas before his side grace Layer Road on Boxing Day.
The one-time striker guided Luton to Championship promotion from League One in 2004/05, and then successfully avoided the drop last season. That prompted Ipswich, Derby, and Leicester to all enquire about his services during the summer. Now it is safe to assume that the phone has stopped ringing.
And here`s why, in his own words: "I`m sexist and I have a problem with all this politically correct rubbish." During the same interview in November, seething at an offside ruled out by female assistant referee Amy Rayner, Newell also criticised club chairman Bill Tomlins, saying: "The club has gone backwards, everything he [Tomlins] has done he has messed up."
Insulting your boss in public is a bizarre way to conduct a professional relationship. It has left Newell in a precarious position at Kenilworth Road, because he complained about a lack of available budget (although the club have backed him in comparative terms, sanctioning spending £840,000 during the last transfer window) and ambition.
Fair points, until they were tied up with the risky subject of political correctness.
Newell stands alone on the transfer bungs claim he made earlier in the season, although an inner voice tells us he was not wrong, just because nobody has contradicted him, or offered support. Hence, he is like a man whose running flush dissolved in the middle of a high-stakes poker game, only for it to be replaced by a hand of worthless Jokers. Others have all the aces, but refuse to play them. This is true to the extent that the recent report from the committee, led by Lord Stevens was, as one writer described it, "a non-event."
It would appear that the FA have been painting over the cracks. If you refuse to believe that there is corruption in a game that circulates billions of pounds, read a book called Broken Dreams by investigative journalist, Tom Bower, and revise that opinion. You will, because the evidence is irrefutable, at least in practice. Unfortunately, the validity of Newell`s fresher claims over illegal transfer payments (Bower was writing in 2003) lose their shine after the apparent irrationality of his sexist outburst.
The key question regarding Newell`s words is not what he said necessarily, but why he said them. In some part, they might be explained away by the psychological fundamental attribution error, which would show Newell not as inherently sexist, but instead illustrate that circumstances dictated his reaction.
But football is a provocative game where temperament is always tested. On the bungs issue, he did not offer evidence for altruistic reasons, or the good of football, but probably to absolve his own conscience on the matter. The actions and words do not seem to tally in this story, since Newell only recently signed a four-year contract, and yet, is chipping away at his own cause from the inside.
Admirable though his compliance with the FA has been - and his apology and willingness to pay the fine over the sexist remarks - Newell could do without the adverse publicity. If his ambition is to manage a bigger club, he has gone the wrong way about enhancing his reputation.
Now Newell remains an unlikely casualty of the bungs investigation he tried to aid, because he has since undermined his own integrity. The real culprits are hiding; hiding, primarily, in the ever-growing shadow, and rhetoric, of Mike Newell.