After spending such a long time at Tottenham, how did you find moving up to Newcastle?
It wasn’t very long into my time at Newcastle that I realised this was the type of challenge and experience that I needed. I left Tottenham after almost 15 years as a coach, and given the choice at the time I probably would have stayed. But I appreciated how long I had been there for, and I realised quickly that it was time for me to get away from what had been a very secure job. So I welcomed the opportunity.
Of course, coming out of the comfort zone of working in the South, at a club I had been at for so long – these are the challenges that I think, at some stage, everyone needs in their career. I think it became a very good time for me.
You went up there still as an assistant manager. How did you find the shift to being in charge of Newcastle?
I suppose, in my circumstances, it was quite a gradual process. Even in the short period of time when I first came up to Newcastle, so much happened. I initially went there to work with Kevin Keegan as part of a coaching group. Kevin already had Terry McDermott and Arthur Cox, who had worked very closely with him, and myself and Steve Round were in charge of most of the training. Then Kevin left and both Joe Kinnear and Alan Shearer went on to take charge of the club.
The transition for me from that to management happened a little bit slower after we got relegated. I took control of affairs in the summer, but I was still a temporary manager through that pre-season and into the start of the season. I was eventually given the role in a full-time capacity. It wasn’t a big deal, because I had been doing the job since day one of that pre-season. By the time we got to October and I got given the job, it almost seemed natural and obvious that it was going to happen.
When things are going well, it makes it that much easier, and we had had a good start to that Championship season, which we were able to continue. So the process was not so difficult.
Despite the club’s relegation, the majority of players stayed on. Why do you think that was?
I think it was a combination of a few things. At that stage nobody knew what was going to happen at the club. There were certain players who showed a desire to go, and subsequently went. Then there were players at the club who were under contract and did enjoy being at the club.
I think many of them looked at the situation and saw that we were still a big club, but in a different division. A lot of them thought that, with the squad we had, we had a great chance of going straight back up again.
I think the fact that we started well helped too. We only lost one player – Damien Duff – who actually started the season with us. Perhaps if we had not started well, a few more would have taken that as a sign of things to come and want to get away. But, because we started well, I think they saw the challenge of coming straight back up as one they could enjoy, and they showed that right throughout the season.
Was it always clear just how quickly Andy Carroll would progress after his first full season in the team?
No it wasn’t. First and foremost, he is definitely one player who benefited from the club being relegated. We had lost Michael Owen, Mark Viduka and Obafemi Martins. There is perhaps the train of thought that says if we had stayed in the Premier League we probably would have looked to replace those players with other centre-forwards. The fact that we didn’t gave Andy the opportunity to play.
I think the fact that he got to play on that regular a basis no doubt fast-tracked the qualities that he is now showing. It was evident that he was a lad who had enough in the locker to make progress, but to do that you have got to be playing games. He showed that, by the end of that Championship season, he was a much better player than when he started it.
Regarding his progress, we had a decent pre-season before the start of this season, and then we went and lost 3-0 at Manchester United in the first game. We were able to pick through some positives from that game, and probably the biggest of those was the performance of Andy Carroll. From there, of course, things have gone from strength to strength for him.
At the start of the season no one could have predicted that he would move on so soon for a record fee for a British player. What did you think when you saw that Liverpool had paid £35 million for him?
The fee was always going to be about the future. With the money that they got for (Fernando) Torres and what they paid out for Carroll and (Luis) Suarez, at the moment it looks like good business. Only time will tell, regarding the actual figure that they paid for him.
If Andy continues to make really good progress for Liverpool and England over the next few years then everybody will look at that fee and say it was worth every penny of it, because we now have a player who is possibly worth more. It is a big fee, and I think most people at the time felt that, but these are the market values these days.