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No. 50: Emre Can, Liverpool

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By ESPN Staff

Shearer's status is Newcastle's problem - Gullit

Former Newcastle manager Ruud Gullit insists little has changed since he left St James' Park and believes the difficulties caused by Alan Shearer's stature on Tyneside are still hampering the club's progress.

The former European footballer of the year was appointed manager of the Magpies in August 1998 and famously vowed to bring 'sexy football' to Magpies fans, taking the club to an FA Cup final in his first season where they lost 2-0 to Manchester United.

However, the following season saw the Tyneside club take just one point from their first four league games before Gullit chose to drop Shearer - a Geordie hero - for the St James' Park derby with local rivals Sunderland.

Shearer made a 72nd-minute appearance from the substitutes' bench but he could not help the Magpies from slipping to a 2-1 defeat.

Gullit resigned but the 43-year-old insists the lack of progress since his departure is proof he would not have been allowed to develop the club as he would have wished.

The former Chelsea and Feyenoord boss told Four Four Two magazine: 'I still think I made the right decision. Look at the way things have developed.

'It's still the same situation. I spoke to fans on the radio recently and asked if it had improved since I left.

'They said no, so maybe I was right. The coaches since me have tried to do the same thing and they couldn't because he is so beloved there.

'That is why I thought `I cannot change this, it's better for me to go'. I'm sitting here now and I know I was right. It was six or seven years ago and nothing has changed. Nobody can prove I was wrong.'

Instead Gullit believes there is an urgent need for change at Newcastle if they are not to stagnate further and compared their current fortunes, which sees them hovering just seven points above the relegation zone, to that of under-performing Spanish giants Real Madrid.

'Sometimes there is a pattern at a club and you have to have fresh blood. The same thing is happening at Real Madrid now - you need hungry players or it gets stale; they're comfortable, they get money, but are they hungry?

'The chairman didn't want me to leave because he knew I was right. I had an honest relationship with him; I said, `I can't change that and you can't because you have a lot of problems. I don't need the money, I'll just go.'

'It's not just about Alan Shearer; if you want to change things you need backing but if that will hurt a lot of people it's better you go.

'I know I made the right choice even though I didn't want to go.

'I had a good time there, the fans were great, everything was great.'