Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Why risk everything at Newcastle for Joe Kinnear?

The fallout from Joe Kinnear's appointment as director of football continues. Just 24 hours after the club agreed a three-year deal with their ex-caretaker boss, managing director Derek Llambias quit St. James' Park.

Kevin Hatchard of Sportsmedia believes there's no method to this madness at all.

If Joe Kinnear is the answer, many horrified Newcastle United fans are wondering what on earth the question could have been. 

Four years after leaving the Magpies’ managerial hot-seat because of a heart problem, 66-year-old Kinnear has bumbled his way back into St. James’ Park with all the grace and verbal dexterity of Manuel from Fawlty Towers.

Kinnear revealed on Sunday that he had been offered the role of Director of Football, but it took until Tuesday for the Magpies to sheepishly confirm the appointment. Kinnear’s initial statement dripped with bravado – he announced his intention to make Newcastle “far better than they are now”, and lauded himself as a “good tactician and a very good judge of a player.” He also suggested he would have the final say on transfers and would get rid of players who aren’t good enough.

Kinnear gave an extraordinarily bone-headed interview to talkSPORT on Monday night, claiming to have signed Tim Krul when in fact the Dutch keeper was already at the club when he arrived. There was some solace to be taken from that part of the interview - Krul was just about the only player who Kinnear named correctly in the entire quarter-of-an-hour. Kinnear also claimed he has won the Manager of the Year award three times (he has won it once), and that he played over 400 games for Spurs (he hasn’t).

As amusing as all of this is to the neutral observer, there are serious misgivings amongst the Newcastle support about a man who has spent less than six months of the last nine years in the dugout. No-one can take away Kinnear’s successes as a manager at Wimbledon or as a player at Tottenham, but those glories have long faded. It seems inconceivable that Kinnear would have landed such a high-profile position had it not been for his friendship with Magpies’ chairman Mike Ashley.

Kinnear has already lambasted the club’s 16th-placed finish in the Premier League, but there were mitigating factors. A catastrophic set of injuries made life difficult for boss Alan Pardew, and his squad was further stretched by the club’s outstanding run to the quarter-finals of the Europa League. Pardew has conceded he gave too much responsibility to some of the club’s youngsters in the early part of the campaign, and as a result mistakes were made and Premier League points went begging. However, this was an error that Pardew had already admitted to and rectified with an intelligent January transfer spree. Kinnear is bringing the Polyfilla and the trowel when the repair work’s already been done.

Newcastle’s transfer policy has been prudent and thoughtful in the past couple of years, and if I was a Magpies fan I would be concerned by potential damage to an efficient system. Chief scout Graham Carr has overseen the arrival of some excellent players. Yohan Cabaye and Cheik Tiote are fine midfielders (although Tiote’s form has dipped), Papiss Cisse made an instant impact on his arrival from unheralded Bundesliga club Freiburg (the departure of Demba Ba did him no favours), Mathieu Debuchy will be an excellent right-back for Newcastle when he adjusts to the pace of the Premier League, and I think both midfielder Moussa Sissoko and defender Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa are shrewd acquisitions.

This Pardew-Carr axis has worked pretty well, and Ashley has now thrown a Kinnear-shaped grenade into the mix. Kinnear’s input and contacts may well enhance Newcastle’s transfer policy, but the point is that we just don’t know what impact he’ll have, and his arrival is therefore a huge risk. Kinnear has had verbal diarrhoea since Sunday, and one wonders if he can resist commenting on the team’s displays throughout the season. He insists he has a good relationship with Pardew, but will that remain the case when the Magpies hit their first rough patch of the season? Will Kinnear loom over Pardew’s shoulder when the pressure’s really on? Will Kinnear irritate star players, like he did when he referred to Charles N’Zogbia as “Insomnia”, causing a talented winger to quit the club?

Only time will provide the answers to these questions, but the last time Kinnear was directly involved with a Newcastle campaign, the Magpies were relegated at the end of the season. The club’s fans will desperately hope lightning doesn’t strike twice at St James’ Park.