The minds of many, suspicious and not, were left puzzled yesterday as Newcastle announced that former manager Joe Kinnear was returning to St James’ Park as Director of Football, almost four and half years on since suffering a heart attack whilst manager.
As for being suspicious, well, there’s simply no need for it for, despite the olive branch the former Wimbledon manager offered Alan Pardew - “There are no issues. My job is quite clear. I’m Director of Football, he’s manager,” said Kinnear. “I’m not picking the team, that’s what manager gets paid for” - Kinnear’s return can only be seen for what it is – a decision through which Mike Ashley has made clear to everybody, to his manager first and foremost, that he’s in charge of the club.
Ashley has never been a man shy of controversies, if anything, quite the opposite. The decision to appoint Kinnear is as sharp a U-turn as possible from his decision to offer Alan Pardew an eight-year deal 12 months ago – following which, the manager himself admitted being “astounded” by the Newcastle owner’s offer.
Ironically, Newcastle badly needed a figure to fill the role Kinnear has stepped into, for the Magpies endure a torrid season last term. Blighted by injuries and with a squad blatantly not adequately equipped to compete on four fronts, Alan Pardew’s side were a pale imitation of the team that had reached a Europa League spot only 12 months earlier.
Some shrewd signings in the January transfer window momentarily steadied the ship, before rumours of internal dissent grew increasingly louder, leading the club to ban members of the media from their press conferences, and forcing the Toon Army to bite their fingernails until the final weeks of the season.
When one considers all of the above, the decision to appoint a man to help Alan Pardew in the recruitment process is a perfectly sensible one. Alas, considering that the chosen man is Joe Kinnear, who introduced himself as Newcastle manager with a tirade in which he swore 52 times in five minutes, the decision could be as detrimental to Newcastle’s fortunes as any Ashley as taken since arriving on Tyneside.
Being foul-mouthed doesn’t necessarily make Kinnear unsuitable for the job, but the former Wimbledon’s manager penchant for causing controversies through an approach as diplomatic as a brick wrapped in sandpaper could make life very uncomfortable for Alan Pardew.
If his first statements are anything to go by, Newcastle’s new Director of Football has already set about with a precise agenda. “I know I’ve got more knowledge than most people at Newcastle about football” blasted Kinnear with the usual tact, before adding that “That’s no disrespect to anybody there” and underlining that, as of last night, he was “in charge of transfers.”
Last time Kinnear was involved with Newcastle he was forced to resign after suffering a heart attack, before the club itself suffered its own cardiac arrest as the season ended in turmoil, yet the 66-year-old maintains to be “A very good judge of players, a very good tactician,” who intends “to take Newcastle far better than there are now. I’ve a bright head. I can see a good player, get the right players in to make us successful.”
Alan Pardew’s ears would have undoubtedly been ringing away as Kinnear added: “I will sit down with Alan Pardew and talk about what we need to be successful. I will bend over backwards to make sure we’re successful.
“I’m there to ensure he gets best possible team on pitch. Tactics and coaching are strictly down to him. If he has questions, he’ll ask them and I’ll answer them.”
The bookies, merciless entities that they are, have already installed the Newcastle manager as 7/4 favourite to be the first Premier League manager to be replaced this season.
Considering Kinnear’s appointment as a subtle message from Ashley to force Pardew to reconsider his future and, potentially, walk away from his eight-year contract might be overly cynical, but it’s also an uncomfortably plausible explanation as far as the Newcastle manager is concerned.
With less than two months before the start of the season, Kinnear’s arrival could plunge the club into turmoil, setting the board and the manager on route for collision. Trusts and belief are essential to any football club, particularly to one whose fans expect as much as the Newcastle fans do.
For dreams, to paraphrase Elvis, can’t be built on suspicious minds.