When it was confirmed in the summer that one-time Newcastle manager Joe Kinnear would return as Director of Football, most fans’ hearts were filled with dread.
This, after all, was a man who has mainly gone down for presiding over the bulk of the nightmare 2008-09 campaign that ended in the Magpies’ relegation, and whose biggest contribution was looking for a scrap with officials, opposing managers and players, and swearing 52 times at journalists in his maiden press-conference.
Certainly, an introduction that saw him dub the North-East football correspondents for the Daily Mirror and Daily Express ***ts was an indication things wouldn’t go smoothly under the former Wimbledon manager.
This largely obscured the football, which wasn’t the best but probably could’ve kept the Toon up in 08-09 if it wasn’t for heart problems that left him unable to manage the team, thus leading to a three month winless run that went a long way to relegation that season.
Some years on and after a poor season in 2012-13 that nearly ended in relegation, it was clear that something had to change at boardroom level at St. James’ Park. Sadly, the board thought bringing back owner Mike Ashley’s drinking buddy Kinnear was one to go for.
It was probably decided Kinnear would return before he broke cover with a baffling Talksport interview where he mispronounced several player names (most notably referring to Hatem Ben Afri, Yohan Kebab and Shola Amamoby), claimed he had signed players that he hadn’t done and said he had the number of every football contact the club needed.
Despite this bluster, the club only signed two loan players in the transfer windows and saw star player Yohan Cabaye depart for Paris Saint-German less than a week after a pledge from Kinnear he wouldn’t depart St. James’ Park in the January transfer window.
This botch-job means Newcastle became the first Premier League side to fail to make a permanent first team signing in an entire season since the League’s breakaway in 1992. In a season when everyone gets at least £60M just for playing in the top division, added to the £20M-odd received in selling Cabaye, something is clearly going wrong.
The nearest Newcastle got to replacing Cabaye saw low offers rejected for Montpellier’s Remy Cabella and Lyon’s Clement Grenier, which were criticised by both French clubs.
Its certainly questionable what the man dubbed by fans as JFK (Joe F***ing Kinnear) did, if anything. The club were certainly familiar with both loanees, having missed out on Loic Remy in January last year despite initially agreeing a contract, and being beaten to new loanee Luuk de Jony by Borussia Monchengladbach in 2012. Its also been indicated Kinnear rarely left London, and had a number of missed calls from player agents on his mobile phone.
A number of Magpies fans believe Kinnear was hired as a patsy, to deflect hatred away from the ever-unpopular owner and first team manager Alan Pardew, who has an odd relationship with the supporters given the inconsistency of the team on the pitch.
This resignation came less than 3 days after Newcastle were demolished 3-0 at home by Sunderland for the second season in a row, and while last season saw Newcastle have a legitimate goal chalked off at 1-0, there was no hiding place this time as a thoroughly awful performance got exactly what it deserved.
Targets for vitriol after the game were available left, right and centre. Angry chants were directed at each of the club’s power trio of Ashley, Kinnear and Pardew – the latter of whom had a season ticket thrown at him by an angry pitch invader – while the players in black-and-white all received a collective criticism for an inept performance.
While mercifully this time, local yobs opted not to use Newcastle city centre to reenact scenes from Grand Theft Auto, or punch the odd police horse, the fanbase was still left largely angered by a horrible afternoon’s work.
This has also led to the feeling Newcastle’s season from here on out is just going to be a long drift to the end. With the team 8th in the Premier League and some 15 points clear of the bottom three, there is very little danger of relegation this year. Meanwhile, the club’s disinterest in the Europa League means any attempt to try and challenge for a top four spot will probably not occur this year.
With a number of disillusioned fans Tweeting their dissatisfaction at results and anger at the regime, and some moving to cancel season tickets, it appears the club has opted now is the time to try and change the framework for next year.
Its questionable if using Joe Kinnear as a sacrificial lamb is enough for a fanbase now hoping for the end of Ashley’s ownership. This, after all, is a reclusive man who has plastered St. James’ Park with millions of pounds worth of free advertising for his SportsDirect chain, makes no effort to communicate with supporters, is happy to suffocate ambition as long as the TV money rolls in, and is seen as trying to slowly suck his initial investment back out of the club at the expense of on-field success.
In the meantime, it appears Kinnear has opted to leave a job the fans didn’t want him in anyway, where its questionable if even he knew what it was he was supposed to be doing, and where he still wasn’t good at it.
Basically, it makes him a fair candidate for one of Newcastle United’s most pointless ever signings. No mean feat given the list of woeful managers, sponging directors and catastrophic players acquired even since the club’s first promotion to the Premier League in 1993.
With the damage is now done for the 2013-14 season, maybe this will be the start of the club’s attempt to realise its frustratingly locked-up potential.