The power lines at Newcastle United remain so convoluted that if you sketched them out, it would probably be more London Underground than the Metro map.
Nominally, everyone reports to Joe Kinnear – who reports to Mike Ashley. But in practice, as we saw over the summer, the loss of Derek Llambias created a confusion that clearly affected the close season attempts to rehabilitate a club that had underachieved massively the previous campaign.
Kinnear might be the man whom everything goes through but his lack of detailed knowledge of either the club or the modern-day Premier League made it messy and muddled. His presence was divisive among supporters and his inability to rein in his obvious desire to settle a score or two made a difficult appointment almost impossible to manage.
Four months on, the process of normalisation is well under way. Kinnear has a ghost-written column in the programme, he sits alongside the owner at away matches and now, the manager is prepared to vouch for him on national television.
If it feels uneasy to those of who know the sum total of Kinnear’s summer input, it must be acknowledged that the director of football has shown few designs on becoming manager. The familiar refrain when Alan Pardew was under pressure before Cardiff was that Kinnear would take over if the manager went. That is extremely unlikely. Kinnear has privately assured friends he doesn’t want the job and it is difficult to envisage that he would have the energy or the desire to do it.
What he actually is doing now is a matter for debate and Yohan Cabaye’s pointed midweek comments rather bring it to a head. While some saw them as a positive for Kinnear, there seemed to be a festering resentment for the director of football in Cabaye’s words.
It was noticeable that this is the first time any of United’s senior men have really spoken about Kinnear, but it didn’t seem good.
Getting Kinnear to shut up does not equate to getting him to be effective in his role – even if Pardew now insists Kinnear’s presence can be used as help rather than hindrance.
“First and foremost, Derek Llambias was at the club as the chief executive and chairman and he was in charge really of transfers at the football club, in terms of who comes in and who comes out and the dealings off that,” he said.
“I worked well with Derek and enjoyed my time with him, but at the end of last year Mike wanted to make a change in that department and he viewed it as wanting someone in place there who knew football. He chose Joe. He sort of whispered it to me that there might be somebody coming in but didn’t really tell me the name and then I found out it was Joe.
“I didn’t know Joe at all. I think I had only met him on one occasion, if I’m honest.
“I’ve kind of got to know him a little bit more since he’s come in, but his role really and truly is to be Mike’s confidante in terms of what is the manager wanting, what does he need, what can I deliver for him and therefore that’s his role.
“So far, you can only take someone as you find them and so far he’s been supportive. He’s asked me what I want, I’ve told him what I want and it’s his job to try and get it out of Mike as far as I’m concerned.
“He’s not involved at the training ground with any tactics or anything like that. He hasn’t even offered me his opinion in any kind of manner except to ask mine so on that side of it.
“I’m comfortable with that and hopefully he can get the message to Mike on the one or two issues we need to address.
“One is that we’re going to need to look at British players quickly because we’re starting to get filled up with, perhaps, too many foreign players. I think we need to strengthen the team.”
Kinnear’s summer work was poor but Pardew is the man sent to explain it.
In excusing the lack of funds spent, Pardew also confirmed The Journal’s line on Loic Remy – that a deal is in place, even if a transfer is not assured. “There is (something in place) but it’s complicated and I can’t really go into that in too much detail,” he said.
“Sometimes our fans get kind of slightly lost in terms of the finances of the club. I think Mike has paid something like, I don’t know, £200-plus million for this football club and I don’t really think he wants to put any more in terms of his own financial money, so therefore it has to do what we say in the trade as wipe its nose.
“We have to use the funds we have. We’re not overloaded with funds and I think that gets lost a little bit.” Pardew also revisited a topic that he has mentioned before this season: the extremes of emotion on Tyneside. It is a more measured take on the expectation theme that has long been falsely thrown at United supporters.
“Everything revolves around the team,” he explained.
“The highs are high. We win and we can be top five, we can win a Cup and we might have only beaten an average team in the Premier League. We can lose and we’re going to go down. It’s those extremes that you have to manage. The expectations are such that it’s very, very difficult at times.
“I find it difficult to manage them and most managers at Newcastle find it difficult.
“It’s a city that loves it so much it hurts itself because of that love. If there was less pressure on our results and what it does to the city it would probably be a better club.”
There may be an argument for that but United fans have had put up with more than most over the Ashley era. While the Kinnear normalisation process continues, it is worth remembering that the people in charge have been just as “extreme” as the supporters or local press in recent years.
While that is the case, it is any wonder that the club exists on a knife edge?