JOE Kinnear’s explosive re-introduction at Newcastle United has left a trail of destruction that leaves huge question marks hanging over the club’s direction – not least inside St James’ Park, where they are reeling at Mike Ashley’s controversial appointment.
From Alan Pardew down, uncertainty reigns. Quotes from the United boss were tellingly absent from the statement that confirmed Kinnear’s three-year contract, and with him heading off on holiday today, it will be pre-season before he re-emerges. That is a long time to fall silent on such a key appointment.
For Graham Carr it seems to be business as normal. He has seen it all before, but for players and staff used to being asked for discretion in their public proclamations, Kinnear’s apparent free rein to espouse his controversial opinions has been an astonishing turn of events.
As Ashley’s right-hand man, Kinnear is answerable only to the Sports Direct magnate. It is only he who can gag his new director of football, and at the moment he appears to be embracing the chaos he has unleashed.
Many within the club are now waiting to see where this extraordinary story goes from here. With apparent endorsement from Ashley, Kinnear’s public proclamations cannot be controlled, and there is a real sense that by continuing to fan the flames he is doing damage to the careful work of the last two years. But if even Pardew and Carr are told to report to him, what can others be expected to do?
Derek Llambias is in Los Angeles, his duties having been rolled back by the re-appearance of Kinnear. There isn’t really anyone else in a position to advise their new director of football – or even try to stem the tide of disenchantment among the supporter base. Quite what the players – or potential transfer targets – make of it is unclear. Steven Taylor was the first to go on record with his enthusiastic endorsement, but Sammy Ameobi – whose surname was mangled into “Amamobi” by Mike Ashley’s conduit in his Talksport interview – sent a telling Tweet that read “at least get my name right” in the early hours of Monday night.
A penny for the thoughts of Yohan Cabaye and the rest of the French foreign legion at this point. For one or two who haven’t exactly been resolute in their willingness to stay, it forms a convenient escape route.
That remains speculation at the moment. What is certain is that Kinnear has put himself on a collision path with the local press pack (derided as “snidey” by Kinnear) and supporters (who he appeared to suggest were not as intelligent as him).
The League Managers’ Association regularly run seminars aimed at aspiring bosses in which they talk of how to operate in the early days of a new management role.
In the May edition of The Manager – their union magazine – they quote the CEO of Hasbro, John Harper, who says, “Building key relationships early on is fundamental to any successful start”.
A sidebar puts forward six immediate steps to ensure you are successful, that includes pointers on scoring some early goals. “It’s important to identify a few quick wins – small or large – that will create positive momentum and build your credibility”.
Has Joe been reading? Never mind building bridges, Kinnear’s archaic strategy appears to be to deploy a grenade launcher at them. For many already opposed to his appointment, the contents of the 15-minute interview leave him with no way back.
For the most important point here – and one that Kinnear and Ashley have lost sight of – is the way the club is speaking to its supporters at the moment. Forget his criticism of the press – it will be brushed off, for this kind of thing happens more than you would know – it is the way he engaged with fans that is such a concern.
There has been debate about whether he was talking about fans when he claimed to be “more intelligent than most of them”. It doesn’t really matter, to be frank – it was a wormhole that he shouldn’t have climbed down.
The classy thing to do would have been to acknowledge the discontent and quietly build behind-the-scenes. By sticking to his “attack-first” strategy Kinnear is trampling on everyone at the club – especially Pardew, whose own relationship with the supporters was tested last season.
The inaccuracies are troubling too. Painstaking precision, research and discretion has gone into United’s squad building but if Kinnear can’t be trusted to recall which players he hired and which he inherited, how can he fulfil this role properly?
Fans rail against the club but it is one man who has directed this. Ashley is the only one that can answer their questions, but he won’t. We are still eight weeks from the start of the season but the response from the Tyneside public will be very interesting. The season ticket renewal deadline was last week, but many are now talking of boycotting the home friendly against Braga.
On Twitter, Newcastle fans crackle with discontent and even in the moments directly after his interview, supporters rushed on to Talksport to express their dismay.
True Faith editor Michael Martin eloquently obliterated Kinnear’s argument within minutes of taking to the airwaves.
How they mobilise now holds the key to the club’s short-term future. It feels like a ferocious storm is brewing.
HOW CAN NEWCASTLE POSSIBLY MOVE ON FROM HERE?
IN THE absence of Mike Ashley fronting up, a short statement confirming Joe Kinnear’s appointment was the best the club could do.
So far Joe Kinnear is doing all of the talking, but the order needs to come down from above that he desists from these calamitous interviews – and others begin to map out exactly what this means.
In reality, only Ashley can do that. Given his previous silence, we should not hold our breath.
WE NEED TO HEAR FROM ALAN PARDEW
CANNILY, Pardew has kept quiet so far. Politically that makes sense, but it only increases the uncertainty.
If Newcastle’s system is workable, it needs everyone on board – and that means Pardew (right) too.
To put this mess behind us, he needs to speak and tell us what he thinks. Every day he remains silent, his own position is clouded by uncertainty.
ASHLEY has his man in place – now he has to deliver a team worthy of Newcastle United. Premium arrivals – and not the “one or two” that seemed set to come – must be secured if Newcastle are to kick on from last season.
Several big-money arrivals of decent pedigree need to secured, and soon, for any of us to take this new arrangement seriously.
HOW do Newcastle get their supporters back on side? Twitter already crackles with talk of boycotting the Braga friendly, and bonds that were reinforced by good, old-fashioned work behind the scenes are stretched again.
An explanation of Kinnear’s role – and an apology or clarification from the man himself – is required. After that Kinnear needs to sit down with fans’ representatives to listen to why his comments have caused such offence.
AGAIN, someone – preferably Ashley – needs to explain to them what has gone on. Kinnear was popular with his players last time, and few who have played under him have a bad word to say about him.
But United are a hotch-potch of nationalities now. Few will have heard of Kinnear and the gaps need to be filled in.
For some it might be a convenient escape route.