JOE Kinnear’s future employment at Newcastle United remains uncertain, but he has already begun to draw up a ‘transfer hit-list’ with a view to strengthening the squad during the January window.
Such is the uncertainty at St James’s Park that Kinnear, owner Mike Ashley and executive director (football) Dennis Wise could all conceivably have left the club by the turn of the year.
But in another strong indication that Ashley is likely to remain at United for the foreseeable future, Kinnear has revealed that he’s been working closely with Wise on a list of possible targets.
United’s interim manager has added three French Under-21 internationals and two Bundesliga players to a list that also includes home-grown players recommended to Kinnear by his scouting contacts. Kinnear believes the club need to bring in four players to ensure the threat of relegation is extinguished – and he would be delighted if he was the man to be handed a transfer budget.
“I’ve got a (transfer) hit-list. Whether I’m here or not, I’ve got to be prepared. I’ve compiled a list of players up and down the country who I would like to be here and if it is a case where Mike Ashley says: ‘Yeah, you’re here’, I want to be prepared,” he said.
“Dennis is still a part of that too – he’s still here and he’s still involved. I’m here until 6pm every day, and mainly it’s about ringing round clubs saying, ‘I want a world class so and so’.
“I’ve got massive connections from my Wimbledon days – all the scouts are still working in the game and they’re advising me.”
United’s sights remain trained on the Continent in the search for new players, with Wise also continuing his mission to bring in the best up-and-coming talent.
“Me and Dennis have traded names. We saw the French Under-21s – we put three players down from that game – we put two players down at a German club. I think he’s shooting around looking at various teams,” he said.
“We’re looking at it two-fold – he’s looking for ones for the future, although I’d like ones for the first team, because I’m selfish.”
The departure of Tony Jimenez from the club’s management structure last month appeared to suggest that there would not be much recruitment in January – provided Ashley was still at the club.
But with the sale of United now appearing more of a distant prospect it appears as if Ashley, who has not returned to St James’s Park since the departure of Kevin Keegan, is prepared to provide funds to strengthen the squad.
From a purely business point of view, such a move would make sense. If United are to lose their Premier League status – and without further strengthening of the squad they would be vulnerable if they suffered more injuries to key players – then Ashley would have virtually no chance of finding a buyer willing to meet his £300m valuation.
Meanwhile, Kinnear has welcomed Nicky Butt and Michael Owen back to training this week – but the latter looks unlikely to start against Aston Villa.
Although United’s interim boss is desperate to have his influential skipper involved it looks more likely that the striker will be utilised as an impact substitute. Butt, however, is expected to come back into contention after missing the West Brom game.
“Nicky has trained today following his ankle trouble and dead leg against Sunderland and we will see if there is a reaction today,” he said.
“Michael will train tomorrow but it is hard to say if he will play against Aston Villa. But if he is okay, I’d like to get him involved.
“I will see if he can play for 20-30 minutes, in that time he could get us a goal.”