THE future of some of Newcastle United’s big earners is under threat in January after Joe Kinnear was told he must sell to buy in the January transfer window.
Kinnear spoke with club owner Mike Ashley on Friday and although he says his position was only confirmed until the end of next month, all the indications are that he will remain as the Magpies’ interim manager until February at least.
With that in mind, Kinnear has now given executive director (football) Dennis Wise two hit-lists – one of the players he wants Wise to sign and another outlining those he wants sold in the New Year.
Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Chelsea meant Kinnear was speaking from a position of strength and while he was not naming names, the clues he gave suggest Alan Smith, Geremi and Xisco should have cause for concern about their futures. Wise was back at the ground where he spent the best years of his career to see Saturday’s draw and Kinnear revealed afterwards they have begun planning the club’s transfer strategy.
“I spoke to Dennis last week,” he revealed. “I’m only really getting on board with Dennis now because the (transfer) window’s coming. When I first took the job I didn’t think I’d be here this long so I didn’t really get down to talking about finances and players.
“Now it seems the club won’t be sold, certainly until after Christmas. I’ve got my eye on two or three players we need and two or three to sell. Dennis is now given the task to go and get them, simple as that – and the task of removing some of the players I feel are not good enough.”
During his meeting with Ashley, Kinnear asked the businessman what financial backing, if any, he can expect in January.
“The answer, truthfully, was keep the money you get for the players you sell and invest it back in the team,” Kinnear explained. “If there’s someone I desperately want he’ll possibly put his hand in his pocket providing he’s not near to selling the club.”
When asked who might be sold, Kinnear said: “Not players here (at Stamford Bridge) today, fringe players who won’t be involved, in my opinion, in the first team but we’ve spent a few quid on. If we can get some of that back and replace
them with quality players, the squad will be better.”
Of those who did not travel to Stamford Bridge, Ignacio Gonzalez is on loan and most are inexperienced youngsters. The exceptions are Smith, Geremi, Xisco and Mark Viduka. The latter is in the final season of his contract, making recouping much money on him difficult – but he is one of United’s highest earners.
Kinnear claimed Ashley told him one of the American consortia interested in buying Newcastle made a bid well below his valuation. And the man charged with finding a buyer, Keith Harris – the chairman of investment bank Seymour Pierce – suggested the transfer window could push the timetable for a sale back still further.
“If you put yourself in the position of a prospective owner of Newcastle, you want to have had a chance to work with the manager to decide on what should happen to the playing staff, both coming out and going in,” said Harris. “If that isn’t the case, you probably want to wait and see how the activity was in January, so you would defer until February. Also people have got some hopes that the financial chaos will have settled down a little. It’s my gut feeling, but it is no more than gut. I have got nothing tangible to base it on. The last month to six weeks has been, in the financial markets, the worst anyone can ever remember, without any tangible sign of them getting better. The people that have either approached us, or we have approached and have responded positively, are no less affected.
“The thing in our favour is a strong performance of the US dollar, particularly against sterling, which means it (buying an English club) has become much cheaper.”