WHEN others do the talking for him, the prospect of Joe Kinnear as Newcastle’s new director of football seems a mite less frightening.
Yesterday it was the turn of Steve Harper – long-serving, much admired and much respected at St James’ Park – to give his verdict on Kinnear at the club. Having worked under him in 2009, he was well-placed to comment and gave his endorsement – even if he admits “surprise”.
He said: “Like most Newcastle fans, which I am now, I was a bit surprised when it happened.
“Then the news of Derek leaving the club, maybe it is a like for like swap but with somebody with more of a football background. Joe obviously knows the club well, has a lot of contacts in football, where Derek did a great job putting the club back on a sound financial footing. Maybe they just wanted to put someone in there more football orientated.”
Kinnear might have come out on the offensive – in more ways than one – on Monday but Harper insists there is substance to him.
He added: “Joe is very likeable as a man. He is a larger than life character, a good motivator. He came in at a very difficult time, a very turbulent time and sadly his chance was taken away from him before the West Brom game. One plus side is that he does know the club, he knows a few of the players, he is not coming in as a total novice to the place.
“He does have that headstart unlike anybody else who might have been in the role. As for being surprised – I have been there for such a long time and nothing surprises me any more. Now I am on the other side of the fennce, you realise what it is all about.”
United have had a director of football before, and Harper feels the role is not as alien as some have made out.
“I am glad it has happened now,” he said. “That it has happened in the June rather than mid-season. Everything should have settled down by the start of the season, now that the fixtures are out people can start to look forward.
“It is about getting players in now and then focusing on what will be a very important start to another tough Premier League season. As a fan I want it to work well. Having a director of football seems to work well on the continent. We had Gordon Milne working with Sir Bobby. He was in that role when I was here.
“We know everybody at Newcastle needs a good start and with the fixtures coming out it gives people something to look forward to. After a pretty tough first game I think the fixtures are reasonable. Hopefully they will hit the ground running.”
:: Steve Harper was speaking at the celebrity golf day at Slaley Hall, which was staged to raise money for children’s charity COCO.