Mark Douglas: Ashley and Kinnear have 14 days to rectify mess they created

Mark Douglas says that Mike Ashley and Joe Kinnear have until the end of the transfer window to rectify the mess they have created

St James' Park,
St James' Park

Pretty soon, we will know for sure whether Newcastle United’s dysfunctional new management structure is fundamentally flawed.

The issues bubbling away all summer – Joe Kinnear’s unsuitability for the complex role handed to him over the summer, the apparent lack of transfer funds – will finally boil over now that interest in prize asset Yohan Cabaye has been firmed up.

With Arsenal pulling the trigger and firing the first shots in the bidding war for Newcastle’s prize asset, Kinnear will find no hiding place.

That is the top and bottom of yesterday’s depressingly predictable development.

Because if Cabaye goes and United are either unwilling or unable to bring in a replacement, it poses the biggest question mark yet after Kinnear’s questionable appointment.

Newcastle have known all summer that they were on shaky ground when it came to Cabaye. The club were very aware of the player’s desire to play Champions League football in the run-up to the World Cup, and while no explicit conversation took place between manager and midfielder, an understanding was reached early on in the summer.

That pact was basically that Cabaye had to maintain a professional attitude, get on with his work and represent Newcastle as best he could – and in return Newcastle would consider offers for the right price.

Basically, the same deal for every player in the Magpies squad in the Mike Ashley era. The inconsistency last night was that Arsenal’s price patently wasn’t right. Newcastle value him closer to the £20million mark, and until Arsenal come closer to United’s valuation there will be no deal.

But Cabaye was left out anyway, with Pardew clearly of the opinion that the player’s head wouldn’t be in the right place to play. For that, the player must take a lion’s share of the blame – especially as his agent was spinning furiously to journalists in France throughout the day.

Newcastle’s reaction was predictably furious – and with justification. The timing of Arsenal’s bid was very poor, and Arsene Wenger’s desperation to broker a deal has seen him forget that famous Gunners class that the club like to ram down our throats.

United find themselves boxed into a corner, but unlike coming up with a coherent strategy for his football club, dealing with bids for Newcastle’s existing players is something Mike Ashley is actually quite good at. They won’t sell unless Arsenal come closer to United’s valuation.

As for everything else, there is less certainty. Newcastle’s summer has been pitiful; Ashley’s calls have been terrible and the club don’t appear to have any discernible direction anymore. The fact that Kinnear is now the most powerful person at St James’ Park barring Ashley himself is risible – and the director of football’s inability to secure the recruits the club patently needs is desperate.

We are now staring down the barrel at a summer where Newcastle – who stayed up by the skin of their teeth last season – might actually end this transfer window significantly weaker than they were when it started. That is breathtaking.

If Cabaye goes, United will have funds but they will need a creative midfielder and a striker – the two most difficult positions on the field to bring in players.

Nothing we have seen so far suggests Kinnear – at least if he is unaided by the many good people at the club who whose influence was diluted by his appointment – will find it easy.

Kinnear and Ashley have created this mess. They have 14 days to rectify it.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer