Mark Douglas: Kinnear may have been tasked with a mission impossible

For Newcastle United's new director of football Joe Kinnear, the day of reckoning is fast approaching

Joe Kinnear, Newcastle United's director of football
Joe Kinnear, Newcastle United's director of football

For the man who claimed he could pick up the phone to any manager in the Premier League, the day of reckoning is fast approaching.

Joe Kinnear has 17 days left to do the absolute minimum required of him when he was appointed in mid-June and sign a replacement for Demba Ba. If he doesn’t, September 2 will be a mightily uncomfortable day for Newcastle’s director of football.

For all Kinnear’s bellicose bluff and bluster, he cannot escape the accountability of modern-day Premier League football. If managers don’t deliver results, they are for the high jump. Players who don’t perform are shipped out, while even managing directors who mis-step find themselves looking for work eventually.

For a director of football who proclaimed himself a guru, the buck stops with supplying the players who might aid Newcastle’s bid to challenge for European competition again. Fail to do it and he will be held to account.

The blundering chase for Darren Bent does not augur well. For Newcastle to be presented with a player who wants to sign for them and stumble is bad enough, to then try and revive the deal when it is almost over the line with Fulham is a worrying sign of a fundamentally flawed approach.

At the moment, this remains something of a friendly reminder to Kinnear – who has certainly made his presence known among the footballing fraternity. He still has time, but the situation is becoming urgent.

Newcastle’s best bet seems to be a late rush of business, perhaps prompted by the movement of Gareth Bale, Wayne Rooney or Luis Suarez, because at the moment Kinnear is failing to play the modern transfer market. Agents ring daily offering players and, for the club’s director of football, out of the game since 2009, it has required a crash course in modern football culture simply to get through the summer.

A personal observation is that Mike Ashley handed him an impossible job when, over a few drinks in one of their Totteridge locals, he offered Kinnear the over-arching role of director of football at St James’ Park. It is difficult enough for someone with an in-depth knowledge of the modern game to negotiate the cut-throat and dispiriting world of the summer transfer window, but for Kinnear it is close to impossible.

Agents seemed to have sensed that, and   links with players Newcastle dismissed months ago are a sign that their influence is beginning to creep back at St James’ Park. The uncertainty at Newcastle is encouraging agents to use the club to market their players once again – a depressing development.

The buck stops at sympathy, however. Kinnear knew exactly what he was letting himself in for, and all the bluster of those early summer months – that guff about knowing more about football than anyone else at St James’ Park – was proof that this is a man who is not backwards about coming forwards. So here is the situation as we stood yesterday. Newcastle have missed out on Darren Bent and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, two players they made approaches for earlier in the summer. Their move for Bafetimbi Gomis has collapsed too, despite the club being willing to meet Lyon’s exaggerated value.

Given the months of diligent work that has gone into picking these players, it is extremely worrying. It is also bordering on unacceptable at a club that flirted outrageously with relegation last season.

There is money to spend, as we have seen from the dogged chase of Bafetimbi Gomis. Something is stopping them from spending it.

As director of football, the buck stops with Kinnear – who has reminded a few people at St James’ Park that he is answerable to no-one but Ashley at St James’ Park. The questions become more searching by the day.


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