Mark Douglas: Are Newcastle United jettisoning director of football role too quickly?

How about Newcastle United looking at someone like Brian Marwood? Mark Douglas wonders if the Toon could benefit from a director of football

Mike Ashley and Joe Kinnear watch Newcastle United in action
Mike Ashley and Joe Kinnear watch Newcastle United in action

Sunderland supporter appointed Newcastle United’s next director of football.

It sounds like another page ripped straight from Mike Ashley’s antagonistic playbook, doesn’t it? The man who brought you Wonga, the Sports Direct Arena and the resurrection of Joe Kinnear’s Premier League career aiming another metaphorical jab to the black-and-white solar plexus. But bear with me, because Newcastle could do a lot worse than consider the merits of Black Cat enthusiast Brian Marwood as their next executive appointment.

Now the latest dispatch from St James’ Park is that United have decided to do away with the director of football role in the wake of Joe Kinnear’s unhappy stint on the payroll. A role treated with suspicion will be erased from the Newcastle power structure.

That would appear to tally with the long-held suspicion that Kinnear was never really a director of football at all: it was just a vanity title for a self-indulgent and wrong-headed appointment.

It’s a shame, really, because United might actually benefit from having a conduit between influential chief scout Graham Carr and boss Alan Pardew who, unlike the previous incumbent, could actually operate a phone.

There is a lot to be done in the coming months despite the fact Newcastle United’s season is creeping towards a mid-table conclusion. The Magpies’ race, despite Shola Ameobi’s bullishness about the Europa League, seems to have been run after the stuttering and unsatisfactory display at Fulham. United, in golfing parlance, have shot a par round this season.

But off the pitch, these are critical days for a club about to career head first into a summer of unprecedented uncertainty.

Key men are out-of-contract or unwanted.

Steady hand Ameobi is likely to lead a charge of the disaffected and the discarded towards the St James’ Park exit door, with probably only seven or eight of Alan Pardew’s squad fulfilling the dual criteria of being keen to stay with the club happy to have them.

The departures could run into double figures, which is why it is so important that the club are all the things they haven’t been in the last 12 months: decisive, swift and operating with a clear direction. Perhaps a director of football might be able to aid that process.

They could do worse than look at someone like the North East-based Marwood, who has been one of the most senior executives at Manchester City since 2009.

Any move would not just bring Marwood on board but also his brimming contacts book – as well as knowledge skimmed from the process of turning the Citizens into a world-class club.

There should be no stepping on the toes of Carr or Pardew.

United’s chief scout was undermined by Kinnear’s appointment but his expertise and knowledge should make sure that his role is ring-fenced. Similarly if the club decide to stick with Pardew, they should allow him room to breathe.

What Marwood – or someone similar – might bring is an external eye on all matters Newcastle. This column has argued before that a serious cause for concern at the club in recent years has been the amount of talent either plateauing or slipping through the cracks. It is not that Academy or senior coaching staff do not care or are not capable of doing it, just that it is difficult to work in the environment Ashley has constructed.

Any progress at the club must come from the owner allowing his natural scepticism of football people he doesn’t know to drop.

The attitude of recent years – keep those you trust close, discard the opinions of everyone else – has brought Newcastle to where we are today.

To kick on, it feels like a bit of outside impetus needs to be added.

Perhaps the club might like to think again in their attitude to a director of football. It needn’t be the disaster that it turned into under the hapless Kinnear.


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