Newcastle United supporters have spent much of the last couple of weeks being chippy about the rest of the world laughing at their football club. Far enough, in some respects. There has been a nasty undercurrent to much of the criticism of Newcastle’s supporters over the last few weeks, though my personal reaction to such chippiness would be to suggest that it doesn’t exactly aid the cause for their defence. Now, however, the can be no way in which we criticise their behaviour actions. Because Newcastle United’s owners have decided, with wisdom that could (with considerable understatement) be described as “limited”, appointed Joe Kinnear as their new manager.
Now, some of our younger readers may not remember Joe Kinnear. After all, it has been quite a long time. He started out as a youth team player for St Albans City, before transferring to Tottenham Hotspur in 1965, at the age of eighteen. Over the next ten years, he played almost two hundred games for Spurs before transferring to Brighton & Hove Albion in 1975. He played sixteen games for them before retiring at the age of thirty. In addition to this, he won twenty-five caps for the Republic of Ireland. So far, so mediocre. His coaching career started in the Middle East, with five years in Dubai, where he managed two clubs. After this, in a career move which must surely make up the most interesting chapter of his biography, he had a spell coaching the Nepal national team (without, so far as I can remember, any conspicuous success), before returning to England to become the assistant manager to Dave McKay at Doncaster Rovers. Following McKay’s departure, he briefly took over as the manager at Belle Vue before being ousted to make way for Billy Bremner.
What happened next harks back to an earlier, more innocent age. Quite what a man whose previous managerial experience amounted to a few games at Doncaster Rovers, five years in Dubai and a couple of years in the Himalayas said to talk himself into the manager’s seat of a Premier League football club is lost to history, but he was appointed as the manager of Wimbledon in 1992 and, blow me down, he was quite successful. Wimbledon seemed to start every season amongst the bookmakers’ favourites to be relegated but, during his spell in charge of the club, they only found themselves in any danger of relegation in 1996 and 1998, and managed to pull clear both times. He left the club in March 1999, after he suffered a heart attack before a match against Sheffield Wednesday, and quit during the summer after a period of rest. His legacy at Wimbledon, however, is severely tainted by his enthusiastic support for the club’s proposed move to Dublin, which was the precursor to their move to Milton Keynes.
He resurfaced at Oxford United a couple of years later as the Director of Football, but resigned shortly after taking the position due to ill health. This time his recovery was considerably quicker, and less than two months later he was the Director of Football at Luton Town, where he showed a unique insight into the peculiar nature of that particular ill-defined role by sacking manager Lil Fucillo and installing himself as the manager. His decision was vindicated, however, as Luton won the Third Division (that’s League Two, in old money) championship in 2002, and then finished in ninth place the following season, narrowly missing out on a play-off place but with the considerable consolation of beating local rivals Watford in the League Cup sweeten that particular pill.
The circumstance’s of Kinnear’s departure, however, bordered on the bizarre. After the club was sold to the financial mastermind (just check Luton’s current league position and points tally for confirmation of this) John Gurney, Kinnear was sacked by post, along with his assistant Mick Harford. The club then set up a telephone poll, claiming that the supporters should choose who the next manager should be. Kinnear won by a landslide, but refused to return under the club’s then owners, and Gurney claimed that Mike Newell, who Kinnear was up against, had actually won the poll. Nottingham Forest were his next club, and he kept them on the Championship in 2004, but resigned in December of that year after a poor start to the season. Forest’s problems, it has to be said, were probably greater than any one manager could deal with. It took them until the end of last season to properly begin their road to recovery.
That said… Joe Kinnear? He hasn’t managed in the Premier League for almost a decade, and the modern Premier League environment is a vastly different world to anything that Kinnear has experienced before. Newcastle’s statement was reported as having stated that he would be “in charge until October 2008”, leading some to speculate that he will be in charge there until next Tuesday. How he helped matters by stating, at his first press conference, that a take-over is imminent and that Kevin Keegan and Alan Shearer will be at the club in a few weeks is open to question, especially one considers that Shearer has stated quite publicly that he has no interest in returning to St James Park at present. Whether Newcastle supporters will get the entertaining football that they demand is even more doubtful but, for now, they need to reassess whether entertainment is more important than staying in the Premier League. What we can say for certain, however, is that the current atmosphere of chaos, especially when coupled with the potential for support for the club ebbing away (as was demonstrated by the paltry of 20,500 to see them roll over and allow Spurs a passage into the next round of the League Cup) can help them in any way whatsoever. It looks like being a long, hard winter for Newcastle United Football Club.