BBC BLOGS - BBC Sport: Phil McNulty
« Previous | Main | Next »

Ashley's short-term gamble

Phil McNulty | 14:06 GMT, Friday, 26 September 2008

Newcastle United's appointment of Joe Kinnear as interim manager is proof that owner Mike Ashley and his sidekick Dennis Wise will not be bowing to the mob - and that the club has unlimited powers to surprise.

"Cockney Mafia Out" has been one of the core themes from Newcastle protesters demanding the removal of men like Wise and Derek Llambias after Kevin Keegan's exit.

And despite an international career with the Republic of Ireland, Kinnear is very much regarded as an honorary southerner after a lengthy playing career at Spurs and a managerial reputation forged in the "Crazy Gang" hothouse of Wimbledon.

This means the arrival of the 61-year-old, who has been out of football since leaving Nottingham Forest in 2004, is hardly going to push the protesters from the gates of St James' Park.

It is a pick right out of left-field - and one that suggests the list of potential candidates Ashley and Wise were working their way through might have been as long as the Channel Tunnel.

After names such as Terry Venables, David O'Leary, Glenn Hoddle and Alan Curbishley were bandied about, the appointment of Kinnear will not be received with huge acclaim.

But in their current situation, beggars cannot be choosers and Newcastle have gone for a month of stability, and hopefully recovery, rather than let their season disintegrate further.

And having seen Kinnear at close quarters on many occasions in his managerial career, he is someone who will love the scrap he has got himself into at Newcastle, and will actually relish the idea of putting egg on potential critics' faces.

He will not be cowed by big names and big reputations, and will not allow anyone at Newcastle to wallow in self-pity.

Kinnear revelled in the "us against the world" environment of Wimbledon, but he is not remembered with great affection by Forest fans, who will be as stunned as the rest of us by Newcastle's latest move.

But are things at Newcastle now so bad that they have drafted in someone who has not worked in management for four years to steady the ship for a month?

It would seem they are.

Kinnear says he is excited by the challenge, and having seen him in action I believe him - but he has got a huge task to win over the hearts and minds of the Newcastle public, if only for a few weeks.

He has to turn around a team that is fragile, low on morale and a support that has started to do what few ever believed they would - vote with their feet.

Kinnear must also quickly re-acquaint himself with the modern game after years on the sidelines - Newcastle fans will be watching his every move and they are currently in unforgiving mood.

Will his methods work on superstars such as Michael Owen? Will some of Newcastle's newer faces have even heard of him?

These are the hurdles he must clear, but it would be unfair and unwise to simply write Kinnear off as a lost cause before he has seen a ball kicked in anger and he is only likely to be in place for a few weeks.

Football fans are notoriously fickle. If Kinnear applies a quick fix and Newcastle actually start winning football matches, fans will not care if he is from Mile End or Manhattan.

It is a short-term gamble of major proportions by Ashley and Wise - and it will need to pay off almost instantly if it not to be seen as another maverick move by an owner whose feel for football, and Newcastle in particular, is being seriously questioned.

Newcastle is a circus, a soap opera, a black comedy, a farce - but it is never dull.


or register to comment.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.