Premier League: Kinnear intrigue makes Newcastle a top ten miss rather than a hit

How's that? Joe Kinnear in charity cricket action

Joe Kinnear's arrival at Newcastle has created doubt and uncertainty - Ralph Ellis wonders why owner Mike Ashley has not learned the lessons of the last time he tried to keep his manager out of the transfer market...

"The real issue for Newcastle is not whether Kinnear puts his foot in his mouth on the radio, or in the papers, but whether he is a good enough judge of a player, and how well he can work with Alan Pardew. On that we must wait and see."

Start with a quiz question: Who said: "It is my opinion that a manager must have the right to manage and that clubs should not impose upon any manager any player that he does not want."?

The answer is Kevin Keegan when he walked out of Newcastle United in September 2008. The transfer window had just closed, and Keegan had watched while "football related executive director" Dennis Wise and "vice president of player recruitment" Tony Jimenez had presided over the sale of James Milner and the signings of Xisco and Ignacio Gonzalez.

Fast forward five years and it seems that Toon owner Mike Ashley still doesn't trust his football manager to manage his football team. How else do you explain the return of Joe Kinnear - the  man who took over from Keegan back then - as Newcastle's new Director of Football?

Kinnear has made it clear in his bizarre first week of interviews that he will be in charge of transfers, both incoming and outgoing. "Alan Pardew will answer directly to me", and "If there are players I don't think are good enough to be at Newcastle they will be moved out," are among his statements. It appears he has already called off the signing of FC Twente defender Douglas, causing managing director Derek Llambias to resign.

The 66-year-old clearly doesn't understand modern media. In his latest interview - a lengthy talk to fellow Irishman Paul Rowan for the Sunday Times - he claims he was conned into the talkSPORT chat that got him into so much trouble for being unable to pronounce the names of either Yohan Cabaye or Hatem Ben Arfa. Could he really be so naïve as to think he would talk about old Wimbledon times with Bobby Gould but not be asked about his new job? And now he's slagged off all-time Toon hero Alan Shearer as well, dismissing the Premier League's record goalscorer as somebody who was "good in five-a-sides, so they tell me".

But the real issue for Newcastle is not whether Kinnear puts his foot in his mouth on the radio, or in the papers, but whether he is a good enough judge of a player, and how well he can work with Alan Pardew. And on that we must wait and see.

Kinnear's record in the transfer market when he was manager of Wimbledon for seven years was more than decent, even if it wasn't as good as he claimed in that talkSPORT chat. But that was in the last century. In the modern Premier League, which requires recruitment knowledge from across the world rather than across Britain, he is unproven. By the time he took over at Newcastle from Keegan the transfer window was already shut - in the January when he was in charge he gets a big tick for signing Kevin Nolan, but not so much credit for Peter Lovenkrands.

His brief from Ashley is to help deliver a top ten finish next season - Newcastle are 2.35/4 to do that, the shortest price of any club outside the seven sides rated odds-on certainties to occupy the top half of the table. That may well be one to lay.

Kinnear's arrival ensures only a summer of speculation and intrigue at a club that is always volatile. That can't help Pardew, or any of his players. And in the end it comes back to the same problem that caused Keegan to walk away. The manager must be allowed to manage. Anything else is a recipe for failure.

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