Desmond Kane

The ‘Kebab’ has gone, but Kinnear’s inadequacies threaten to skewer Newcastle

Desmond Kane

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In a land where Newcastle United apparently conduct all of their business these days, it was a quote that more or less summed up a disconcerting January for the club's fans.

"It is not easy to say no to a big club like Newcastle, but Clement has finally decided to stay in Lyon," said Frederic Guerra, agent of the Lyon midfielder Clement Grenier, on the final day of the latest transfer window.

After watching Sunderland dismantle their bitter North-East rivals 3-0 at St James' Park 24 hours or so later, perhaps Grenier knew something we didn't.

The question one has to ask yourself is why Grenier said no to departing Lyon for such a 'big club' in England's Premier League, world football's equivalent of the land of milk and honey?

Grenier had apparently been earmarked to take over from Yohan Cabaye in midfield. Remy Cabella of Montpellier was the other. Reports suggest Lyon and Montpellier were far from content with the decorum shown by Newcastle in their approach for the respective players. It is hardly surprising when the club's director of football does not boast levels of experience or contacts that befit the role.

Newcastle owner Mike Ashley had sanctioned the sale of Cabaye for around £20 million to Paris Saint-Germain. Ashley does not say much, but flogging the club's best player is hard to justify.

It becomes much more difficult to fathom when Newcastle produce the sort of performance that is reserved for a team in distress. With Cabaye gone, Loïc Rémy suspended and Fabricio Coloccini and Yoan Gouffran both injured, Newcastle were vulnerable beforehand. They were exposed by three goals in a defeat that could have been much worse.

If Hatem Ben Arfa does not create, Newcastle seem dumbfound. Selling Cabaye was surely one of the most ill-advised moments of the January window. Not solely for the sale of Cabaye, but for the fact Ashley - armed with a director of football in Joe Kinnear who should come into his own at such a juncture of a year - did not have a natural replacement in his mind.

You tend to make your own luck in football and life. When you are self-harming by selling your best players, days like Saturday against Sunderland tend to occur.

When Luis Suarez wanted to leave Liverpool last summer, the club's owners politely informed the Uruguayan forward that he was going nowhere. Cabaye should surely have been retained until the close season.

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Whatever else can be said, it is difficult not to see how Newcastle have not emerged from the the first month of the year in a weakened state. While others were taking the opportunity to sprinkle their squads with some gold dust, Ashley and Kinnear were failing in their duties to the Geordie Nation.

Kinnear's appointment by Ashley appears to be a dereliction of duty. An old pals' act. A clique. Call it what you will. Kinnear should have been issuing an apology to the club's supporters for failing to recruit one or two new players as he tried to explain away Cabaye's departure. Instead, there was apparently a justification.

"We didn't want to sell him, make no bones about that," said Kinnear. "But Yohan made it very clear to us that the opportunity of playing Champions League football and being part of the sporting project at PSG was something he wanted."

They have brought in a loan signing in the form of Borussia Monchengladbach forward Luuk de Jong, a figure who did not look too bad after emerging for the second half, but it is difficult to argue how he can be regarded as a comfort blanket when Cabaye is no more.

It has struck this onlooker for some time that something is not right about Newcastle.

Ashley has cheapened a classy club with Kinnear's appointment as director of football, but it all seems to be part of the landscape on Tyneside.

Kinnear's appointment came after Ashley vandalised the club's iconic St James' Park with his Sports Direct brand. He then decided to plaster the fabled black and white shirt with the horrendous name of money lenders Wonga that preys on the poor and unfortunate, especially in a part of the country that is so proud of its football.

Ashley is an owner clearly out of touch with his customers.

You would not walk into a Sports Direct shop and buy a pair of football boots to go jogging. In the same way, why would you appoint a director of football with no background worthy of the name?

It remains this onlooker's suspicion that Kinnear's appointment was to embarrass and undermine Pardew to such an extent that he would quit this season.

Pardew has hung around, but what benefits has Kinnear brought to the club? Newcastle obviously had a solid enough scouting network in place long before the director of football touched down.

Kinnear is a man whose work as director of football has seen the club pick up two loan signings in two windows.

Yet here is a figure who boldly claimed: “I’ve got more knowledge than anyone at the football club."

If there was synergy between Ashley, Kinnear and Pardew, a replacement for Cabaye would have been wheeled in long before the player was picking up his belongings.

One would love to be a fly on the wall when Kinnear is trying to persuade a French player to embrace Newcastle. He is not Matthias Sammer or Karl-Heinz Rummenigge leading negotiations at Bayern Munich.

Newcastle's failure to find a replacement for Cabaye should be laid at the door of Ashley and Kinnear rather than Pardew.

It is difficult to escape the conclusion that Newcastle's faint hopes of Champions League football disappeared with Cabaye.

Amid some chaotic scenes that saw some home fans dart onto the pitch, at least there was no horse boxing to end a ruinous week. It is small consolation.

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