The Hairdryer

Kinnear’s comic ‘reign of error’ masks tragic truth about football

The Hairdryer

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Oh how we laughed. And laughed. And laughed again. For a couple of heady summer weeks it appeared football had discovered a Balotelli of the Boardroom, an open tap of hilarity capable of writing newspaper back pages by himself with his bizarre antics.

Even before his appointment as Newcastle’s new director of football had been officially confirmed, Joe Kinnear - with impeccable comedy timing - famously addressed the learned listeners of Talksport and expounded on his plans for working with Shola Amenobee, Yohan Kebab and Hatem Ben Afre. And all this after falling out with Charles Insomnia during his previous spell at the club.

Kinnear followed up his bizarre performance with another interview with the Shields Gazzette which inspired the kind of robust fact-checking exercise normally reserved for an embattled and floundering Presidential candidate who can’t help but spew forth inaccuracies, half-truths and plain nonsense.

Joe Kinnear did at least earn the Presidential nickname ‘JFK’ at Newcastle, but it wasn’t for his polished and inspiring performances in front of the media. Instead the ‘F’ stood for ‘f*****g’ in recognition of his sweary tendencies in press conferences. His other nickname, rather fittingly, was ‘Joke In Here’.

After going rogue in front of the radio mic and dictaphone last summer, Kinnear then went dark after his interviews inspired anger amongst supporters; and, along with owner Mike Ashley, reportedly did not attend the weekend’s derby defeat to Sunderland, where the perils of a transfer record that showed a failure to recruit any permanent first-team signings in two transfer windows was exposed in a 3-0 defeat.

Kebab was of course taken away by Paris Saint-Germain, and Kinnear’s inability to sign any kind of replacement was followed – whether coincidentally or not, who knows at Newcastle? – by confirmation on Monday night that he had tendered his resignation at St James’ Park. And so one of the great bumbling comedic roles – with Joe Kinnear’s hilarious turn as ‘Director of Football’ perhaps second only to Rowan Atkinson’s portrayal of Mr Bean – has been brought to an end.

Indeed, comedy has been a constant thread of Kinnear’s professional relationship with Newcastle, ever since he opened his first press conference after being surprisingly confirmed as the club’s interim manager in October 2008 with the jaw-dropping salvo: “Which one is Simon Bird? … You’re a c***.”

After an admirably restrained “thank you” from the Daily Mirror’s north-east correspondent, Kinnear’s second public utterance as Newcastle boss was as follows: “Which one is Hickman [Niall, Express reporter]? You are out of order. Absolutely f*****g out of order. If you do it again, I am telling you you can f*** off and go to another ground. I will not come and stand for that f*****g crap. No f*****g way, lies. F***, you're saying I turned up and they [Newcastle's players] f****d off."

No less than 29 usages of the word f*** or its derivatives littered the air in that first unhinged press conference, and thus was an unshakeable reputation established. And whether operating as manager or director of football, Kinnear did little to dispel the buffoonish image he himself helped create.

Indeed, it was only enhanced at the start of November when it was reported Kinnear had ventured to enquire about Birmingham's Shane Ferguson after being taken by the midfielder during a scouting trip; the Championship club, it is said, had to politely inform Kinnear that Ferguson was only on loan at Birmingham from ... Newcastle.

But behind the stifled giggles inspired by Kinnear lies a much more serious truth. After all, not many Newcastle fans were laughing during his tenure at the helm of one of English football’s grandest clubs.

As a poll for the Evening Chronicle proved on Tuesday, fans were almost unanimous in their relief at seeing Kinnear depart.

The tale of Kinnear is a cautionary one, but the lesson will not be learned. English football has a remarkable - and deeply unfunny - capacity for repeatedly endowing power on people whose credentials do not stand up to scrutiny.

Kinnear became a joke at Newcastle, but was also a symptom of a wider malaise. Just cast your eyes to Leeds, where in the last week alone the club's prospective owner Massimo Cellino sacked Brian McDermott before even finalising his purchase of the club, and then shamefacedly brought him back to take training and a press conference on Monday.

Remarkably, this man seems certain to pass the Football League's fit and proper persons test, as Henry Winter explains in the Telegraph today.

Under Football League rules compiled in line with the Rehabilitation of Offenders’ Act, Massimo Cellino’s two convictions for fraud will not be taken into account when the League decides whether Leeds’s prospective buyer passes its Owners and Directors test.

Cagliari’s owner, who has agreed to buy 75 per cent of Leeds from the current owners GFH Capital, has to complete a lengthy form to establish whether he is a fit and proper owner. His two offences, the first for deceiving the EU and Italian Ministry of Agriculture out of £7.5 million and second for false accounting at Cagliari, occurred in 1996 and 2001 respectively, outside the 10-year limit under UK and League rules.

It was former Newcastle striker Len Shackleton who probably had it right in his autobiography, published in 1956, which contained a chapter entitled 'The Average Director's Knowledge of Football'. It was a blank page.

Shackleton chose the title 'The Clown Price of Soccer' for his book - a tag that might fit nicely on Kinnear's shoulders were it not for the princely connotations.

He certainly made us all laugh, for a bit. But the fact he was allowed a seven-month reign of error at Newcastle is, in truth, enough to make you cry.

Tom Adams - @tomEurosport

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