Kinnear's departure presents Ashley with an opportunity for change - but it will mean ceding some power and control (From The Advertiser Series)
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Kinnear's departure presents Ashley with an opportunity for change - but it will mean ceding some power and control
SO, farewell then Joe Kinnear, the football fantasist whose comments were every bit as vacuous as the list of permanent signings he oversaw during his farcical eight-month reign as director of football at Newcastle United.
We thought you’d excelled yourself during your first spell on Tyneside, when you sparked the decline that ultimately resulted in relegation, but we were wrong. Second time around, and you took ineptitude to a whole new level. The transfer supremo who was unable to complete any transfers – that’s quite some epitaph.
Monday night’s developments have been hailed as a positive development as Newcastle attempt to address the executive-level dysfunction that has blighted the last two transfer windows, and to a certain degree they are.
Kinnear was never even remotely qualified to act as a director of football, devising long-term transfer strategy, directing incoming and outgoing deals, overseeing the successful operation of all aspects of a club’s business and acting as a bridge between manager Alan Pardew and owner Mike Ashley.
A dinosaur from a previous footballing age, the 67-year-old floundered amid the high financial stakes that now govern life in the Premier League.
Sources close to Darren Bent have described the England striker’s incredulity after he sat opposite Kinnear to discuss a proposed move to Newcastle United last summer, such was the Dubliner’s unsuitability for the post in which he found himself.
Given Bent’s subsequent performances for Fulham, perhaps it was just as well, but if Newcastle are to compete for some of the most highly-rated young players in Europe, they cannot have someone like Kinnear leading their negotiations. His exit can only help when it comes to navigating a path through what is sure to be a testing summer.
Yet any satisfaction over Kinnear’s departure will be misplaced unless his exit provokes meaningful change, and that is where, as is always the case with Newcastle at the moment, everything comes back to Ashley.
This could be the moment where the Magpies’ absentee owner changes tack. Not in terms of the financial model he is operating, because that seems set in stone, but at least in terms of the balance of power within the club, which is currently skewed so far in his favour that the management structure resembles a dictatorship.
Newcastle need a proven, experienced and respected figure running the boardroom, whether as chairman, managing director or director of football.
The title is an irrelevance provided the person in question boasts an extensive contacts book, experience of how to negotiate and close out deals and the strength of character required to drive through strategic changes that are vital if Newcastle are to avoid further weeks such as the last one, which saw them fail to replace a £20m player before suffering a third successive derby defeat to their bitterest rivals.
An Ashley appointee is never going to be able to act independently of their boss – anyone suggesting otherwise betrays an ignorance of the way in which the sportswear magnate runs his business empire – but that is not to say they should be as powerless as Kinnear was.
Imagine if Newcastle were being run by a Christian Purslow or a Peter Kenyon say, highly-regarded figures linked in to the financial nexus that drives the global transfer market, and both, coincidentally, currently out of work.
Would they meekly acquiesce to Ashley? Or would they at least attempt to guide the owner in a direction they felt benefited the long-term prospects of the club? Sometimes, even the most immovable of objects can be bent to a powerful confidante’s will.
For such a scenario to transpire though, Kinnear’s replacement would require a degree of independence that has not been evident in any of the figures Ashley has appointed to senior boardroom positions during his six-and-a-half year spell in charge of Newcastle.
His four key non-managerial appointments – Chris Mort, Derek Llambias, Dennis Wise and Kinnear – were all either business associates or friends, and were therefore chosen on the basis of their personal relationship with Ashley rather than their suitability for arguably the most important role at the club.
It’s been ‘jobs for the boys’ ever since Ashley walked through the door, but while the approach has afforded the owner guaranteed control, it has not been in the best interests of Newcastle.
The last two transfer windows prove that, with the Magpies failing to make a permanent addition and ceding any hope of building on their fifth-placed position to challenge for a Champions League place.
Surely Ashley wants that – for financial reasons, if nothing else – so while appointing from outside his close group of associates would inevitably result in a challenge to his authority, it might be just what he needs as he looks to engineer a scenario where he can recoup his investment into Newcastle and potentially make a profit.
Will he do that by reappointing Llambias, as has been mooted, or promoting Lee Charnley from his current role as secretary? Past evidence would suggest it is unlikely.
Kinnear’s departure solves one of the problems holding back Newcastle, but it is far from the only one. As things stand, the club’s structural defects remain.