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Like a lot of people who follow football, we've had a good laugh at Joe Kinnear this week. Listening to the already infamous talkSPORT interview, we did actually pause to think: is it right to be giggling at this bloke? Are we, in fact, making fun of a crazy person? Now that he has actually been confirmed by Newcastle - the alarming thought did occur for a while that the whole appointment might be a figment of Joe's imagination - we can conclude that, well, he's sane enough for Mike Ashley at least. As such, Joe is fair game.
The interview has been amusingly and expertly filleted by Ed Malyon in The Mirror and Luke Edwards in The Telegraph, so we won't stick the boot in any further and will instead just wish Derek Lambeezy, Ben Afri, Joanne Kebab et al all the best in their future endeavours. But what of the Kinnear affair and its broader significance in football media?
The overwhelming response to the appointment has been to characterise Kinnear as a ludicrous appointment, a Cock-er-nee grotesque, a relic from a bygone age. A large part of this, obviously, is based on his cringe-tastic talkSPORT interview. Much of it is also the hangover from his legendarily foul-mouthed assault on North East journalists in his previous life at Newcastle. He is being slaughtered, quite understandably, for his public pronouncements.
Bear with us here, but does the fact that he is making a berk of himself in the media necessarily mean that he will be no good in his job? While acknowledging that Director Of Football is a role shrouded in some mystery to the Brit football follower, it seems reasonable to assume that the man has built up a pretty decent network of scouts, spotters and fellow managers during his life's work. While, again, it's hard not to smirk at his rather tragic-sounding claim that he's got Sir Alex Ferguson on speed dial, the appointment of an eminence grise with brilliant contacts and a bird's eye view of the whole game, someone removed from the day-to-day who can think strategically about the organisation's direction, could be a good move. It is, after all, entirely commonplace in world football. Pretty much only on these isles do we look upon it with suspicion.
Now, it may very well be that Joe Kinnear is not that person for Newcastle. He may indeed be as awful at identifying talent as he is at talking on the radio. But those two skills are surely not complementary. We all know someone who is great behind the scenes but panics when asked to speak in public, or a brilliant nerd who cannot communicate his ideas, or someone who is the life and soul but only in small groups. We're not suggesting that Joe is the shy and retiring type (although maybe he would have been better off retired) but it is at least possible that his incompetence in one part of the job (media handling) is not reflected in all the others.
Indeed, in today's style-over-substance world, many a manager has been able to coast on his media skills and charm. We know we spend perhaps too long beating up on Harry Redknapp here but his long and largely unsuccessful managerial career is so vaunted in the public arena almost wholly because of his ability to flatter and successfully communicate with the press and media. A man with the exact same career stats with less chat 'n' charm would surely receive much harsher criticism. Thus we can see the TV and radio performance is becoming synonymous with the manager's ability to be an actual manager.
We saw Fabio Capello beaten with this stick. Despite a stellar managerial record and an almost unblemished string of results as England manager up to the World Cup, his halting interviews somehow became symbolic of inadequacy. Under this vicious regime of thought somehow England would be performing better if only the manager could speak fluent English. Not being good on telly meant not being good with the players. Of course, this was utter rubbish, as has subsequently been proved, but it just goes to show how you present yourself is so important today.
Sam Allardyce attracts more criticism than Roberto Martinez but didn't get his side relegated and made a better job of managing in the Premier League by almost any measure. But his critics see a man who looks like a bulldog chewing a wasp and judge him accordingly, yet Martinez, ever pleasant and erudite, slim and in a well cut suit, is assigned more quality because of his media performances.
Joe Kinnear, whatever his qualities - and we assume he must have some - will now forever be battling the image that he is a waffling, deluded man because of that radio interview. Indeed, anything good that happens at Newcastle will be assumed to be nothing to do with him and everything bad, all to do with him. Just because of a briefing to journalists a few years ago and a radio interview this week. The impression has been made and it will be a lasting one and that, really, is just as bonkers as anything Kinnear might have said on the wireless.
John Nicholson and Alan Tyers
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