Joe Kinnear: He Shall Be Missed

If you discount the massive stress he has caused to the Geordie nation, it's been absolutely wonderful having Joe Kinnear around. He should be like a listed building...

Last Updated: 06/02/14 at 09:39 Post Comment

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So, then, farewell Joe Kinnear, former director of football at Newcastle United, former manager of Newcastle United. It's been, with the obvious and honourable exception of those poor Newcastle supporters upon whom you were inflicted, an absolute pleasure.

Cultural historians will debate his Newcastle legacy for generations. Was his finest moment that Talksport interview, in which he first stumbled over and then trampled upon the names of his club's players? Was it the earnestness with which he inflated his credentials, and claimed access to the very loftiest of circles? Or was it perhaps "Which one is Simon Bird?", a question that will bring smiles to faces for years to come. Except Simon Bird's, presumably. Though at least Kinnear thought to check; after all, you wouldn't want to call the wrong journalist a c*nt. That would just look silly.

It's hard to draw a fair comparison, since most other areas of human activity aren't scrutinised with anything like the same fervour, but it does seem as though football is unrivalled in its capacity for ludicrous appointments. Despite the high-profile nature of the business, despite the not-inconsiderable amounts of money sloshing about, jobs are still assigned on the basis of personal affection, and roles are created from thin air on the basis of some ideological conviction.

This shouldn't be a surprise. Traditionally, an owner within the boundaries of his (or occasionally her) club operates with a level of absolute power akin to that of an emperor, and if there's one thing everybody knows about imperial governance it's that it ends with a horse in the Senate. Add to that football's unceasing appeal and vulnerability to the blagger, to the grifter, to the snake-oil merchant, and it's something of a wonder that anybody vaguely reasonable gets appointed to any non-playing position. (Not that the pitch is totally free from such chicanery, as Ali Dia reminds us.)

Still, Kinnear is perhaps unique. There have been plenty of peculiar back-room appointments, from Glenn Hoddle's faith that the key to international enlightenment lay in the aura-cleansing hands of Eileen Drewery, to Sir Clive Woodward's conviction that his World Cup-winning methods could be applied to balls of any shape and size. And there have been plenty of strange managerial appointments, from the one-and-a-half-game reign of Kevin Cullis at Swansea City - he had previously only coached a non-league youth team and was ousted in a half-time dressing-room coup - to the sudden, dizzying elevation of Les Reed to a monogrammed Charlton tracksuit. Kinnear, though, achieved both, baffling observers first from dug-out, then the office.

(It should be noted that strange appointments don't always end in failure and farce. Chelsea's Avram Grant, after all, came a couple of terrible penalties away from having more European Cups than Arsene Wenger. And former Crystal Palace chairman Ron Noades, having bought a majority stake in fourth-tier Brentford in 1998, ended a rigorous and open process of managerial recruitment by appointing the outstanding candidate from a broad field: Ron Noades. Who promptly led the club to the title.)

As with Kinnear's namesake, the other JFK, conspiracies abound, though in his case they have less to do with his end and more his elevation. That he is good friends with owner Mike Ashley is obvious, but surely, surely, there must be more to it than that. Was his appointment as director of football an attempt to irritate a contractually-safe Alan Pardew into some kind of flounce? Was he appointed to take the flak for the long-impending sale of Yohan Cabaye, or to ensure that two fallow windows would be blamed on personal incompetence rather than corporate inertia? Was he there to depress the club, depress the sale price, and so allow Ashley to finally shift the club that he's been running for years?

For several reasons, including legal, we should make it clear that Profile365 does not believe any of the above. Ours is a simpler conviction: that this whole episode is simply a stark illustration of the basic rule of footballing life; indeed, the most basic rule of human existence. Nobody really knows what they're doing.

Some version of Ashley's reasoning will doubtless emerge at some point. Books will be written, interviews will be given, a story will be settled upon and chuckled over. But even as Newcastle fans give thanks for the return of something approaching sanity, the rest of us can surely find time for at least a moment's regret. If we lived in a fairer and more just world - a world that cared only for the ambient amusement of a grateful nation - then Kinnear's continued employment in some role or other would have been eligible for the same kind of protection as that afforded listed buildings. He'd be required by law to appear on the radio at least once every fortnight, just for a chat. We can take solace in the fact that his final act was to fling himself through the transfer window shortly after it had closed. Even to the very end, the gift for farce remained.

Andi Thomas - you can follow him on Twitter, you know, and you can read more of his work at SBNation

The horse was never in the senate. It was suggested Caligula planned to appoint him but that was only suggested years later. I think the horse was made a priest or consul though if memory serves.
- mc1728

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