'Ex-manager' or 'next manager'? Joe Kinnear muddies Newcastle waters

Third successive defeat at Cardiff today will  increase unease around Pardew’s team

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The Independent Football

There was another meeting involving the Newcastle United manager, Alan Pardew, this week. It did not involve the club owner, Mike Ashley, or the club’s director of football, Joe Kinnear, as it had done at Goodison Park, but its outcome will remain hugely significant.

Pardew addressed his players. With Newcastle facing a tricky trip to Cardiff today, a continued downturn in results – they have lost their last two games 3-2 – and his position will become as perilous as some were suggesting it was on Monday evening. To lose fairly emphatically at home to Hull and away at Everton, despite the narrow scorelines, could not have been timed much worse, given that they were the season’s first outings for Kinnear, who looked uncomfortable at St James’ Park and was shadowed, along with Ashley, by two minders at the game’s conclusion. The breath on Pardew’s neck was hot enough.

Kinnear is the director of football with apparently a desire for one last go at management, regardless of whether or not that makes sense. Pardew referred to him on Thursday as an ex-manager; some excitedly  misheard that as “the next”. He did not say that, but the notion that Kinnear will listen to the current  manager’s thoughts on what he needs in the January transfer window, as was suggested had happened in Monday’s meeting, and then begin  assembling a dossier on players to fill the positions required, is as ridiculous as it was when Kinnear was appointed in June.

Getting on for four months later, the state of flux remains. Good results, like those against Fulham and Aston Villa, bring calm. Bad results, as against Hull and Everton, create  a frenzy.

The notable change in Pardew this season has been in his desire to plot a steadier path, most likely to ground his players, and potentially to help his own mental state. Newcastle is often a wild club and the current lack of a clear strategy does not help. Pardew was under more pressure from supporters at the end of last season than he is now, though that is not to say his stock has not fallen considerably. The Kinnear-muddied waters make finding a natural direction for anger difficult.

It is still just 16 months since Newcastle finished fifth in the Premier League, and most of those players, like the manager, remain at the club.

“The manager has been upbeat,” said defender Mike Williamson, who came on at Everton when Newcastle were being bullied out of the game. “We have come in and had a meeting and basically looked to identify things we feel went wrong on Monday, but now it is all about preparing and getting the lads ready.

“The manager has been great. I think you’ve got to be that way. Football is a roller coaster of emotions and I think you’ve got to try and find the happy medium and try not to get too high when you’re succeeding and too low when you don’t. That’s the balance the manager strives for. It rubs off on the players and gives us the confidence to go out on Saturday and get a result.”

Williamson was asked if the current level of criticism voiced by fans was fair. “It’s a difficult position because ultimately they are the life and soul of the football club and they pay their money, which can equate to quite a lot at away games,” he said. “They have a right to voice their opinion but sometimes the players feel bad results are not for the want of trying. The lads are always trying to get the best results and they work very hard.

“I can see the frustration of both the players and the fans, but I think the supporter needs to know that on the training ground everyone is working extremely hard to right the wrongs. Nobody is perfect, but I don’t think any player would ever step over the white line and think they’re not going to try. The characters have changed and the dynamics have changed [in the dressing room], but in terms of the spirit, all the lads are fantastic and we get on with each other.”

A unified dressing room is vital if this season is not to mirror the last one, which ended with Newcastle deeply embroiled in a relegation fight. It is more than half a century since they last played a top-flight game in Cardiff. They lost that day in February 1961 – 3-2, as it happens.