The good news coming from Newcastle yesterday was that Joe Kinnear is waiting to be released from the West Midlands hospital he was rushed to on Saturday morning and wondering why so much was being made of his condition. But then, this is a manager who never has truly understood the press and its working.
As soon as it emerged that this 62-year-old with a history of heart trouble was "being monitored" after falling ill in the team hotel it was inevitable that the queries would be raised about him continuing in one of football's more demanding roles. In this of all seasons, St James' Park has resembled the set of a soap opera and here was surely yet another dramatic twist.
Not in the least of it, said his assistant Chris Hughton yesterday, still clearly upbeat after the club's first victory in the League since December and, naturally, by the positive attitude of his gaffer, who he went to visit on his way back north from the Hawthorns. "He was in very good form, typical Joe," said Hughton.
"He doesn't know what all the fuss is about. The fact that his blood pressure was high was the reason they kept him in, probably because of his past history. But he is expected to be out in the next couple of days. He is already talking about when he is going to be back at the training ground. On Saturday, he had somebody ringing him and giving him reports at every stage. He will have been very encouraged at the beginning and then disappointed and then encouraged again.''
In a statement from his hospital bed on Saturday night, Kinnear revealed "my grandson gave me a full commentary''. That must have been some series of phone calls.
62 seconds: "Grandad, we're one up, Duff. Big West Brom cock-up."
210 seconds: "Grandad, me again. It's 1-1. Some geezer called Fortune. Try not to use the F word, now. You know, Mum doesn't like it."
500 seconds: "Grandad, you sitting down? Yeah, sorry, of course. Listen, we're 2-1 up. That Danish bloke you signed. Lovenkrands? Who needs, Shay Given, eh?"
And so on and so on. All we can surmise is that if Kinnear Jnr had phoned through after every chance his mobile bill would have only added to the Newcastle debt.
Fortunately – for the nurses, anyway – the overwhelming majority of those opportunities arrived at Newcastle feet and another, less tense afternoon they could have scored five. While much would be made of the performance of Kinnear's three January signings (the Toon Army certainly seemed to warm to Peter Lovenkrands, chanting his name all afternoon; although in such circumstances it is never easy to tell if it is their new player the fans are so keen on – or their new song), in the long-term it is the burgeoning midfield partnership of Nicky Butt and Kevin Nolan that could be most influential.
This might have been a game with a severe shortage of quality, but there is nothing inferior about this pair and, on this evidence anyway, they did appear to gel. "They did link well,'' agreed Hughton, who was actually winning his first game when at the helm after enduring a played four, lost four record when called on after Sam Allardyce's departure. "But I thought there were a number of good things to come from today."
For his part, Tony Mowbray bore the look of an exasperated mechanic who has finally fixed his accelerator only for the brakes to have given out. Goals up the other end were the problem in the first half of the season. But now, after conceding eight in the last two West Bromwich have not so much missed an opportunity to climb off the bottom, as grasped this lifeline and tied it around their necks,
"I've now got no problems with the attacking side of our game," said Mowbray. "I think we have sorted that with the signings we have made. We have showed we can score goals. What I am interested in is the poor quality of our defending. If you defend like that, you won't win many matches.''
They have Newcastle's understandable jitteryness to thank that they were able to dream on about a point, as well as Marc-Antoine Fortune's clinical finishing. The chorus of boos which greeted the final whistle, however, showed that there was no masking the ineptitude of the back four, especially the hapless central pairing of Leon Barnett and Abdoulaye Meite.
West Brom now have two weeks off and head for the winter training camp. Never mind sangria and flip-flops the next fortnight should be all about long balls into the box and picking up your man. For after the sun, will follow one almighty Premier League storm.
Goals: Duff (2) 0-1; Fortune (4) 1-1; Lovenkrands (9) 1-2; S Taylor (41) 1-3; Fortune (73) 2-3.
West Bromwich Albion (4-4-2): Carson; Hoefkens, Barnett, Meite, Robinson; Koren, Kim (Filipe Teixeira 46), Borja Valero (Moore 84), Brunt (Bednar 46); Morrison, Fortune. Substitutes not used: Kiely, Cech, Pele, Mulumbu.
Newcastle United (4-4-2): Harper; S Taylor, Bassong, Coloccini, Jose Enrique; R Taylor, Nolan, Butt, Duff; Ameobi (Viduka 80), Lovenkrands (Xisco 90). Substitutes not used: Forster, Cacapa, Smith, Geremi, Edgar.
Referee: C Foy (Merseyside).
Booked: West Bromwich Barnett, Koren; Newcastle R Taylor, Nolan.
Man of the match: Duff.
Attendance: 25,817.Reuse content