Joe Kinnear, the Newcastle United manager, has hinted that he could become director of football at St James' Park should medical advice prevent the 62-year-old from making a full-time return to the dugout. That would have implications for Dennis Wise, currently performing that task, and there is increasing noise from within St James' that the controversial Wise will leave the club at the end of this season. Another name being heard at the stadium is that of the Wigan manager Steve Bruce.
Kinnear, who had a heart bypass operation in early February, should discover next Monday from his specialist if he can return to the club in a fortnight, but there are doubts over the level of his physical contribution during what is certain to be a stressful run-in with Newcastle facing the threat of relegation.
"I'm just desperate to be back and do what I can for Newcastle," Kinnear said yesterday. "I still think we have enough quality players to see us through this. Obviously I look forward to next season, and I want to say that what's happening now will never happen again. Whatever happens, I will have an input. If I can't do certain things, I will be speaking to staff and players at the club and working at the training ground during the week. I'll still have a major say to the players too."
Wise hardly needs to read between the lines. The former Chelsea player, seen as key to Kevin Keegan's acrimonious departure as manager last season, is said to have had a disagreement with Kinnear over the signing of free agent Peter Lovenkrands in January. Wise has spent much of his time recruiting teenagers from abroad to fill Newcastle's academy but, as Keegan confirmed last summer, Wise also scouted for the first-team squad and is believed to be responsible for buying Fabricio Coloccini among others.
The Argentine defender has had a difficult first season in England and Kinnear revealed before Christmas that, "including agents' fees" Coloccini "cost more like £12m" than the £9.1m reported at the time.
Wise's removal, voluntary or enforced, would be popular with fans but discontent remains high. The recent optimistic opinions from owner Mike Ashley and managing director Derek Llambias – Ashley mentioned "top six" as a possibility – have done little to counter this.