Newcastle United last night sought to clarify speculation surrounding manager Joe Kinnear's sudden trip to the Good Hope hospital in Sutton Coldfield yesterday morning prior to Newcastle's game at West Bromwich Albion, saying that the 62-year-old is "OK" and mentioning only "high blood pressure". But the fact Kinnear will be kept in "for a couple of days" reveals how seriously the situation is being viewed.
Newcastle also released a quote from Kinnear on how much he had enjoyed listening to Newcastle's 3-2 victory at the Hawthorns. "Although I missed the game I had my grandson giving me a full commentary on the match," Kinnear said. "It was a great win for us."
Newcastle's statement began: "Joe was admitted to hospital on Saturday morning after complaining of high blood pressure. He underwent a series of tests during the day and the subsequent results have shown he is OK. As a precaution, Joe will remain in hospital for observation for a couple of days and will then be discharged."
Kinnear's apparently cheerful demeanour was in contrast with speculation earlier in the day that he had suffered a mild stroke or a mild form of heart failure. If so, having previously had to withdraw from football management due to a match-day heart attack 10 years ago when in charge of Wimbledon, it is likely Kinnear would be instructed by doctors not to return quickly to a pressurised environment such as the Premier League and St James' Park. That would be a cause of further uncertainty at a club familiar with tumult.
Kinnear was visited in hospital by his wife Bonnie and by Newcastle managing director Derek Llambias. "Joe was in good spirits and had been listening to the game all afternoon," Llambias said. "And in typical Joe fashion he was more concerned about the team's win than himself. He was nice and relaxed and hopefully will be back home in a couple of days."
Kinnear had awoken at Newcastle's hotel yesterday at the Belfry in the Midlands to complain to Newcastle's medical staff about feeling unwell. Given his past history they advised Kinnear to go to hospital.
Newcastle described this as a "precautionary" step and said that assistant coach Chris Hughton would take the team for the tense relegation battle with West Bromwich Albion. Hughton briefly held the reigns between Kevin Keegan's departure on 2 September and Kinnear's shock arrival 24 days later. Colin Calderwood, the former Nottingham Forest manager, was recruited as an additional coach a fortnight ago.
Kinnear's willingness to go into the intense atmosphere of Newcastle was, he explained, due in part to others' unwillingness to see past his heart attack in March 1999 when he was manager of Wimbledon. Kinnear suffered that heart attack before a game at Hillsborough against Sheffield Wednesday.
Three months later, after seven seasons with Wimbledon, Kinnear was forced to stand down and was replaced by Egil Olsen. It was two years before Kinnear returned to full-time management – at Luton Town – and his last job, at Forest, was in 2004. What he wanted to do at Newcastle, he said, was to show people in football that he was still interested, involved and fit enough.
But it was not long before Kinnear was referring to Newcastle as "the biggest challenge" of his career. There was an infamous rant at the local media, uncertainty about his contract due to Mike Ashley's inability to sell the club, supporter rebellion and then, in January, Kinnear found himself as the club's only spokesman as Shay Given and Charles N'Zogbia were sold.
Kinnear also had run-ins with referees – he was sent to the stand against Stoke City in early December – and last month clashed with Hull City manager Phil Brown on the touchline during Newcastle's FA Cup defeat at St. James'.
Newcastle now have a fortnight until their next game, at home to Everton, in which to assess Kinnear's health and whether he should remain in his position or take a break for his benefit and his family's.