Do any supporters anywhere openly suffer as much as those of Newcastle United Football Club?
No club moves from stability to disruption, from good stock to laughing stock, from hope to despair, like Newcastle. They are world champions at humiliation, and they could probably do with any silverware this brings.
Their latest drama has fallen snugly into the ‘you are joking?’ category they occupy so frequently.
The appointment of Joe Kinnear as ‘Director of Football’, title that itself traditionally brings more problems than solutions, is beyond bizarre and has created a huge fuss in the north east city and throughout the English game.
Kinnear’s spell as Newcastle manager in the 2008/09 season was cut short after less than six months through heart problems. But it’s notorious for a rant at journalists, one in particular, where he swore over 50 times. Defending himself by going on the attack verbally has become a trademark of sorts for him. He is Irish-born but his cockney tones give his accent the edge of a London black cab driver ranting at the traffic.
What resilience though. To come back knowing how little he is wanted is either remarkably thick-skinned or shows a high lack of self-awareness. Maybe both.
He marked his return to the spotlight by somehow making himself more unpopular with the Newcastle fans in a radio interview that has become cult listening. He made claims that didn’t stand up and failed to get names right.
Kinnear called managing director Derek Llambias ‘Lambayzee’. Llambias quit the next day over this matter. I’m not sure whether Lambayzee is still at the club somewhere.
He also called Yohan Cabaye, “Yohan Kebab” (really) and another of the club’s French internationals Hatem Ben Arfi, Ben AFRI. How to put minds at rest. How to win friends and influence people. This a man who will be responsible for buying and selling international footballers.
On Newcastle’s fans. “Some are talking out of their backsides, a load of tosh,” he said. “I’m not accepting it, as simple as that. I have certainly got more intelligence than them, that’s a fact.”
While Kinnear deals with a considerable backlash we hear nothing, as per usual, from the man who hired him. I think all in my trade need to try a bit harder to get Mike Ashley to a microphone, however difficult this has proven to be.
To ask…”Why has a man shrewd enough to make a fortune from his business acumen, building up a hugely successful sportswear firm re-employed Kinnear?” I’m not even saying it’s wrong, I want to know WHY?
Why has a Newcastle fan – and he is a big fan – made so many decisions that seemingly dismay his own people? Such as St James’s Park to promote his company (since reversed), sacking Chris Hughton and building a so-called ‘cockney mafia’ once including Dennis Wise at the Tyneside club
Why did manager Alan Pardew and other key Newcastle figures get eight-year, EIGHT-YEAR, contracts? Had Pardew done enough to convince you he was worth such an astonishing deal? Yes Newcastle had one really good season, but form is temporary and all that. He is allegedly unhappy about the Kinnear situation. There is probably more drama to come.
Does Ashley care that the club’s controversial sponsorship from a money-loaning organisation isn’t the most morally sound deal in the world? So religiously inappropriate is it to their Muslim striker Papiss Cisse he is refusing to wear the shirt. He’s not the only Muslim player struggling with the situation because of Sharia law.
I’ve seen the pain in the faces of my Newcastle supporting friends and colleagues over the years. 44 years without a major trophy. And yet it’s the hope that kills them.
50,000 plus pack into the ground and in the mid 90s it nearly went right didn’t it? Ginola, Cole and co. Keegan in charge. Wonderful football. Manchester United bought Cole, and the fans had it out with Keegan on the steps outside the ground. Talk about a domestic dispute. But he inspired Newcastle to a big lead in the Premier League the next season. With the title within grasp, King Kev’ had a meltdown on TV. Manchester United won the league. Newcastle won a big portion of nothing.
Even the arrival of Shearer didn’t fulfil the promise. There were goals, more great games, good times, but ultimately this team, this club, they are not winners. He couldn’t save them from relegation in an eight game emergency stint as manager post-Kinnear in 2009, but his devotion to the club mirrors that of the fans. He came out this week and not for the first time, said they deserve better.
The club, the black and whites, are of course nicknamed the Magpies. More than once I’ve heard tearful fans in the car park talking of “dreams being stolen” from them, not seeing the irony.
At least they avoided relegation last year. After the dismal 3-0 home defeat against Sunderland in the big derby game we wondered if they’d manage to survive. And that’s the one clear reason Mike Ashley is taking action.
I wonder what Graham Carr made of all this, and what his situation at the club will by the time you read this
Graham Who? The highly respected Chief Scout. Before the arrival of some under performing French internationals he was talked about in reverential tones in the game. Still is by some. Another man given an incredible 8-year contract.
Carr is the father of one of the most popular comedians in the UK, Alan Carr. Carr junior has an outrageously camp persona, leading to occasional routines about failing to meet his father’s ambition of him following into football.
He’s a funny guy Alan Carr, but how much funnier than the unintentional comedy from Joe Kinnear this week?
The Newcastle fans, as usual, weren’t the ones laughing .
Lee Wellings is the Sports Correspondent for Al Jazeera English based in London. Contact him firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Lee on twitter @LeeW_Sport