What came next stunned the football world, as Mike Ashley turned to Joe Kinnear as his next choice for Newcastle United manager. Joe Kinnear had been out of football for four years and prior to this period, his track record boasted such clubs as Sharjah, Al-Shabab, Wimbledon, Luton Town and Nottingham Forest, as well as the India and Nepal national teams. Aside from his questionable credentials, he had well documented heart problems. On 7 February 2009 Kinnear was taken to hospital after feeling ill, hours before a clash with West Bromwich Albion. A few days later he underwent a triple heart bypass operation.
In a move that embodied the phrase ‘from the sublime to the ridiculous’ Kevin Keegan was replaced by Joe Kinnear, who made this statement on the day he was confirmed as the next Newcastle United manager (26 September 2008):
“I am very excited by this challenge. I understand investors are about to buy the club, (current owner) Mike Ashley told me openly. I will be here for six to eight games. I’ve never run from a fight in football and this is just about getting the team through.
“The fans will be disappointed, I understand that, but I can’t do anything about that. I will just be doing my very best because I am desperate to get back into the game.
“I will be going up to Newcastle on Monday and will pick the team from then. I’ll speak to Chris about it. It is a big challenge but one I am really looking forward to.”
Barely a week in the job, Kinnear made himself and the club a national laughing stock by going off on an unbelievably foul-mouthed rant in his first pre-match press conference, which can be heard here (3 October 2008):
It wouldn’t be the last time that Joe ‘the Volcano’ Kinnear would disgrace the Newcastle United manager position through explicit language or gross insult. Interestingly, Kinnear started his NUFC career with a two match touchline ban, carried over from his Nottingham Forest days for mockingly calling referee Clive Penton ‘Coco the clown’ following his side’s defeat at the hands of Gillingham in November 2004. After his fifth game in the dugout he repeated the same mistake by calling Martin Atkinson a ‘Micky mouse referee’ after a Fulham away loss, which led to another FA charge. Another four games later, he was sent off by referee Mike Riley in the Stoke City home draw for ‘using abusive and insulting words towards an official’. Then, finally, just another seven games later he was once again sent to the stands for nearly coming to blows with Hull City opposite number Phil Brown in a a third round FA Cup loss (source: The Guardian and Daily Mail).
Another major concern surrounding Joe Kinnear was his health, having previously suffered a heart attack in 1999 when managing Wimbledon. Kinnear himself played down these concerns however, stating (28 September 2008):
“I feel great, I am in good shape, and I have got a lot to prove.
“I have had numerous interviews at various football clubs, and most of the issues have been talks for hours about my health. There is nothing wrong with my mind, my tactical ability, my assessments, so I am fine. It is just getting the opportunity to prove it.”
All these unsavoury incidents, a dodgy health record and at that point – a rather unimpressive record of P14 W4 D6 L4 didn’t deter Mike Ashley to hand Kinnear the manager job permanently (28 December 2008):
“When we turned to Joe in late September we did so in the hope his vast experience would help us out of the tough position we were in. I offered him the post on a short-term basis at first, he accepted without hesitation and after raising spirits and steadying the ship, I thought it was only right to hand him a longer contract.”
In the January transfer window that followed, Kinnear proceeded to alienate one of the club’s most talented young players – Charles N’Zogbia, by publicly calling him ‘Insomnia’, which led him (N’Zogbia) to release the following statement (29 January 2009):
“First of all, I wish to apologise to the fans for wanting to leave the club. However, having been insulted by Joe Kinnear, I will never play for him again while he remains Newcastle manager.”
Source: The Times
Joe Kinnear hit back by saying (29 January 2009):
“If I had a pound for every time I’ve mispronounced a player’s name down the years, then I’d be a very wealthy man indeed. This just smacks of a desperate attempt to engineer a move away from Newcastle United.”
Source: The Guardian
The affair prompted Professional Footballers’ Association chief executive Gordon Taylor to state (31 January 2009):
“Why should we not expect Charles N’Zogbia to be upset when his own manager cannot even remember his correct name in public but chooses to say ‘insomnia’? Respect runs two ways.
“This is at best disrespectful and at worst deeply offensive, especially as insomnia is as difficult to pronounce as N’Zogbia. It’s not good when people who should cannot remember your name.”
Source: Daily Mail
Of course, Charles N’Zogbia was sold to Wigan Athletic before the window closed in a player exchange with Ryan Taylor. After N’Zogbia had left, Joe Kinnear suggested in his typical stylish manner that (6 February 2009):
“He lives in a fantasy world and I told him so. There wasn’t a day when he didn’t come in with some mickey-mouse story about a club that wanted him.
“First of all, he came in and told me Arsenal wanted to buy him. So I spoke to Arsenal personally and said to him, ‘They don’t want you so can we put it to bed now?’ “Then the next time it was Aston Villa. So I spoke to Martin O’Neill and sure enough Villa weren’t interested either. Then the next week it was Man U, and the week after that it was Real Madrid. Then it was Lyon.
“Each time he came in, he made it clear he did not want to be at the club, so in the end there was only one thing I could do – send him to Wigan.”
Source: The Northern Echo
In the run up to the visit to West Bromwich Albion on 7 February 2009 Joe Kinnear took ill at the team hotel and had to be taken to hospital as a precautionary measure. Here he was to remain under observation (source: Sky Sports). Assistant manager Chris Hughton was named caretaker manager and effectively managed the side until the end of March. On 12 February 2009 news broke that Joe Kinnear had to undergo triple heart bypass surgery the next day (source: The Guardian).
Following an absence to fully recover from his triple bypass heart surgery, ‘fit as a fiddle’ Kinnear pleaded to Ashley to return as Newcastle manager and astonishingly claimed Newcastle United would not have been relegated with him at the helm (4 July 2009):
“I’ve gone from bad to being much, much better than I was. I’ve got the all-clear. Things are working out well for me. I feel as fit as a fiddle. I love the game. I’m desperate to get back into it. It just depends where and when. I just hope it happens sooner (rather) than later.
“Obviously if they don’t and they haven’t got anybody else I thoroughly enjoyed my time when I was up there. I thought I did well up there. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the people. I enjoyed the team. I’m pretty sure that the run I got the team on at the time, it would have seen us through, but it’s a bit late for that now.
“My opportunity would be to support Mike and (managing director) Derek (Llambias). They are the people who gave me the job in the first place. If it does come, with the same scenario as last season, then I’m ready for the fight.”
The run Kinnear got the team on at the time, which he alluded to being good enough to see us through, was a win-less streak of 8 games, with 5 losses and 3 draws. His full record as Newcastle manager reads P21 W4 D9 L8, or 1 point per game on average.
In the summer after relegation, with Alan Shearer the favourite to land the Newcastle job permanently, Joe Kinnear stunned the world once more by suggesting he was mulling over a new two year contract offer from Newcastle United, despite not being fully recovered for at least another 3 months (5 August 2009):
“I have been offered a two-year contract and it is something I am mulling over at the present time.
“I have told Mike I am not going to go back to football for at least another three months and we will look at the situation then.
“I told him I would refuse to go back for pre-season friendlies as I was not up to it for medical reasons. I needed to take time out and re-assess the situation and take it from there. But obviously in another three months the picture might be completely different.”
Source: The Guardian
Only Joe Kinnear and Mike Ashley will know if these outrageous and worrying claims had any truth in them. However, what we do know for certain is that in the summer of 2013 Joe Kinnear stunningly returned to the club in the capacity of Director of Football.