Was Kinnear just Ashley's patsy all along?

Posted by Marc Duffy

Mike Ashley and Joe Kinnear Newcastle GettyImagesAshley and Kinnear: A comedy duo to those outside of Newcastle, a nightmare for fans of the club.

Nine months ago, Joe Kinnear burst back on to the scene when Newcastle owner Mike Ashley ludicrously appointed him as the club's director of football.

Kinnear could barely control his excitement. The news was broken via various media outlets before the club even officially confirmed it. Kinnear took to the airwaves, telling Sky Sports News, talkSPORT and the wider world that he was back and that he was the right man for the job.

He also appeared to have invented a new CV, spending plenty of time talking it up and bragging about his exhaustive list of contacts in the game. He amusingly/startlingly mispronounced players names -- who can forget "Yohan Kebab"? -- and asked the football fraternity to "judge me on my signings."

After a devastating derby defeat to Sunderland, the time of judgement arrived. Facing a charge of ineptitude, there was no question of Kinnear's guilt.

Whether scapegoat for the Tyne-Wear mauling or not, when Newcastle issued a statement as brief as Kinnear's list of acquisitions confirming he had resigned from his post with the club, there was an overwhelming feeling of relief.

Initial anger at his appointment has not dissipated, however, and many still wonder why exactly Ashley hired Kinnear in the first place.

There have been plenty of answers proffered. That the Sports Direct billionaire was naive enough to believe that Kinnear really could do the job. That he bought into the Irish Londoner's talk of his broad footballing reach. That, simply, the men are friends and Ashley wanted to help out an old pal who was desperate to return to a job in football.

A major concern of Newcastle fans was their belief that Kinnear was appointed to apply pressure on manager Alan Pardew after the club's woeful 16th-placed Premier League finish last season. Supporters were concerned that if Pardew quit or was fired that it would be "JFK" who would be appointed to the managerial job he was so abysmal at in 2008-09. Many fans were reluctant to call for Pardew's sacking, genuinely concerned that Kinnear would step into his shoes.

There is another theory that has been gaining momentum, however.

Put in place just before the summer transfer window opened and leaving his role within days of the closure of the January transfer window, it appears feasible that Kinnear may have been singled out from the start to be Ashley's fall-guy. Perhaps Ashley never intended to make a permanent signing in either window and knew that the appointment of Kinnear would divert criticism and scorn away from himself and Pardew. Ashley's bulletproof vest, now removed after stepping out of the transfer window's line of fire.

The sale of Yohan Cabaye to Paris Saint-Germain and the loan signings of Loic Remy and Luuk De Jong (both of whom were identified long before Kinnear arrived) are all the former Wimbledon boss managed to achieve.

So once more Newcastle United, under the directionless leadership of Mike Ashley, are left in disarray. Ashley has a history of making provocative decisions that outrage the fans and I have no doubt that he will be sitting at home now racking his brains and wondering who he can bring in to do the same this time.

Niall Quinn anyone?

Follow Marc on Twitter: @MarcSDuffy

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