Joe Kinnear has insisted there are "no issues whatsoever" with Alan Pardew after his surprise appointment as Newcastle United's director of football, a role that apparently includes the final say on incoming and outgoing transfers, appeared to undermine the manager's authority at St James' Park.
In a move that has bewildered supporters on Tyneside, Kinnear confirmed he had signed a three-year contract with the Newcastle owner, Mike Ashley, on Sunday to return to the club where he endured a volatile six-month spell as manager that ended in early 2009 after he suffered health problems. The 66-year-old has been out of the game ever since but, after three weeks of talks with Ashley, has now been recruited as part of a revamp of United's management structure prompted by the team's perilous brush with relegation last season.
Kinnear claimed Pardew, who signed an eight-year contract last September, was "aware of the situation" and hoped the pair can meet up on Monday "over a bit of lunch" to discuss plans for the season ahead. Newcastle flirted with relegation with their resources severely stretched by progress into the Europa Leaguequarter-finals, eventually finishing 16th and five points clear of the cut-off. Kinnear has targeted a top-10 finish next term "at least", and hopes to help the side reach the top six in the next two or three seasons. "I'll sit down with Alan Pardew and talk to him about the strengths, weaknesses and what we need to be successful," said Kinnear. "I know I've got more knowledge than anyone at Newcastle as a football manager.
"That's not being disrespectful to anybody. And I know I will bend over backwards to do the best I possibly can to make Newcastle a better team than they are now. It's glaringly clear where we need to improve, and it'll be my job – my job – to go and buy these players to make Newcastle better. I'm a good judge of players. I've got a bright head, I know a good player when I see one, and can get the right players in for us to be successful. There's no other agenda here. And if I see players at the club right now who are not good enough, then I intend to move them on.
"There are no issues whatsoever [with Pardew]. My job is quite clear: I'm director of football, he's the manager. I'm not picking the team. That's what the manager gets paid to do. I'm there solely to ensure he gets the best possible team out on the pitch. The tactics and the coaching are down to him. If he wants my advice on tactics and ideas, he can ask me. But he's in charge of the team that is put out on the pitch."
Asked who would have the final say on transfers, Kinnear said: "It'll be me. What I'm saying is, between me, Alan and Graham [Carr, the chief scout], we'll sit down and iron it out. If those two decide a player we're looking at is not good enough, my ears will be wide open. It's not a case of 'like it or lump it'. If a close decision is to be made, though, and we're running out of time and it's something we have to do, whether that's adding meat or beef to the team, or pace in wide areas, or someone who can guarantee us 20 goals a season, I will buy those players. I will take that chance once I've clarified that with Alan, that this is for the good of Newcastle.
"I'll assess the transfer kitty with Mike next week once I've sat down with Alan first, find out what is wanted, who can be shifted out of the club – maybe we can get money back if we shift four or five of them – and then look at the targets."
Ashley, who has rarely been afraid of making controversial decisions at Newcastle, first employed the former Wimbledon manager for just over six months during the 2008-09 campaign, a period which ended when Kinnear suffered a heart attack ahead of a game against West Bromwich Albion with the side subsequently relegated in his absence. He won four of his 20 games in charge, enduring a fractious relationship with the local media and generating scepticism from much of the club's support, though the team were not in the relegation zone when he departed. Indeed, the owner, together with the managing director, Derek Llambias, have remained close with the former Republic of Ireland internationalKinnear.
That heart attack was his second, the first having effectively curtailed a successful seven-year stint in charge of Wimbledon in the top flight up to 1999, with Kinnear subsequently employed at Luton and Nottingham Forest before replacing Kevin Keegan at St James' Park in September 2008. "I'm as fit as a fiddle now," he added. "I'm absolutely delighted with the situation. I've been working out in the gym, going for long walks, and I've lost a lot of weight – I'm in the best physical shape I've ever been in.
"I've just been waiting for the opportunity to come back. I've turned down managerial jobs in the lower leagues because I felt I'd gone past that and I wanted to get my teeth into something in the Premier League. This is something I'm looking forward to." Whether Pardew shares that enthusiasm remains to be seen.