Mick Harford has rejected an invitation from Joe Kinnear to become Newcastle United's deputy director of football and has instead accepted a position as Millwall's assistant manager.

Harford held lengthy discussions with Kinnear, Newcastle's director of football, and the club's owner, Mike Ashley, at the weekend but the 54-year-old eventually turned down a return to the club where he briefly played as a striker during the early 1980s.

"I have declined an offer to be Joe Kinnear's assistant," said Harford, who previously worked with Kinnear at Wimbledon, Luton and Nottingham Forest.

"After meeting with Mike Ashley and Joe Kinnear I made the decision that it's not the right time for me to take up this role. It was an honour to be asked to work at a fantastic club."

Shortly after making that announcement Harford was promoted from a coaching role to No2 at Millwall. He is understood to have harboured concerns that his proposed Newcastle job description – trawling the lower divisions for domestic talent while also monitoring young players sent out from St James' Park on loan – would remove him from day-to-day coaching.

Harford's installation alongside Kinnear would have intensified speculation that a ready-made management team was waiting in the wings should results go awry for Alan Pardew, Newcastle's manager.

Kinnear, though, seems to have enough on his plate, attempting to secure Newcatle's first signing of the summer. A club who have allowed Steve Harper, Danny Simpson and James Perch to depart – and are on the verge of transferring Dan Gosling to Crystal Palace – have still to recruit a senior player this close season.

Pardew is anxious to see at least two new strikers arrive and Kinnear has tabled a bid for Lyon's France forward Bafetimbi Gomis while continuing to pursue Aston Villa's Darren Bent.

The striker hunt is imbued with added urgency as Papiss Cissé is training alone in north-east England after being left out of Newcastle's training camp in northern Portugal after refusing to wear the Wonga-branded kit advertising the club's controversial new sponsor.

A clearly frustrated Pardew said on Monday: "I'm focusing on the team out here, and Joe, Lee Charnley [the club secretary] and Graham Carr [the chief scout] are looking to get someone over the line. At the minute, especially with no Papiss out here, we're a little bit light for a Premier League team. I spoke to Joe on Friday and he has some important meetings this week."