Public Relations is an important part a football manager’s job. As well as being an accomplished tactician, psychologist and haranguer of fourth officials, managers must deal with the press effectively. Even in an age of social media, their principal form of communication with the supporters is through television interviews and press conferences. Roy Hodgson is not about to discuss Crystal Palace’s transfer targets on TikTok.
This was especially so back in October 2008, when Joe Kinnear delivered the most extraordinary press conference in Premier League history. Despite his vast experience within the game, the recently appointed Newcastle United manager had yet to develop a thick skin. Reports in the local press about his first few days in charge did not go down well with Kinnear. The water must have frozen on this duck’s back.
Premier League players and managers receive extensive media training these days. To help them out (and to mark the launch of the second episode of our podcast, The Drop, which looks at Newcastle’s disastrous 08/09 season), we’ve taken a look back at those incredible exchanges between Kinnear and the assembled journalists to see how the then-Newcastle boss could have handled the disagreement differently. Over to you, Joe.
Joe Kinnear (JK): Which one is Simon Bird [Daily Mirror football writer]?
Simon Bird (SB): Me.
What he should have said: Which one of you fine people is Simon Bird?
JK: You’re a c***.
SB: Thank you.
What he should have said: Now, given I didn’t even know who you were a second ago, I have no reason to question your character. However, and while acknowledging that it’s a game of opinions, I do happen to disagree with some of your recent work.
JK: Which one is Hickman [Niall, football writer for the Daily Express]? You are out of order. Absolutely f****** out of order. If you do it again, I am telling you you can f*** off and go to another ground. I will not come and stand for that f****** crap. No f***ing way, lies. F***, you’re saying I turned up and they [Newcastle’s players] f***** off.
SB: No Joe, have you read it, it doesn’t actually say that. Have you read it?
JK: I’ve f****** read it, I’ve read it.
What he should have said: Is there a Mr Hickman in the room? I happened across your article after reading your colleague’s story about the EU dictating banana sizes. I must say, I wasn’t entirely in agreement with everything you wrote. I’d go as far as to say you told a few porkies in there.
SB: It doesn’t say that. Have you read it?
JK: You are trying to f****** undermine my position already.
What he should have said: I’m sure we both want what’s best for Newcastle United. I just feel you could have been a touch more supportive since my appointment.
SB: Have you read it, it doesn’t say that. I knew you knew they were having a day off.
JK: F*** off. F*** off. It’s your last f****** chance.
SB: You read the copy? It doesn’t say that you didn’t know.
JK: What about the headline, you think that’s a good headline?
What he should have said: I know that one of football journalists’ biggest bugbears is the misconception that they write the headlines. That and clubs who announce their team line-ups in numerical order. But I think you should have a word with that sub-editor of yours because I felt the headline wasn’t the best. Couldn’t he have got a pun in there or a bit of alliteration at the very least?
SB: I didn’t write the headline, you read the copy.
JK: You are negative b******s, the pair of you.
What he should have said: I can’t help but think that you two could be a little more positive about the situation.
SB: So if I get a new job next week would I take the first day off? No I wouldn’t. If I get a new job should I call my boss and tell him I am taking the first day off?
JK: It is none of your f****** business. What the f*** are you going to do? You ain’t got the balls to be a f****** manager. F******* day off. Do I want your opinion. Do I have to listen to you?
What he should have said: Now now, Simon, I think you’re being a little unfair. Mike told me to take it easy and not get too worked up so early in my tenure. Having a day off kept the players on their toes. In time, I’ll be proved right.
SB: No, you can listen to who you want.
JK: I had a 24-hour meeting with the entire staff.
SB: Joe, you are only here six weeks, you could have done that on Sunday, or Saturday night.
JK: No, no, no. I didn’t want to do it. I had some other things to do.
What he should have said: I had a 24-hour meeting with the entire staff. We even invited some senior players along, like Shay Given, Nicky Butt and Michael Owen. I told them they’ll never have another boss like me, someone who’s basically a chilled-out entertainer. Michael was desperate to leave after 16 hours, bless him. Something about a flight to Dubai for an ad shoot.
SB: What? More important things?
JK: What are you? My personal secretary? F*** off.
What he should have said: I’ve got a lengthy to-do list, to be fair. I’ve been teaching Joey Barton Buddhist samatha meditation so he can keep his cool on the pitch. I’ve shown Obafemi an even better backflip routine in case he ever scores another goal and I’ve been taking Steven Taylor to his acting lessons. He does a great ‘the ball hit me in the chest’ these days. Oh, and I’ve got six hours of Antiques Roadshow to catch up on.
SB: You could have done the meeting Saturday night or Sunday. You could have had them watching videos, you could have organised them.
JK: I was meeting the f****** chairman, the owner, everyone else. Talking about things.
What he should have said: Thing is, I was meeting Mike before that. He told me his long-term vision for the club. Thirteen years from now he wants Newcastle to be in a similar position, with another experienced, good old-fashioned British or Irish manager targeting a 16th-place finish. I told him it won’t be easy to achieve that level of consistency, but that it might be possible as long as he stays at the helm.
SB: It is a valid point that was made in there. A valid point.
JK: I can’t trust any of you.
Niall Hickman (NH): Joe, no one could believe that on your first day at your new club, the first-team players were not in. No one could believe it in town. Your first day in the office.
JK: My first day was with the coaches. I made the decision that I wanted to get as much information out of them.
What he should have said: The coaches have been a source of valuable information. To be totally honest with you, I didn’t know half the players when I turned up. I recognised Mark Viduka from Premier League Years and Duffy’s a proud Irishman like me, but a lot of them were unfamiliar. I thought the two Argentine lads had got lost on the way to the barbers, ha ha ha!
NH: But why Monday, no one could believe it?
JK: I’m not going to tell you anything. I don’t understand where you are coming from. You are delighted that Newcastle are getting beat and are in the state they are? Delighted, are you?
What he should have said: I wish you’d be a little more understanding, Niall. Surely you, like me, are disappointed Newcastle have lost a few games? Plus we’ve been very unfortunate at times. We’ve had lads combing through the data, really advanced stuff, and they’ve told me our results should improve based on our shots on target. I don’t usually go in for all this nerd nonsense, but that one interested me.
NH: Certainly not. No one wants to see them get beaten, why would we?
JK: I have done it before. It is going to my f****** lawyers. So are about three others. If they can find something in it that is a court case it is going to court. I am not f****** about. I don’t talk to f****** anybody. It is raking up stories. You are so f****** slimy you are raking up players that I got rid of. Players that I had fallen out with. You are not asking Robbie Earle, because he is sensible. You are not asking Warren Barton? No. Because he is f*** sensible. Anyone who had played for me for 10 years at any level… [but] you will find some c*** that …
What he should have said: I’m sure we can settle this minor disagreement without anyone threatening court cases – goodness me, that would be ridiculous! I’d invite you to speak to some more of my former players, though. Might I suggest Robbie Earle and Warren Barton, for a start?
Another journalist: How long is your contract for Joe?
JK: None of your business.
What he should have said: That’s between me and the club, I’m afraid. It’s for a reasonable period of time. Mike even hinted he might give me a new eight-year deal soon. Wonderful guy.
SB: Well it is actually because we cover the club. The club say you are here to the end of October, then you say six to eight games which would take it to the end of November. We are trying to clarify these issues. We are getting no straight answers from anyone. How long are you here for. It is a dead simple question. And you don’t know…
JK: I was told the length of contract. Then I was told that possibly the club could be sold in that time. That is as far as I know. That’s it finished. I don’t know anything else. But I have been ridiculed. He’s trying to f****** hide, he’s trying to do this or that.
What he should have said: I was told how long the deal is for, but Mike also mentioned that the club could be sold in that time. He wants £10 billion and a statue outside the ground, so I expect the offers will come flooding in.
Newcastle press officer: What has been said in here is off the record and doesn’t go outside.
Journalist: Well, is that what Joe thinks?
JK: Write what you like. Makes no difference to me. Don’t affect me I assure you. It’ll be the last time I see you anyway. Won’t affect me. See how we go at Everton and Chrissy [Chris Hughton] can do it, someone else can do it. Don’t trust any of yous. I will pick two local papers and speak to them and the rest can f*** off. I ain’t coming up here to have the piss taken out of me. I have a million pages of crap that has been written about me. I’m ridiculed for no reason. I’m defenceless. I can’t get a point in, I can’t say nothing, I can’t do nothing, but I ain’t going to be negative. Then, half of you, most of you are trying to get into the players. I’m not going to tell you what the players think of you, so then you try and get into them in some way or another, so I’ve got a split camp or something like that, something like that. It’s ongoing. It just doesn’t stop.
What he should have said: I’m a firm believer in freedom of speech, even when it goes against me. It’s a core tenet of a liberal society. I’ve always said that free discourse is a necessary condition for intellectual and social progress.
Journalist: It’s only been a week.
JK: Exactly. It feels more like a year.
What he should have said: A week? Gordon Bennett. Time flies when you’re having fun.
Journalist: It’s early days for you to be like this.
JK: No, I’m clearing the air. And this is the last time I’m going to speak to you. You want to know why, I’m telling you. This is the last time. You can do what you like.
What he should have said: I’d just like to add, my door’s always open for you gentlemen. And ladies, ladies too! I’m all for equality. A good friend of mine was in an argument once and he went ‘How can I hate women? My mum’s one’. And there’s a lot of truth in that.
Journalist: But this isn’t going to do you or us any good.
JK: I’ll speak to the supporters. I’m going to tell them what the story is. I’m going to tell them. I don’t think they’ll interpret it any different, I don’t think they’ll mix it up, I don’t think they’ll miss out things. I mean, one of them last week said to me … I was talking about in that press conference where you were there, I said something like ‘Well, that’s a load of b*******…’
What he should have said: I think it’s vital for the manager to get the fans on board. That’s something I’m gonna try and do up here. The Geordie Nation, I think they call them. Mike and Dennis Wise have told me how welcoming they were to them both. They’ve even given them a nickname – ‘the Cockney Mafia’. That’s a lovely touch.
Journalist: ‘B******* to that’ is what you said.
JK: B******* to that. And what goes after that?
Journalist: That was it.
JK: No it wasn’t, no it wasn’t. What was after it? I don’t know if it was your paper, but what went after it?
What he should have said: I’m sure you know what you printed better than me. I believe there was something unkind in there about the club, but I’m happy to bow to your superior knowledge of the situation.
Journalist: I don’t know.
JK: It even had the cheek to say ‘b******* to Newcastle’.
Journalist: I didn’t write that.
JK: That was my first f****** day. What does that tell you? What does that tell you?
What he should have said: That was a pretty tough thing to read on my first day. But I appreciate you’ve all got jobs to do. Those bills don’t pay themselves do they?
Journalist: Where was that? Which paper said that?
JK: I’ve got it. I can’t remember. It was one of the Sundays, not a Saturday. It was a Sunday.
What he should have said: It was a Sunday, I think. Sunday, bloody Sunday. It reminds of that U2 song. Great tune. It really encapsulates the frustration of a Sunday, doesn’t it?
Journalist: But you didn’t say that to the Sundays, you said that to us. That was during the Monday press conference.
JK: I’ll bring it in and show it to you. Why would I want to say that?
Journalist: Are you saying that someone has reported you saying ‘b******* to Newcastle?’
JK: Yes. Lovely.
What he should have said: I’ll bring it in and show you if you like. I just hope my wife hasn’t thrown it out. She almost got rid of the cuttings from when I won LMA Manager of the Year. Did I mention that I won the LMA Manager of the Year? I’ll bring in the trophy next time.
Journalist: That’s obviously going to damage you. That’s not a good thing. But I don’t think someone’s done that. We have to have some sort of relationship with you.
JK: So have I. But I haven’t come in here for you lot to take the piss out of me. And if I’m not flavour of the month for you, it don’t f****** bother me. I’ve got a job to do. And I’m going to do it to the best of my ability. I’m not going to spend any more time listening to any crap or reading any crap. Stick to the truth and the facts. And don’t twist anything.
What he should have said: That’s exactly that I want too. A relationship where we’re all pulling in the right direction. Let’s just steer clear of the fake news, though. That’s got nothing to do with football management. And I’m an experienced football manager, believe me. Nobody knows more about football management than me.
Journalist: You know, you know the game …
JK: Of course I know, but I don’t have to like it.
Journalist: Today we’ll print the absolute truth, that you think we’re c***s, we can all f*** off and we’re slimy. Is that fair enough?
JK: Do it. Fine. F****** print it. Am I going to worry about it? Put in also that it’ll be the last time I see you. Put that in as well. Good. Do it.
What he should have said: You know what, you’ve won me over with your well-reasoned argument and civilised manner. I’ll look out for the piece. Anyway, I better be off. Wisey’s been doing some scouting on YouTube and wants to show me a young French kid he likes the look of… Yohan Kebab I think he said his name was. Enjoy the wine and a mince pie. Goodbye.
Want more Kinnear? Listen to Episode Two of The Drop, Sob on the Tyne, on Spotify and wherever you listen to your podcasts