NEWCASTLE // Trouble-shooter Joe Kinnear arrived on Tyneside yesterday and told Newcastle United's fans: "I am not part of the Cockney mafia." The Magpies shocked English football when they appointed Kinnear, 61, as the interim manager after failing in a bid to persuade Terry Venables to take over on a temporary basis. Kinnear, who will officially take over from the caretaker boss Chris Hughton tomorrow, was at St James' Park to meet the players ahead of their clash with Blackburn.
Kinnear, who has had some criticism for taking the job, said: "I am being linked with the 'Cockney mafia' - they forget I was born in Ireland and played for Ireland all my life. "I have come here to do the best I possibly can because I know it's a short contract." Despite his defiance, Kinnear saw his side go down 2-1. First-half goals from Christopher Samba and Roque Santa Cruz saw Blackburn inflict a fifth successive defeat on the beleaguered team.
Newcastle produced a spirited fightback and Michael Owen scored penalty, but it wasn't enough. Kinnear, who had a five-year spell in Dubai in the 1970s managing Sharjah and Al-Shabab where he worked with Dave Mackay, has not managed a club since resigning as Nottingham Forest boss in December 2004. He made his name at Wimbledon until he was forced to take two years out of the game after suffering a heart attack in 1999.
However, he insists there is nothing wrong with his health and is hoping his brief spell at Newcastle could prove a way back into the game. "This is a fantastic opportunity. I can't believe the other candidates turned it down," he said. * Agencies