If it's possible for a team to be strengthened by the departure of a supposedly key member of staff, then St James's Park is a much more ordered place than it was a couple of weeks ago.
While Alan Pardew claimed he was actually really sad to see Joe Kinnear depart, claiming that “he did a lot of good work here” (quoted by Louise Taylor in The Guardian), it would be interesting to see exactly what good work Pardew was referring to, given that Kinnear went two transfer windows without signing a single player on a permanent deal, while also selling Newcastle's best player in Yohan Cabaye.
However, while it might be in Newcastle's long-term interest to go on without their erstwhile director of football, it hasn't done them much good in the short-term. Pardew's side have won just one game in the last seven and have failed to score in six of those games, their only success coming in a 3-1 victory over West Ham.
That run, of course, included a 3-0 defeat to Sunderland, a result doubly humiliating not only because it was against their hated local rivals, but also because it helped one of the worst clubs in the division return to some sort of form.
It could be argued that the recent form is simply a regression to the mean and that it's hardly surprising that a team who only avoided relegation by five points last season suffers the odd slump.
However, their poor results are another manifestation of what a bad job Kinnear did. For Saturday's defeat to Chelsea, Pardew could not call on his two key performers this season—Cabaye and Loic Remy—and was instead forced to field far inferior substitutes.
Vernon Anita, a reasonable player but nowhere near Cabaye's class, played in midfield, while Remy's goalscoring replacement was Luuk de Jong, a striker who scored precisely zero goals (largely because he made precisely zero starts) for Borussia Monchengladbach this season.
In addition, Chieck Tiote was absent with a hamstring injury, Papiss Cisse has a back injury, Yoan Gouffran is also out and Mathieu Debuchy is missing with a calf strain. This is a long injury list and one that would hamper any side, but if Kinnear had done his job properly and bought some of the players that he should have done during his time with the club, then Newcastle's discomfort would have been much reduced.
You are never safe from relegation, in my opinion, until you have 40 points in the bag, so we are not safe.
But there's always an incentive in football, always. Your professional pride is the minimum.
While Pardew was being ultra-cautious (Newcastle already have 37 points, a total which will probably be enough to survive at the end of the season, never mind with 13 games still to go), for a team that looked like they could qualify for Europe a few weeks ago, seemingly being satisfied with survival is quite a drop in expectations.
Pardew has an inferior quality squad with which to work, and the blame for that has to be pointed at Kinnear, and of course Mike Ashley, the man who appointed him—twice.