The relief was palpable as the final whistle blew at St James' Park last night. Newcastle had hung on to beat West Brom, 2-1, marking only their second win of the season and the first since Joe Kinnear took charge.
Kinnear has now been at Newcastle for four matches, and whilst he may only have one victory to his name, credit is due for the way he has reinvigorated the playing staff and given them a renewed sense of drive and confidence. Newcastle have only lost once since he arrived, and the Magpies are now a much more difficult unit to break down.
The former Wimbledon, Luton, and Notts Forest manager faced a a quite unjust barrage of abuse and ridicule from press and pundits alike when he took the reigns at Newcastle. His reaction at his first official press conference was to subject the gathered hacks to a full-blown rant laced with no fewer than 52 expletives.
The reaction to his appointment at Newcastle, particularly from the tabloid press, was grossly unfair. Whilst his reaction was perhaps misjudged, it can certainly be understood.
The battle lines between the press and Kinnear were duly drawn, and it would seem that Kinnear is now suffering from his confrontational start at Newcastle, as the turn-around on the Tyne receives far less exposure and praise than it should be getting.
From Kinnear's first game in charge, away to Everton, it was possible to see a change in the players' collective demeanour and performance. A gritty draw was a fair result, but this was a match that Newcastle would surely have lost a week earlier.
A deserved draw that could have been more against Man City followed. Whilst defeat in a charged Tyne-Wear derby was an unwelcome setback, Newcastle put West Brom to the sword in the first half last night and managed to secure the win that the recent steps forward have merited.
There has been a marked change under Kinnear, who wonderfully overachieved at Wimbledon during the 1990s whilst playing much better football than the press ever gave them credit for. Newcastle are now playing with the pride and commitment that their obsessive fans demand.
The strides that Newcastle have taken are likely to continue under Kinnear, until a new owner and presumably new manager are found. When that time comes, Kinnear's stock will have risen considerably from the joke he found himself to be when he re-entered the football world, and it surely won't take another four years for him to find employment.
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