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Harper backing Kinnear to succeed

Former Newcastle goalkeeper Steve Harper has backed the club's decision to appoint Joe Kinnear as director of football.

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The 38-year-old was speaking in the wake of owner Mike Ashley's controversial decision to bring in the former Magpies interim manager on a three-year deal.

The appointment had already angered the majority of the club's supporters, before the 66-year old earned further criticism after mispronouncing the names of a number of Newcastle's first-team players.

With managing director Dererk Llambias also stepping down, it has been a period of great change for Newcastle as doubt continues to be cast over manager Alan Pardew's future.

However, having previously worked under Kinnear during his 20-year spell at St James' Park, Harper believes the Irishman is a welcome addition to the club.

"Like most Newcastle fans, which I am now, I was a bit surprised when it happened," he told the Journal. "Then the news of Derek leaving the club, maybe it is a like-for-like swap but with somebody with more of a football background. Joe obviously knows the club well, has a lot of contacts in football, where Derek did a great job putting the club back on a sound financial footing. Maybe they just wanted to put someone in there more football-orientated.

"Joe is very likeable as a man. He is a larger-than-life character, a good motivator. He came in at a very difficult time, a very turbulent time and sadly his chance was taken away from him before the West Brom game [having to step down after a heart attack]. One plus side is that he does know the club, he knows a few of the players, he is not coming in as a total novice to the place.

"He does have that headstart unlike anybody else who might have been in the role. As for being surprised – I have been there for such a long time and nothing surprises me any more. Now I am on the other side of the fence, you realise what it is all about."

Keen to add new names to his squad, Pardew is believed to have already drawn up a list of players for Kinnear to evaluate.

And with just under two months until the Magpies begin their Premier League campaign away to Manchester City, Harper feels that the furore surrounding the former Wimbledon boss' appointment will have died down long before the season starts.

"I am glad it has happened now," he said. "That it has happened in June rather than mid-season. Everything should have settled down by the start of the season, now that the fixtures are out people can start to look forward.

"It is about getting players in now and then focusing on what will be a very important start to another tough Premier League season. As a fan I want it to work well. Having a director of football seems to work well on the continent. We had Gordon Milne working with Sir Bobby [Robson]. He was in that role when I was here.

"We know everybody at Newcastle needs a good start and with the fixtures coming out it gives people something to look forward to. After a pretty tough first game I think the fixtures are reasonable. Hopefully they will hit the ground running."

Meanwhile, former Wimbledon and Wales striker John Hartson feels that Newcastle fans should give his old boss a chance.

Hartson, who was brought to the Dons from West Ham by Kinnear in 1999, said he was staggered to see him take the job on Tyneside.

"I was surprised to see him take up the role at Newcastle but I think the fans should give him a chance," Hartson told talkSPORT. "It's great to see him in good health. Everyone is quick to forget this, but I think Newcastle would have stayed in the Premier League if he hadn't had those health problems towards the end of the 2008-2009 season.

"Some of the things being said about him are a bit disrespectful. He is there for three years and, if things don't work out, then you can turn round and say 'he's not done his job', but until then, you must give him a chance. He's been out of the game for four years but who's not to say he's been travelling all over the world scouting players?"



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