Joe Kinnear – The Gospel According To St. Bill

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Troubled Nottingham Forest, feeling the inglorious pull of Division Two, lose Hart, and issue an eleventh hour call for Joe Kinnear. Save us, is the plaintive plea! As with many new coaches, his impact is immediate, turning defeats into draws with last minute goals. Forest’s pretty, precise passing game is now imbued with a sense of purpose, spirit and energy.

The footballing present is forever shaped by the generations who have gone before. The ghosts of managerial innovators who moved the English game on lurk, Ramsay’s work ethic and 442; Revie’s copious note taking; Shankly’s religious credo; Clough’s arcane art of man-management; Nicholson’s glorious pass. Now, Wenger’s team ethic and personal responsibility.

And from the innovators flow the disciples. Those who found themselves enthused by the presence of greatness, moved to carry forward the good work.

Joe Kinnear’s mission was clear. To remould and shape in his own way the glory glory work of Tottenham’s Bill Nicholson.

St. Bill’s lessons were simple but always carried depth. For example, on the training ground, the young Kinnear wouldn’t commit himself forward from a defensive position to overlap in case they lost the ball. Nicholson would say ‘Well its Peters and Mullery on the ball. Why will they lose it?’ He imbued the confidence to play and to trust yourself and others.

The Tottenham template shaped Kinnear’s thinking. Greaves & Gilzean up front, England commanding at the back, Mackay leading by example, skilled full backs who can play. This became the model by which he has set up his teams.

Oddly, Wimbledon was the missionary’s first call, where he formed a partnership with the driven Sam Hamann. A pair of addicts, hungry for success. 1am motorway fry ups; late nights, early mornings. First in the training ground, last to leave. And using adversity to advantage. Unable to delegate, Kinnear lifted Wimbledon upon his shoulders and kept them in the Premiership for year after unexpected year. Until his heart could take the strain no more.

Twice came the opportunity to rebuild the glory years, but twice Spurs turned down his application for the dream job, preferring Francis and, strangely, Gross. Maybe the Spurs’ board feared he would introduce the dreaded stultifying long ball game. But he had never played or coached that way. The rejection still hurts.

The modern coach’s penchant for note taking is not for Kinnear. His eidetic memory presents him with a game’s patterns long after the light has faded. Also, he feels as if he can turn water into wine if players have strong hearts and never shirk a challenge.

No sooner is a match over than he is turning his agile mind to the next game, beginning to sew seeds of success in his players’ minds. Perhaps they are walking down the corridor or in the restaurant. He might offer a quiet word, ‘I can see you getting two goals this Saturday’. Little tips. Building confidence. Winning ways.

The Sports Psychology Summary…
With St. Bill’s other managerial disciples, Mackay, Venables and Mullery, having limited success and no longer spreading the gospel, it remains with Joe Kinnear to carry the torch of one of English football’s true influences.

Forest may not repeat their success under Clough and Taylor but with Kinnear by the Trent, some of the precious gold dust with which St. Bill sprinkled him, might rub off on them.