DENNIS Wise’s arrival at Newcastle United will receive the full backing of manager Kevin Keegan as the former England international’s role will see him have no influence on first-team affairs.
Wise will take up a newly-created position at St James’s Park this week, in which he will be expected to oversee improvements in the club’s Academy – as well as help in identifying potential transfer targets – and the increasingly time-consuming business of player contract negotiations.
But the former Leeds United manager, who has quit Elland Road to become part of a new management structure under chairman Chris Mort, will not hinder Keegan’s decision-making or impinge on his power.
Keegan will retain control of first team recruitment and will have sole responsibility for developing and running the first team squad after he agreed to the appointment of Wise during the initial talks which led to his return as manager a fortnight ago.
There were some suggestions yesterday that Wise’s arrival could undermine Keegan, but The Journal understands the appointment has been frequently discussed between manager and chairman and that there is no split on the thinking behind the decision. Indeed, Mort hinted at the Press conference at which Keegan was unveiled as Newcastle manager for a second time earlier this month that such an appointment would be made.
He said: “I think it’s a bigger business and we’re a bigger club than when he was here last. We don’t want to overburden him with responsibilities. We’re not going to say, ‘Kevin – go and sort out the Academy or go and sort out international recruitment’. We wouldn’t expect Kevin to have that on his plate.
“What I’ve said to Kevin is that it’s his call in terms of who comes in. Some managers have a reputation for wanting to bring their own people in, but Kevin said he wanted to come and see what there is. He might want to work with those guys.
“We’re going to leave it up to Kevin. We’re going to be guided by him and we’ll be comfortable with whatever he decides.”
And it appears as though Keegan is satisfied with developments which mean he will be able to concentrate on the first team, while Wise deals with more general matters involved in the running of the football side of the club.
Although increasingly resigned to the fact he will not be able to sign any new players before the close of the transfer
window on Thursday night, Keegan hinted he would soon receive some help in the recruitment process.
“I don’t see the need to panic,” said Keegan, who saw chief target Jonathan Woodgate complete his move to Tottenham Hotspur yesterday despite a late bid from Newcastle last week.
“When we get the players back from the African Nations (Cup) we will have the sort of size of squad you need to succeed in the Premier League. We’ve got to get through to that point.
“This squad is the best I’ve had and I mean that 100%. Bringing players in to better these, you have to be more selective.
“We’re looking at both ends of the market, three or four certainties (who can play straight away in the Premier League) and three or four young chances. That’s what the club are trying to do and I think you’ll see that by some of the things that are being done.”
Wise has been one of the most colourful characters of English football’s modern era, as well as one of its most unpopular during an illustrious playing career with Wimbledon and Chelsea. The 41-year-old has a mixed record as a manager, taking Millwall to an FA Cup Final in 2004 before losing his job as a result of poor league form in the Championship.
He was appointed Swindon manager in May 2006, but left when he was given the chance to become Leeds boss just five months later.
He could not save the Yorkshire club from relegation to League One last year, but has successfully established them as promotion candidates this season despite a 15-point penalty for going into administration.
However, Wise is believed to have become increasingly weary of day-to-day football management and was keen to take on a different type of role.
Leeds chairman Ken Bates said: “I wasn’t surprised. There had been a story a while ago which we ignored, but it mentioned the person who engineered Gus Poyet’s move (to Tottenham) from the club.
“Newcastle approached us last Friday and after we got the assurances we wanted I told Dennis he could talk to them. He rang me and told me he would like to take it and in football you don’t stand in the way of people who want to better themselves.
“He apologised for giving us such short notice but said it was too good an opportunity to miss. He’s leaving the club on a stronger footing than he found it when he came here.”
Newcastle are also looking to recruit the former Rushden and Diamonds youth team coach Jeff Vetere as their European scout after he performed a similar role for Charlton Athletic and, most recently, Spanish giants Real Madrid.
The new senior management team could also include businessman Tony Jimenez, an acquaintance of owner Mike Ashley, as Newcastle look to recruit experts in all football-related matters.