Admittedly, Joe Kinnear is not a great example of how the system should work, but across VollerGermany the Director of Football model is normal. Ex-Germany sweeper Matthias Sammer does it for Bayern, for example, and Rudi Voller holds the position at Leverkusen. Admittedly, the name of the role differs from club to club, but these are the guys with the real power.


With their long term contracts, they are responsible for shaping the overall vision and mentality of the football club. This is how the game evolved in Germany – managers have shorter contracts, and concentrate solely on training and matchday management, with more limited input into transfer and contract negotiations.


In theory, with the right guy in place, the system should work well, with a lot more continuity in terms of a longer term evolution of the club, despite frequent managerial changes.


In fact, three clubs have already changed manager this season. Stuttgart relieved Bruno Labbadia of his duties in August and replaced him with Thomas Schneider, then chaos club Hamburg followed suit by sacking Thorsten Fink at the end of September and replacing him with ex-Holland coach Bert van Marwijk. Most recently, Michael Wiesinger failed to see out his first year in charge of Der Club (Nürnberg). Ex-Spurs boss Christian Gross was in the running for the job, before they decided to hire Gertjan Verbeek this week.


Despite there only being 18 teams in the Bundesliga, they have already seen more managerial changes than we have in the Premier League. There is also the possibility of more changes to come, with Schalke continuing to be as erratic as usual – Jens Keller has been on the hot seat pretty much since he was hired. Christian Streich, boss of last season’s surprise package Freiburg, will also be feeling the pressure as Freiburg are already looking like they’re in a relegation battle after a fifth-place finish last season. Sound familiar?


While it doesn’t happen so often in English football, and English managers bristle at the thought of control being given to someone other than themselves, there is a lot to be said for continuity at the top. Having said that, no German club has Joe Kinnear in the role.




Even over here, it’s hard to escape the derby. What’s probably worse is there’s no one to share it with, so for the last week I’ve been dealing alone with this vague feeling of unease that always comes before games against the mackems. What makes it worse is that the people I do talk to about football don’t really understand the rivalry and find it funny to joke about a win for that other lot. Because of that, I’ve been keeping myself to myself this last week.


The night before the derby was the missus’ birthday party, and I blame the nerves for the state I ended up in. Let’s just say that when I woke-up, I wasn’t in the most favourable of states, but at least the hangover distracted me somewhat from thinking about the Toon game.


My football team actually had a match at 12.30, so I didn’t get the lie-in I deserved, and the day got even worse when I was told I would be in goal for the game. We have one goalkeeper who is out for another few weeks with some kind of black eye/bruised skull thing (medical vocabulary isn’t my strong point), and another was in a motorbike accident so will be out even longer term.


On top of this, the guy who runs our bar said he would happily stick the Newcastle game on the TV, but only the second half as he wanted to watch Union Berlin against Aue first. Hastily, I arranged to rush home straight after the match, which we ended up losing six – one (two mistakes by me, if you’re generous, three if you’re not feeling charitable. But at least it didn’t end in threats and a walk-off like the last time I played in goal, against a team we’ve had problems with before).


Anyway, still muddy and sore from football, I managed to get a lift home in time for the twentieth minute, having followed live text on my phone all the way home.


By the end of the game, I felt even more numb, and even more puzzled: I have no fucking idea what is going on with our club.


All we ask for is fight from our players, and there was too little of that on show. While Tiote seems to be rediscovering his form somewhat, he alone can’t make up for the complete disappearance of Cabaye and Sissoko. What the hell has happened to Sissoko? He looked like a beast when he first joined, but he’s regressed spectacularly since then.


Krul and the rest of the defence tried, but didn’t have much impact (Debuchy’s goal aside). Ben Arfa was wasteful, Remy did nowt and Cisse looked completely out of form and confidence. It was surprising that Shola looked our best striker when he came on, but that’s a damning indictment of the way we’ve been playing recently. When Ben Arfa’s not on song, the idea seems to be hoofing long aimless balls forward, which most defenders at this level (with the exception of ours, it seems) are capable of dealing with.


What Anita has to do to get a game, I have no idea, but on form, he should be in the team. But it looks like that’s not how Pardew picks the team.


Anyone know how he does it?




I find it hard to feel sorry for the local press getting the cold shoulder from the club. They now have a lot of space to fill on a daily basis, and it would be great to see them really do some investigative journalism and make things difficult for the club. Our finances, the decision making process, the free Sports Direct advertising – these are all areas ripe for investigation.


Let’s hope they see it the same way – as an opportunity to reconnect with the disgruntled fans of the club (their readers, after all), as opposed to a challenge to revert back to bland platitudes in order to regain access to the cosy inner sanctum.