When Joe Kinnear turned into Sven-Goran Eriksson – accent and all!

I never thought Joe Kinnear was a good fit as Forest manager.

I’ve always thought that some managers and their styles “fit” with certain clubs. It’s not a criticism, I’m desperately trying not to be a football snob!

But Neil Warnock and Sheffield United go together. Paul Hart was perfect as a Nottingham Forest manager. Jurgen Klopp suits Liverpool, and Liverpool suits Jurgen Klopp.

It’s very often just a hunch that I have, and it’s often wrong. Privately, I didn’t think Billy Davies was a good “fit” for Forest first time around – I was wrong. Twice, he led the Reds to the Championship play-off places. 

I did think that Mark Warburton was a good fit. That didn’t work out as well as I’d hoped or anticipated. 

So, it’s not an exact science! And to be fair to Joe Kinnear – who succeeded Hart – his early record was very, very impressive.

I’m certain that the board’s plan was for firefighter Kinnear to come in, keep Forest in the Championship, move on in the summer. But he did SO well, that there was no way that he could be let go.

In 2004, he came in (with an expletive-laden press conference broadcast live on Sky!) to take control of a side that hadn’t won in 15 league games.

They’d go on to take 31 points from the final 17 league matches – not far short of promotion form – and comfortably stayed in the division.

The Reds finished nine points clear of the relegation zone. Derby, who took four points off Forest that season, ended up only a point clear. What might have been!

Kinnear was also very likeable, if you worked in the media. I realise he went on to have some spectacular disagreements with journalists in the North East, but you can only speak as you find, and he was always very respectful with me. 

He was, as they say, good copy. He was quite revealing in interviews, always had a good quote or two and was pleasant to deal with.

As a post-match interviewer, I didn’t have to work very hard to get a line or two out of him – he’d offer them up on a plate.

But they weren’t always true. And that was part of the charm – trying to work out what was true, and what wasn’t.

There was a time, after a game at Leeds United, where he revealed in his post-match interview with me that he’d lined up a couple of players on loan from Spurs, and that they were coming in to his office to sign on Monday.

Fantastic story, good copy. But, absolute rubbish! 

One of the club’s administrators had gone so far – having heard the interview – as preparing the forms for the Football League on Monday morning, so that the players could sign the appropriate documentation at lunchtime, after they’d finished their first training session.

I’d love to have seen the administrator’s face when Kinnear revealed it had been an embellishment of the truth!

It was around this time that the “Joe Kinnear Diaries” appeared online – brilliantly-written works of comedy genius that parodied life at The City Ground at the time.

I would love to know who wrote them – they’re well worth digging out if you can find them again. 

He’d often get players’ names wrong in interviews – poor Matthieu Louis-Jean was regularly “Jean-Louis Paul,” and Marvin Harwood was another favourite. 

But it was fun, it was fun covering Forest at that point. There were good stories, he was a pleasure to interview and generally results were good. 

Some of the stories became legendary at The City Ground – like the time he laid into defender Chris Doig after a match for not picking up his man at a set-piece.

Doig was an unused substitute in the game.

Or the fact that he couldn’t find The City Ground, as he drove up to Nottingham for the first time after being appointed manager.

So on that February evening, club officials had to turn on the floodlights, so that he knew whereabouts he was heading. 

I mentioned he was good copy. And it was being noticed by those higher up in the club. They thought it might be beneficial if he was to tone down some of his post-match interviews, and maybe not give quite so much away.

So, after one game, he came out for his post-match interview, and put on this really strange European accent. It was very odd. I can still remember thinking as the interview continued, “what the f*** is going on here?!”

He was conducting his post-match interview as though he was a character in the BBC comedy ‘Allo ‘Allo. It was that bad. 

It wasn’t for a few days that I found out why. 

In order to tone down his interviews, and give less away, owner Nigel Doughty had suggested to Kinnear that he followed the model of then-England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson.

What he meant was that you talk quite a lot, you smile quite a bit, but at the end of the interview you realise that he hasn’t said much of significance. 

He’d been told “be more like Sven,” but Kinnear was taking it literally – and the accent, which was more akin to the policeman in ‘Allo ‘Allo, was his impression of Eriksson.

And you have to remember, this was the manager of a Championship football club!!

Main photo: Dan Westwell

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