Joe Kinnear will take training for the first time at Newcastle tomorrow knowing he has everything to gain and nothing to lose.
The 61-year-old Irishman – who was swift to distance himself from the ’Cockney mafia’ so reviled on Tyneside – will take over team affairs from caretaker manager Chris Hughton.
His challenge is to drag the club out of a mess on the field, which is almost as hopeless as the one off it.
It is perhaps fitting that the man appointed by desperate owner Mike Ashley after most of the other candidates body-swerved the job has turned up with his own handicap – a two-game touchline ban.
But as Seymour Pierce chairman Keith Harris, the man appointed by Ashley to sell the club, enters into substantive talks with potential future owners, Kinnear knows his reign will be short and will not make or break Newcastle’s season.
A South African consortium have now declared an interest in Newcastle and Ashley hopes to sell as quickly as possible.
Former Newcastle and Republic of Ireland defender John Anderson looked on as the sorry Magpies were beaten 2-1 at home by Blackburn yesterday, their fifth successive defeat with the last four coming since Kevin Keegan’s departure.
He was as surprised as anybody by Kinnear’s appointment, and while he does not envy him his task, he knows the former Wimbledon boss has little to lose.
Anderson said: “I suppose he is in a no-lose situation, really, because if he does well, all well and good; if things don’t go well, he’s not here for the long stay anyway.
“There’s an old cliche that you are too good to go down, but you are never too good to go down.
“You have seen it happen to teams before. Once you get into a rut of losing games, it’s very, very difficult to get out of it.
“That’s why they need a manager quickly.
“I know Joe Kinnear is in short-term, but they need the whole situation sorting out quickly and the players then know exactly what they are doing, who they are working for, who they are playing for, because at this moment in time, they haven’t got a clue.”
Yesterday’s first 45 minutes left the bulk of a crowd of 44,935 wondering just how far the club’s descent has to run.
Hughton had to create a team from the leftovers of a woefully inadequate squad which has been ripped apart by injury and suspension.
The result was depressingly predictable as goals from Christopher Samba and Roque Santa Cruz arrived in the first half.
They both headed past exposed goalkeeper Shay Given to give Rovers a 2-0 lead which manager Paul Ince later suggested could have been 4-0 or 5-0.
Kinnear addressed the players before kick-off, and did so more forcefully at the break, and there was a marked improvement after half-time.
Michael Owen drilled home a 49th-minute penalty after being tripped by Ryan Nelsen, and if Geremi could have found the confidence to volley Damien Duff’s cross towards goal first time, they might even have been level.
However, the final whistle signalled another chorus of boos and heralded a difficult few months ahead.
A defiant Kinnear said: “I am going to do the best I possibly can. I understand how big the club is and I understand you are judged on results, so from next week onwards I will take whatever comes my way.”
Ince was understandably delighted with Blackburn’s performance, and particularly that of 22-year-old Chilean Carlos Villanueva, who turned in a glittering performance before being substituted.
Ince said: “Carlos needs time. You can give him 50 or 60 minutes, and then he gets a bit tired.
“He’s a young kid, he is not used too the Premier League – it is a fast league - and it will take time.
“But he has got some lovely touches, he is a very creative player and he will be good for us.”