Newcastle United’s Kinnear: I’m fit and up to the job

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JOE Kinnear insists he is fighting fit and able to cope with the stress of big-time football again.

Kinnear (pictured) was named as Newcastle’s new director of football in a shock move last week.

It marked a return to the game for the 66-year-old for the first time since he was forced to quit as the Magpies’ manager in February, 2009, after undergoing a triple heart bypass.

That incident, when Kinnear was taken to the hospital on the morning of Newcastle’s game at West Bromwich Albion, was believed to be the end of the former Wimbledon manager’s time in football.

But Newcastle owner Mike Ashley has turned to his old friend once again as he looks to make changes to the senior structure at St James’s Park after last season’s dismal form, which saw the club narrowly avoid relegation.

Within 24 hours of Kinnear’s appointment being confirmed by the club, managing director Derek Llambias resigned, leaving Kinnear with more responsibilities.

But he insists he is fit enough to cope with the extra strain.

“Mike, the owner, came round my house and we had a chat,” Kinnear said. “He asked me about my medical condition, how I was feeling and one thing and another.

“I said I’ve been cleared, medically, for the last four or five months.

“I’m coming off my treatment. I’ve lost a stone and a half. I’m very fit, and I’ve been looking after myself.”

Kinnear has a long history of heart problems. In 1999, when Wimbledon boss, he suffered a heart attack before a game against Sheffield Wednesday.

Newcastle confirmed yesterday that the players will report back for pre-season training a week tomorrow.

Their first friendly of the summer is at Motherwell on July 16.

Manager Alan Pardew will then take his squad to northern Portugal for a training camp, with two friendly games also set to be played there.

Newcastle will face Rio Ave – who finished sixth in the Portuguese league last season – on July 20, before coming up against Pacos de Ferreira, who qualified for Europe by finishing third, three days later.

The Magpies’ only away friendly in England will be when they travel to Blackpool on July 28, and then they will go back to Scotland to face St Mirren two days later.

The last friendly of the summer for Pardew’s side will be at St James’s Park against Braga on August 10, a week before the new Premier League season begins.