By Richard Clarke

Arsène Wenger is backing his good friend Joe Kinnear to alter public opinion about his appointment as interim Newcastle manager.

The former Wimbledon boss was installed at St James’ Park a week ago, much to the surprise of the footballing fraternity.

Newcastle needed a steady hand amidst their boardroom upheavals but Kinnear’s appointment was still widely criticised as he had been out of the game for four years. That only got worse when the Magpies’ lost 2-1 at home to Blackburn, even though caretaker Chris Hughton had still been in charge.

Speaking at Thursday’s press conference, Wenger lent Kinnear his support.

“I know [him] very well and I like him personally,” said Wenger. “I feel this criticism is unfair because you cannot ask somebody who is out of a job for four, five or six years and has an opportunity to show his quality to refuse this role.

“Joe is an optimist and he thinks ‘ok, I have the job for a short time but if I do well I might stay in here’. For somebody who has been out of a job for such a long time you cannot deny that opportunity to him.

“I believe he has done the right thing. He has the quality and the strengths to maybe turn people around and change their opinion about him.

“It’s a tough job but as well a job without any risk because the club is in such a bad situation you can only do well.”

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3 Oct 2008