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‘He knocked down barriers’ – Jason Euell tribute to former Wimbledon boss Joe Kinnear


Former Wimbledon forward Jason Euell says Joe Kinnear fuelled the spirit of the Crazy Gang and helped the club believe it deserved to be mixing it at the top end of the Premier League.

The 77-year-old passed away on Sunday after a long battle with dementia. The Dons thanked the Dublin-born boss on their X social media account for the “amazing memories” and described him as a “true legend”.

Kinnear was appointed Wimbledon boss in January 1992 and inherited the infamous squad that consisted of the likes of John Fashanu, Lawrie Sanchez, John Scales and Robbie Earle.

He added Vinnie Jones, Dean Holdsworth and Marcus Gayle to his pack and helped guide the Dons to their highest-ever Premier League finish – sixth in the top flight.

Kinnear picked up the LMA Manager of the Year award at the end of the 1993-94 campaign. He also masterminded two more top-10 finishes and got to the semi-finals of both domestic cup competitions in , in 1996-97.

The former defender, who turned out for Tottenham and Brighton in his playing days, was forced to step away after he suffered a heart attack in March 1999.

Euell played 85 times under Kinnear across four seasons. He told the South London Press: “We have an old Crazy Gang group. We meet up two to three times a year, depending on everybody’s schedule – we’re always in close contact.

Joe Kinnear, Wimbledon manager

“When we got the message in the group on Sunday, it hit home that it’s another person who has impacted you in some capacity, has passed away.

“It was a group of men, people and footballers who were a part of something that everybody knew up and down the country and a lot of people still know today.

“Joe played a massive part in that. He continued that. It was all part of his personality. Football clubs now look at their identities and what the right fit is. Joe fully matched that at Wimbledon.

“He had the right coach with him in Terry Burton. You had Joe, who was very bolshy and bold. Terry was calmer and the coach between the two of them – it was a really good balance.”

Kinnear also took charge of Luton, Nottingham Forest and Newcastle during his managerial career.

His stint at St James’ Park became synonymous with a sweary rant in the press conference which announced him as Toon chief.

Euell said: “He was honest in how he was. If you were s***, you were s***. If you were good, you were good. He would tell you and knew how to deal with people.

“It was down to the due diligence he put into the players he recruited to the club. Joe knew the type of club and what players were going to be asked of when they came into the building – it wasn’t easy.

“We knew we were always going to be the underdogs and get a lot of negativity thrown towards us.

“But that enhanced and strengthened our bond. We were always told we didn’t have a right to be in the Premier League.

“We thrived on that. It was massively down to Joe and how he got us onboard to believe we were good footballers and people. Whoever wanted to have a go, we would have a go back.”

Jason Euell, Wimbledon

Euell left Wimbledon in 2001 and racked up more than 100 appearances at local rivals Charlton Athletic.

He also had spells at Southampton, Blackpool and Middlesbrough.

“Joe gave you that confidence to go and be yourself,” said Euell. “He was the cheerleader from the side and we did the job for him on the pitch.

“He knew how to galvanise us and knew how to get the best out of us and pick us up when we were down.

“He knocked down a lot of bridges where people said we shouldn’t have been competing at that level and weren’t good enough.

“Nobody wanted to play against us – that was a fact.

“Teams knew we could hurt them. If we had to mix it up, we did. If we wanted to play, we could do that too.

“That’s what was so special about that group of players we had over those years under Joe.”

Euell has gone into coaching himself since hanging up his boots.

The former Jamacia international has had stints in the backroom staff and Charlton and Bristol City.

When asked if he took any of Kinnear’s man-management skills into his own career, Euell said: “One-hundred per cent.

“From when I started coaching at U16s to up to first team level, I have said I won’t sugar coat or bullshit.

“You have to be honest in how you deliver things. It’s important on how it’s said as well.

“Joe was good with that, He would be honest in a polite one-to-one way. But if it was at half-time or in the game, it was because of his passion and also knowing how good he can be.

“He loved a joke and loved his greyhounds and racing. If we could have had a social every week, we would have done it – that’s how he was. He created a bond between everyone. He couldn’t move, but he used to join in during the five-a-sides. He would be on the side of the goal and say: ‘Feed me – feed me.’ He would dink it with his right foot and one time he scored from it.

“He always wanted to be involved. He was a good guy as a man and a manager.”

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