To the public he may be a figure of fun, but to Eddie Howe, his right-hand man is simply essential
To outsiders, and most rival clubs, he is the perma-tanned, wide-eyed irritant on the touchline who makes himself front and centre of things alongside manager Eddie Howe.
But behind the scenes, Jason Tindall, nicknamed “Mad Dog” by fans, is far more than just the extroverted assistant manager at Newcastle United, commanding huge respect from staff and players alike.
His bond with Howe is tight, forged over many years as both team-mates and a highly successful managerial partnership at Bournemouth and now in the North East. They are the ying to the other man’s yang.
Opposites in almost every metric, with vastly contrasting personalities and outlooks on life, Tindall brings the fun, the smiles and the enjoyment to life at the training ground, as well as a sharp coaching brain and a work ethic that matches Howe’s own exhausting one.
Howe, who is shy, introverted and laser focused in his work, leans heavily on his assistant. They bounce ideas off each other constantly. They disagree, they bicker and occasionally argue, but the bond between them is unbreakable.
When Howe turned down a job offer from Celtic, one of the reasons he was so hesitant was because he would not be able to bring Tindall – who succeeded him as Bournemouth manager in the summer of 2020 – with him. That is how integral Howe believes his confidante and long-time associate is.
When Howe took the Newcastle job, it was telling that on his first public appearance, in the director’s box at Brighton, it was Tindall who drove him to the game and it was Tindall who sat next to him, whispering in his ear throughout.
But what may come as a surprise when you know how closely they work, how much time they have spent together and how reliant they are on each other to excel in their work, is that Howe and Tindall are colleagues rather than friends.
They have never socialised regularly outside of football. They do not go out for meals. They do not take holidays or weekends away. Even when they were players, they moved in completely different social circles. They did not even particularly like each other.
Away from the training ground, they do not talk on the phone other than when it is absolutely necessary. For a partnership that works so well, it is rare to have this level of distance away from a work environment.
‘Jason is one of the lads, everybody loves him’
Their relationship grew when they were thrown together, as a rookie coaching partnership at Bournemouth back in 2012. Both men, who had played alongside each other in the centre of defence and who are just two weeks apart in age, had their careers ended early by injuries.
It made them hungry and determined as coaches. With no money and a transfer embargo in those formative early months, they did everything as a duo. They learned on the job together and it is no exaggeration to say Howe would not have achieved the things he has, at Bournemouth, Burnley and now Newcastle, without his most trusted lieutenant.
As one source put it to Telegraph Sport: “Eddie has absolute trust in Jason and that is what really matters to him. He knows he will never betray him, speak out of turn, leak anything, talk to anyone he should not be talking to.
“Trust is so important to Eddie, he does not give it lightly and Jason has always been with him. He allows Jason to do what he does knowing he is excellent at it. They bounce off each other. There are no secrets between them, not when it comes to their job.
“They work in tandem, dovetailing perfectly. Jason might come across a certain way, he has an ego, a lot of people in football do, but he knows who is in charge. The respect they have for each other is what defines their relationship really.”
Tindall tends to focus on defensive organisation and set-plays at Newcastle; this is his area of expertise. But he is also a prominent voice in recruitment decisions and, as striker Callum Wilson said earlier this month, “Jason is one of the lads, everybody loves him.”
He is the bridge between the manager’s office – which he shares with Howe – and the dressing room. Howe is affable, he takes a keen interest in the lives of all his players and staff, but he can also be aloof.
He also has a steely edge and a barbed tongue when it is needed. He is most certainly not “one of the lads.”
Tindall softens out some of his sharper edges, smoothing things over when there are clashes and tension. Howe listens to him and acts accordingly if something needs to be resolved.
‘It’s crazy how the internet can create these things’
Earlier this year, a social media account on Twitter called “Jason Tindall desperate to be the centre of attention”, went viral, showing clips of Newcastle’s assistant manager greeting opposition managers before Howe. They showed others of him arguing with opposition benches and constantly complaining and gesticulating to the fourth official.
Some of his antics have enraged people, which have included kicking a ball onto the pitch to stop the opposition taking a quick throw (twice), and telling the fourth official that Fulham had 12 players on the pitch to get the game stopped.
Listening into a touchline team-talk against Nottingham Forest, calling Nick Pope over who, a few seconds later, went down with a mystery injury while Bruno Guimarares was off the field also receiving treatment.
He is argumentative and demonstrative in the technical area and a skilled wind-up merchant. Howe just lets him get on with it.
“It’s a funny one. I’ve spent the last half an hour laughing with him about certain things… and certain things he’s been sent,” Howe said last month when the antics of his assistant had attracted so much attention on social media.
“It’s crazy how the internet and social media can create these things. I think to understand these things… to go back to where we started, it gives you a little bit of context to the reason he’s in those situations.
“We started with no money, no facilities, working with a group of players, and it was just the two of us and we did everything together. You name it, we did it
“We travelled to watch the opposition five hours away in the car together, just us. And we’ve never changed that approach throughout our journey together.
“We’re both really active on the sidelines and I’ve encouraged Jason to be that way.”
‘ A lot of people aren’t happy with Newcastle – they take it out on me’
It is perhaps fitting that the final word goes to Tindall himself, who was urged to be at the front of the final team photo from St James’ Park this season, after the 0-0 draw with Leicester City on Monday night, in response to the social media noise. He did not need to be asked twice.
“I do nothing different to what I have done for the last 15 years or so that we have been together,” said Tindall, speaking after the result that secured Champions League football. “There is [sic] a lot of haters in football that like to hate and there is a lot of jealousy. But it is testimony to Newcastle to be honest with you.
“A lot of people probably don’t like the fact that Newcastle are challenging at the top end of the Premier League and don’t like the fact Newcastle are now going into the Champions League. They probably feel they have to take it out on someone and they take it out on me.
“But I take it with a pinch of salt, I’ve got a thick skin and I laugh at a lot of things that are said about me and sent to me… the Newcastle fans have shown me a lot of love.”
So too has Howe, even if they are still not friends.