Sunday, September 20, 2020

Will Paul Ince help the cause of black managers and coaches?

I read a very interesting article the other day in the aftermath of the appointment of Paul Ince as Blackburn manager.

In this day and age it is perhaps remarkable that Ince is the first black manager to be appointed in England’s top league. Despite many people feeling that Ince’s appointment is a major breakthrough for black managers, it is another surprising fact that Macclesfield manager Keith Alexander is the only other black manager in all of the ninety-two professional clubs.

The most remarkable statistic of all is provided by the Warwick Business School whose research has shown that there are only seven other black coaches of any capacity in the league. This constitutes only about 1% of the total number of coaches, despite more than 20% of players being black.

There can be no coincidence that clubs are not employing black managers and coaches and it is clearly an issue that needs to be further investigated and addressed.

One man who had a high profile managers job and has been unable to find further employment since he was sacked is former England international John Barnes. Barnes. He got his big break when he was appointed head coach of Celtic in 1999 in tandem with director of football Kenny Dalglish.

He was sacked just eight months into his reign at Celtic Park, bowing out after the infamous 3-1 defeat by Inverness Caledonian Thistle in the Scottish Cup which led to the legendary newspaper headline, ‘Super Calli go ballistic Celtic are atrocious.’

Since that short spell at Celtic Barnes has applied for many jobs in the lower leagues in England but nobody has been prepared to give him a chance.

Barnes told the BBC, “I’ve applied for numerous jobs and sometimes I haven’t even had the courtesy of a reply to my application letter. Perhaps I could understand it if I was applying for jobs at the top level but these were clubs in League One.”

Whilst John Barnes admits he made mistakes at Celtic he finds it hard to understand why a man with his experience is consistently being overlooked.

He went on to say, “There aren’t many managers who have never made mistakes, especially early on in their careers. You learn from your mistakes and come back stronger and better from them. There are also plenty of managers who keep failing but continue to get employed. I’m passionate about football and management and am willing to make my way up from the bottom but I’m not getting any opportunities.”

Barnes, who is still only forty-four years old is thrilled by the appointment of Paul Ince at Blackburn but he doesn’t believe that it will be a turning point in relation to black managers being employed. He believes that his experiences and those of his former Watford and England teammate Luther Blissett show that equality of opportunity for black managers and coaches simply doesn’t exist.

“I believe the situation for black managers is like it was for black players back in the 1970s,” he told the BBC. “Black players used to be put out on the wing because it was deemed they could run fast but not think too well. They weren’t trusted to be a playmaker in central midfield or to wear the captain’s armband. Now I think there is an analogous situation in management. Chairmen don’t believe we can do the top managerial jobs. I look at someone like Luther Blissett, who is a former England international and has played abroad at the top level. He has been applying for manager’s jobs in the Football League for 15 years and not got anywhere. This is all about opportunities.”

Barnes is worried for Paul Ince that his performance at Blackburn will be held up as an example of the abilities of black managers generally.

He said: “If he doesn’t succeed, does that count against all black managers? I don’t think so, just as if he does succeed it doesn’t mean all black managers are good.”

For the moment, Barnes will continue in his role as a TV pundit and as a part-time scout for Sunderland. He and Luther Blissett and many other black coaches and managers will continue to apply for jobs and hopefully, they will be met by an equality of opportunity that the statistics suggest is currently not there.

Many people will be hoping that Paul Ince is seen as a pioneer and that his appointment will be a catalyst for other clubs . Past history suggests that this might take a long time, but the FA need to look at the situation urgently and ensure that any inequality that exists is eradicated immediately.


Graham Fisher



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