Those of you with keen memories might recall a little earlier in the year we ran a quite excellent piece talking about the prevalence/lack of black managers throughout the four professional football leagues in this country. It was quite shocking, but not altogether surprising really when you think about it. Today however, a tiny, microscopic blow has been struck for racial equality in the Premier League, because as we approach the 16th season since the shift from First Division, we finally have another black manager! Yes, it is official: Paul Ince has officially become the new Blackburn Rovers gaffer, following Jean Tigana (Fulham; 2000 – 2003) and Ruud Gullet (Chelsea and Newcastle; 1996 – 1999) as just the third black manager in the history of the Greatest League in the World™.
Ince has been given a three-year deal with Rovers, following in the footsteps of ex-partner-in-crime (not literally you racists!) Mark Hughes at
Things however are not looking so bright for another black player from about the same era with similar aspirations to push on to top flight management. John Barnes, perhaps the most decorated English black player of all time, has been searching for vacancies in the lower leagues without success for some time now. “I've applied for numerous jobs and sometimes I haven't even had the courtesy of a reply to my application letter,” Barnes told BBC Sport. “Perhaps I could understand it if I was applying for jobs at the top level but these were clubs in League One.” The whole process has left the former
“I believe the situation for black managers is like it was for black players back in the 1970s,” he stated. “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 (where) Chairmen don't believe we can do the top managerial jobs.” Turning to describe the situation experienced by Luther Blissett, a former England international who played abroad at the top level, Barnes continued: “He has been applying for manager's jobs in the Football League for 15 years and not got anywhere. This is all about opportunities.”
Keith Alexander, who succeeded Ince at Macclesfield, is currently the only other black manager in the Football League, but more worryingly, the Warwick Business School recently released statistics showing that there are only seven other black coaches of any capacity in the leagues. This constitutes just 1% of the total number of coaches operating at all levels, despite the fact that more than 20% of all players are currently black.
Barnes is obviously full of praise for Ince’s achievement, but is cautious about holding him up as some kind of archetype for all black managers being capable of the same level of success: “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.” Still, the admiring respect can’t help but shine through Barnes, as it does also STT: “He has done things the hard way, proving himself with Macclesfield and MK Dons; while Roy Keane and Gareth Southgate were given chances at the top, he went to the bottom club in the league.”