Issues of race have been in the spotlight again following the emergence of the disgraceful text message exchanges between Malky Mackay and Iain Moody. It’s once again raised questions about just how widespread racism is in football.
Sol Campbell and others have been vocal in their claims that racism is preventing former black players embark upon careers in management. Some have shouted them down. The whole climate seems to emphasise just what a thorny and divisive issue this can be.
But when it comes to black managers, what’s particularly frustrating is the anecdotal nature of the debate. One side of the argument sees John Barnes mentioned. He was rubbish at Celtic and Tranmere, they’ll say, so what are black players moaning about?
On the other hand, Alan Shearer walked into a top Premier League job with no badges at all so this is surely proof that white players get preferential treatment?
Instinctively, I know racism exists and the fact that until recently there was not a single black manager among the 92 league clubs is a damning statistic that cannot be ignored. However, logic also tells me that some of the arguments put forward are a disingenuous.
For example, the average of a Premier League manager is 52. There are five top-flight managers in their 60s and just one (Garry Monk) in his thirties. As a result, it makes little sense to look at how many black players there are now and argue that there should be a similar percentage of managers – the managers of today are the players of a quarter of a century ago. Those are the stats that matter.
It seems that finding any kind of substance to the debate is difficult but curiosity led me to some crude research. Viv Anderson, now 58, was the first black man to represent England in 1978 and the 936th overall. Sol Campbell, 40, became the 1074th player to represent England in 1996.
By looking at the 139 players from Anderson to Campbell, we can find out how many black England internationals went on to manage in the Football League and come to a more informed estimate of how many we might have expected to go into management. Hopefully it’s of some interest…
30 of the 139 England players are black – 22 per cent in total
38 of the 139 England players became managers in the English professional game
6 of the 38 managers were black – 16 per cent in total
These are relatively small sample sizes so this is not a robust test. For example, three fewer black managers would mean just 9 per cent had gone into management. Three more and we’d have hit the 22 per cent figure – exactly the same as the percentage of black England players in the period.
This study doesn’t reveal the quality of the jobs. Perhaps white former England players get to start higher up the pyramid?
It doesn’t reveal the time and support they received in the jobs. For example, Ricky Hill is included despite having only a brief stint at Luton.
Hill later went abroad. This study does not include those who have had managerial careers abroad but never in England. Whether it’s Gary Stevens in Azerbaijan, Brian Deane in Norway or Andy Gray in Sierra Leone, they’re not included here.
This also doesn’t include those who went into non-league management. The likes of Steve Bull at Stafford Rangers and Paul Parker at Welling United are not included here.
It doesn’t include those who have taken jobs as assistants or other good jobs in the game. So Les Ferdinand at Spurs or Brian Marwood at Man City are not counted.
It doesn’t take into account those who perhaps could’ve gone into management but didn’t. Many former England players – black and white – are working in the media, such as Stan Collymore, Lee Dixon, Gary Lineker and Ian Wright.
Is there racism already within the sample? Should there have been more black England players in the first place?
This hints at a potentially bigger issue. Maybe it’s not internationals that are the biggest problem. After all, the likes of Paul Ince have reputations within the game that transcend colour. Is it far easier for non-international whites such as Alan Pardew to get to the top than their blacks counterparts?
A smaller percentage of new black internationals between 1978 and 1996 – the optimum ages for today’s managers – went into management in this country than their white colleagues.
The contrast is not as stark as some of the more sensational headlines, but it does suggest that there’s an issue that needs to be addressed.
One of the ways of doing that is by examining the facts in some sort of depth. Better that than citing one-off examples of the failure of a Barnes or the fortune of a Shearer…