Glory, Glory…

23 06 2008

Football and race have rarely worked well together in modern times. There was the appaling monkey chants in the Spain-England friendly a few years ago. Trips to eastern Europe still see such ignorance occurring from an increasingly small minority in the stands. Whilst there are numbers of black players, there are few from Hinduism, or Sikhism. That said, racism is thankfully dying (albeit slowly), on a football stage at least.

The news today that Paul Ince is to be confirmed as the new manager of Blackburn Rovers is something which is painfully groundbreaking. Ince will be the first black Briton to manage in the top flight of English football. His two (yes, just two) black predecessors (Jean Tigana and Ruud Gullit) failed to have a real, lasting impact on English football (discounting, of course, Gullit’s “sexy football” comments).

To emphasise the importance of this step is both easy and difficult. On the one hand, we are in 2008. Race issues do still occur worldwide, but in Britain at least, we have long since departed from the issues relating to racial equality. It is obvious that black people can be promoted to high positions in companies. On the other, football is an interesting beast, removed slightly from the realities of society (a problem exacerbated by the increasing truckloads of cash being thrown around- how anyone can justify spending £50million [as Ronaldo is rumoured to be worth] on one man is beyond me). Race problems are still there, under the surface. Ince’s appointment is just one further step at eroding these problems. It will not, obviously, cure all the problems, but it will contribute in a meaningful way.

Ince is a beacon. Not only for black people, but for young people as well. He has worked hard, throughout his career. Whilst, it can be argued, loyalty was maybe not his strongest attribute, commitment for a cause was certainly one. Anyone remember his bloodied head following a match against Italy? Respected as a player by most people in football, Ince began his management career at Macclesfield Town. He then proceeded to keep them in the football league, something of a minor miracle. He followed that up by getting MK Dons promoted. Now he joins Blackburn. The step up is big, but Ince will make it with ease.

Quite why this appointment (not of Ince necessarily, but of another black manager) has taken so long is anyones guess. There is, of course, a dearth of black managers out there. Those who are there are have failed to move higher than League 1. These are the problems which still need addressing, how can we improve the situation for these people, what can be done to help black people make it in the game outside of playing it? Ince will act as a signal, a starting point. I hope we see more talented black managers making it big sooner rather than later.

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