One of my darkest days as a United fan came in May 1999 when the Reds took on Liverpool in at Anfield in the Premier League.
Goals from Dwight Yorke and Denis Irwin saw United in the driving seat, before a dubious penalty gave Liverpool a lifeline.
Then came the moment, I’ll never forget despite the fact I’d like to, Paul Ince my former hero, the player I’d admired most in the early 90’s scored a last minute equaliser. It was what followed that shocked me though and is the only time I’ve ever come close to fighting with fellow United fans.
In the pub in the middle of Manchester, where I watched the game, as Ince celebrated as though he’d just single-handedly won the cup world cup, several ‘Reds’ started shouting racist abuse at the screen. I was as angry as any other United fan was to see a player who’d left us for Inter and the lure of lire, then joined our arch rivals now rejoicing infront of the Kop but there was no way I was about to indulge in that sort of thing- and it isn’t because I’m the same colour as Ince- I’ve never called a white player a racist name.
I was more angry with the racist United fans than I was with Ince and me and a few friends almost got into a fight with them- before they apologised and admitted the real enemy was now a ‘dipper’ not anything colour related.
The point is, I know racism existed and still exists in football and I know that Paul Ince has been a victim of it over the years- just ask Stuart Pearce -for that story click here -or a section of West Ham fans back in the early 90s.
However Oliver Holts latest article that claims Ince was the victim of ‘double standards’ as a manager- and English football would benefit from the ‘Rooney Rule,’ is completely misguided and full of holes.
Holt hasn’t even done his homework claiming: “Ince became the first black Premier League manager when he was made Blackburn boss in June 2008.” –ignoring the fact that Ruud Gullit and Jean Tigana had both managed in the Premier League before that.
Holt insuates that Ince was sacked too soon ‘only 177 days in the job’ and that there were erroneous rumours about him only attending training twice a week.
“Even if Ince had only turned up a couple of days a week at Blackburn, how would that make him any different from a series of high-profile white managers lauded for their hands-off approach?
“Not at all, is the answer. Except maybe that the white managers were more experienced. And yes, sadly, that their skin was of a different hue.”
Ince was sacked because he won three games out of 17 and the club decided to act, that record lost him his job, not the colour of his skin.
That’s not the problem I have with his article- after all the fact that there’d only been two black EPL managers before Ince and one since- is something of a disgrace and sacking managers is all too rife in the EPL.
My worry is the idea that the ‘Rooney Rule’ which is used in the NFL and ensures that club’s must interview at least one African-American candidate for any coaches job, would cause more harm than good in this country.
The reason I believe this is two-fold, one clubs could just interview any black candidate, regardless of ability simply to adhere to the rules and secondly it could cause more resentment and increase racism in football.
Let me ask you this, if a team is struggling and the manager happens to be black and was employed after the Rooney Rule came in, do you suspect that one or two fans may feel angry about it? Do you think that maybe one or two fans may even feel racist about it? Do you think it could set a bad precedent whereby other clubs see this and simply interview and don’t employ black managers?
I could envision all those things happening and feel it would be totally counter-productive.
I admit that the lack of black managers needs addressing but forcing clubs to interview them is not the answer, more encouragement to black players to take their coaching badges would be a step in the right direction, perhaps an initiative by the FA or PFA to encourage it would help.
I work in an office where out of around 50 members of staff I’m the only black or mixed race person but I don’t feel my boss should be forced to interview black people for the next vacancy. I know him and he employs based on ability not colour.
I referee at a five a side league where again I’m the only non-white ref, but I know for a fact that it isn’t racism that’s preventing more black referees being employed there. The reason I know this is because I also do shifts on reception where it’s my job to hire the refs for the night and we simply haven’t had any black referees sign up this season, or the past two.
It’s easy to try and force people to make their workplace more diverse and I do agree we need more black managers and coaches. However, I do feel that the ‘Rooney Rule’ would be a recipe for disaster. My fear is it would create resentment and more racism, rather than increase diversity.
Check out Holt’s article here– he may have taken out the ‘first black manager sentence’ by time you do.
Am I wrong? Is the Rooney Rule the answer? Is my ‘encouaging black players to take coaching badges’ idea enough?
Feel free to comment, suggest and abuse- non-racially of course- below: