Sunday 15 September 2019

'There's still a stigma around appointing black managers' - Ex-England striker says mindsets need to change

Carlton Cole spent nine years at West Ham (John Walton/EMPICS).
Carlton Cole spent nine years at West Ham (John Walton/EMPICS).
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

Former England striker Carlton Cole admits the lack of black role models in coaching remains a serious issue in the game, after he suggested there was 'a stigma' around handing managerial positions to black candidates.

Speaking to Independent.ie as he oversaw a coaching camp for kids at The Campus, Quinta do Lago, West Ham under-18s coach Cole told us that he feels pressure to succeed as he looks to break down barriers that remain in place blocking black former players moving into management.

Darren Moore's surprise sacking at West Bromwich Albion after he led the club into a strong position in the Championship promotion race last month sparked a debate over the treatment of black coaching talent, with Cole telling us there still needs to be a big drive for change.

"There is still a stigma about appointing black managers, there is no doubt about it, but we have to try and find a way around that," former Chelsea striker Cole told us. 
"To be honest, I didn't think about the colour of my skin when decided to get into coaching, but now that I am doing it, I appreciate that there are not many of black roles models in the kind of coaching position I'm in.

"When I was at Chelsea, we had Ruud Gullit in charge and he was a legend of the game. We saw Paul Ince get a few jobs and John Barnes getting a brief chance at Celtic, but there is clearly a lack of black former players getting chances.

"No black manager has really has nailed it in a managerial role and that's an issue for guys trying to get into the game. The lack of opportunities is clearly an issue here, but I hope people like myself getting involved in coaching can help.

"There are some excellent black coaches out there working with under-18 and under-23 teams and they have great respect in the game. I look at Chris Ramsey at QPR and while he has got his own style and his own way of doing things, he gets the job done.

"Darren Moore's (below) sacking at West Brom baffled everyone. He got them into a good position and was fired without a proper reason, but we don't know what went on there.

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Darren Moore feels there is complacency in the fight against racism (Danny Lawson/PA)

"From my perspective, I appreciate the need to get this right now that I have moved into coaching. "There is a pressure for me to get it right and make a positive impression as a coach first and then as a black coach. I hope we get to a point where people don't say we are a black or white coach and just ask; is he good enough."

Cole has been working alongside Jack Collison and Mark Phillips with West Ham's rising stars in recent months and he admits he has taken time to adapt from his mindset as a player to becoming a coach.

"You still feel like you want to have the banter in the dressing room, but there is a need to step back from that because the players look at you as a leader and you need that space between them," he adds.

"Also, I realise that this is like starting all over again. I had some fears about getting into coaching and that was nothing to do with being black and more about questioning whether I was up to the job of being a coach or a manager.

"Just because you had a good playing career does not mean you will make it as a coach and this is a new skill for me to learn.

"When you are working with young players, they expect you to know what you are talking about because you have been there, seen it and achieved something in the game, but it doesn't work like that.

"I watched a programme on Pep Guardiola the other day and he admitted he doesn't know all the answers most of the time. He said that himself in this programme. The key is to make sure the players you are working with don't know you are saying things that might not be right. You need them to believe you know your stuff because players are looking to you for leadership.

"Sometimes managers need luck and we have seen that with some of the massive games over the last few weeks. Managers are winging it and taking chances with their decisions and they don't always work, but you have to be prepared to take chances to make it as a coach.

"What you do need as a coach is an ability to treat people properly and I feel like I am am real people's person. Players have to like the person they are working with at some level and I feel I can understand people and how to make them tick."

Carlton Cole spoke to Independent.ie at The Campus, Quinta do Lago, as he oversaw an Easter coaching camp for junior players.

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