Barnes: Hughton success changes nothing for black bosses
Written by Simon Austin — April 20, 2017
JOHN BARNES does not believe Chris Hughton’s success at Brighton will help the plight of black managers, because he will be “elevated out of blackness”.
Hughton has masterminded the Seagulls’ promotion to the Premier League for the first time in their history – and with three matches to spare. His achievements have been seen as a shot in the arm for black managers, as he is one of only two black bosses currently plying their trade among the 92 League clubs.
Following the sacking of Grimsby Town’s Marcus Bignot last week, Carlisle United’s Keith Curle is the only other black manager.
Barnes, who has not worked in management since being sacked by Tranmere in October 2009, told TGG: “What happens is that Chris Hughton is elevated out of blackness. His fantastic achievements will not change the perception of blackness, which is a perception in society as a whole.
“It doesn't need me to tell you there are hardly any black managers. For that to change, the perception of blackness needs to change. That’s not Chris's issue - what he has done is phenomenal. He has proven he is an excellent manager capable of operating at the very top level.
“But his achievements have not suddenly changed the perception of black managers, they don’t mean the situation has improved.”
When we spoke, Barnes was in South Africa, where he works as a TV pundit for SuperSport during their Champions League coverage. The two-time Championship winner, who has 79 England caps, still harbours hope of being a manager though.
His last job was at League One Tranmere, where he lasted only 12 games before being sacked. He admits he was subsequently discouraged by job applications often going unanswered and by the plight of black managers as a whole.
Barnes the manager
- Celtic (June 99 - Feb 00): 29 games, 65.5% wins
- Jamaica (Sep 08 - Jun 09): 11 games, 63.6% wins
- Tranmere (Jun 09-Oct09): 12 games, 25% wins
“I haven’t given up on the idea but the proof is in the pudding, there aren’t many black managers, and I haven’t applied for too many jobs in recent years,” admits Barnes, who is an ambassador for Bonus Code Bets.
Barnes' first job in management came at Celtic in June 1999. His time at the Scottish giants ended ignominiously, after just 29 games, in the wake of the humiliating Cup defeat by minnow Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
The former Liverpool star is widely regarded to have been an abject failure at Celtic Park, but when he was dismissed, Barnes had the second best win percentage of any one of the club's managers except Jock Stein - and that was despite the absence of star striker Henrik Larsson for half of the campaign after the Swede suffered a horrific leg break in October 1999.
"People say I wasn’t qualified for the job in the first place," Barnes says, "but I was equally as qualified as Kenny Dalglish had been when he took over at Liverpool or Bryan Robson when he took over at Middlesbrough.
“People say I was a failure. And the defeat by Caly was really bad. But when I was sacked, there was only one permanent manager who had a better win percentage than me and that was Jock Stein.
“Black managers have to be more successful than white managers. White managers are given longer, that's a fact. Look at Chris Hughton's record, how many times he has had to prove himself all over again, despite having an excellent record.
"I had 12 games at Tranmere. I have been asked if black players can make good managers and that is an inherently racist question, because it assumes there is a possibility that they might not be.”
After Celtic, Barnes had to wait eight years for his next managerial opportunity, which came with the Jamaica national team. They finished top of the 2008 Caribbean championships, before he left to take charge of Tranmere. That ended with the sack after 12 games.
“People say I have been a failure as a manager," says Barnes, who is currently writing a book about the issue of race in society. "I disagree with the assessment, but fair enough. How many white managers have failed and carried on getting jobs though?
“I don’t think there is conscious racism from owners - but then it isn’t with people who are recruiting bankers or journalists either. I would like to see a piece about why there aren’t any black sports journalists, for example. I have never seen that piece. Why not?"
Barnes argues that football – and society as a whole - often misses the point (perhaps deliberately) by focussing on the language of political correctness instead of what people actually do.
“We kid ourselves that racism has been banished and is only an isolated problem, with people like Dave Whelan," he says.
“When Dave Whelan said we have all been down to the chinky there was an outcry. But I’ve said that and so have a lot of people. I don't really care about language, I care about intentions. Let’s have some honesty here.
“Journalists were throwing their arms up in the air in disgust at the comments. But how many black journalists are there? If journalists really wanted to do something, they would put the spotlight on their own industry and try and make changes, but they don't.
“Political correctness has become a shield – learn the right words and it’s ok. Alan Hansen had to apologise for calling a player 'coloured'. His intentions were positive. And when we played together, we were told you had to call black people coloured.
“Come here to South Africa and people are coloured, not black. I was at an event in Norway a few weeks ago and was introduced as the ‘first top non white player for Liverpool.’ I said ‘black would have done’ and the lady replied ‘but we can’t call people black here'."