Black guys must go out there and push themselves forward, says Powell

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The Independent Online

Chris Powell, the Charlton Athletic manager, would give a cautious welcome to a move aimed at increasing the number of black managers in English football suggested by the Professional Footballers' Association.

Gordon Taylor, the PFA chief executive, has proposed that clubs should be forced to include at least one candidate from an ethnic minority on the shortlist for a managerial vacancy. Powell, one of only two black managers among the 92 in the top four divisions, along with Chris Hughton of Birmingham City, is in favour up to a point.

"I appreciate the need for it, of course I do – anything that's positive for aspiring black managers and coaches out there," he said. "But it has to be done for the right reasons. I want people to be interviewed if they tick all the right boxes. What I don't want is people to think: 'Well, we have to interview someone from an ethnic minority.' If that person is not qualified to do the job, then there's no point. So I want them to strike the right balance."

The inspiration behind the plan is American Football's similar "Rooney Rule," originally proposed by Dan Rooney, the chairman of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who were among the first NFL teams to hire a black head coach, Mike Tomlin. But Powell warns against expecting similar results here too soon.

"It has happened over time in America, so it would have to happen over time here," he said. "I would like qualified people, black, white, it doesn't matter, to be on the shortlist for a job. If this rule would help that, fine. But in America they have so many black coaches in American football, in basketball, they have been in the game for a long time. Here we are still trying to make sure there are more players going through the process [of becoming coaches] before they can go for jobs."

As a former chairman of the PFA, Powell is well aware of the difficulties of implementing Taylor's suggestion. "A lot of people will have to be involved if you're going to implement a rule like that," he said. "You've got all the stakeholders, the PFA, the Football League, the Premier League, the FA, the government."

A Charlton legend as a player with over 250 appearances to his name in three spells at The Valley, Powell was appointed manager in January after making a name for himself as a coach at Leicester City under Nigel Pearson and then Sven Goran Eriksson. But he had already done a stint as player-coach at Charlton under Alan Pardew in 2007, promoted because Pardew believed in "affirmative action" to increase the number of black coaches. He welcomes the opportunity to be a trailblazer for aspiring black coaches.

"There should be more," he said. "I want black guys to go out there and push themselves forward. I know it's not easy, it will never be easy, and I don't want it to be easy. I want guys to work hard to be in my position and have to do their best. Chris Hughton has proved himself and now people are looking at my first full season. I want them to know that I'm out there, and I've got Alex Dyer, a black coach, alongside me, and we want to be positive and do a job for Charlton. That is our priority and if that helps black ex-players to go down the coaching route, then great."

Powell has provided a positive model after a shaky finish to last season, earning a place on a shortlist himself – the nominations for League One manager of the month for August. He signed 18 players and shipped out 14 in the summer and Charlton are unbeaten so far this season, with four wins and two draws. He seems on the way to both disproving the notion that a nice guy (and he is certainly that) cannot be an effective manager, and cementing rather than tarnishing his reputation at the club.

"The only way I can do that is by managing my group of players in the way I see fit, helping us progress as a football club," he said. "Playing for Charlton was a great part of my footballing life that I'll never forget. I love this place, and from my three spells here I know what the fans want and I want it too – it will be good for us to share it together.

"But I haven't done anything yet. When you think things are easy it can bite you back. Maybe at the end of May we can look back and say: 'That was great.'"

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