The average tenure of a football manager is 21 months. A frightening statistic, but at least with so many vacancies being created there is plenty of opportunity.
Except, that is, if you are black. Of the 92 League clubs none, since Chris Hughton was sacked by Norwich in April, has a black manager. It is a statistic that would put off most aspirant minority managers, indeed, several have said it is not even worth taking coaching qualifications as they do not believe there is any chance of a job at the end of it.
This is not a view shared by Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink. The former Chelsea, Leeds United, Middlesbrough and Atletico Madrid striker is back in England after a spell managing Belgian club Royal Antwerp and is actively job-hunting. He has also signed up to take his Uefa Pro Licence – the highest coaching qualification – in September having already reached Uefa A level.
“You have to do your papers, then apply,” Hasselbaink told The Independent on Sunday. “If then you don’t get the job you can have the argument. If you don’t put yourself in the mix then you can’t say there is a problem. Is there racism against black managers? I don’t know how to answer that because I don’t know how many black managers are applying for jobs. If a lot of black managers are applying and not getting jobs then there is a problem, but I don’t know if they are. I know Chris Hughton and Paul Ince are, but not many others.”
On his A licence course, done with ex-pros like Gus Poyet and Gianfranco Zola, Hasselbaink was the only black candidate.
The scarcity of black managers, in a game in which a third of the players are black, has led to calls for the introduction of legislation akin to the Rooney rule in the NFL which requires a minority candidate to be interviewed for every coaching vacancy.
Hasselbaink does not agree. “I think you should appoint someone because they are the right person, not because they are black or white. I wouldn’t want to be waiting for an interview thinking they only asked me because I was black. I want to know they asked me because they think I can do the job.”
Hasselbaink’s playing CV was impressive, his coaching CV is thinner, but he is only just starting out and it is better than many of his peers. Having been a coach at Nottingham Forest, working with Steve McClaren (under whom he played at Middlesbrough), he went on to learn his trade in the Belgian second division. At Antwerp he found a club with a grand pedigree, but not the resources to match. “There was no infrastructure at the club. I had to do everything by myself: the scouting, the contract meetings, even ordering the balls for training sessions. I did everything a director of football does, plus the coaching and the fitness work.
“I had so many jobs. It was great experience, and because of that I don’t regret going there, but it was just too much. I needed help in a few areas but they could not agree I was going to get that help. They wanted to cut the budget, but still to improve the playing staff and the league position. I had to be realistic, and be honest enough to say ‘I am not going to deliver that’. I feel I did a magnificent job. I had to make a new team. I brought in a lot of young players. I worked with them, developed them, got them playing and understanding the game, what is required of them.”
Among them was John Bostock, the next big thing when Tottenham signed him from Crystal Palace for £700,000 at 16, but 21 and drifting when he got to Antwerp. “He needed to play, to get confidence, and he did magnificently for me,” said Hasselbaink. For his part Bostock said, in a mid-season interview: “We have the Dutch total football mentality. We try to play the ball out every time. We try and build and dominate the game. The ball’s not going to be in the final third the whole time, we wait for the right time to penetrate.”
Hasselbaink added: “The two seasons before I arrived [Antwerp] came 10th; last season we came seventh. It is a big club. It has been in the second division for 10 years because it has been struggling with ownership and direction, but potentially it is very big club with prospects.
“That is why I went there. Even if we had the same budget as last year with someone to help me I would have been able to get them in the play-offs easily, but the money is not there. I put in a base, a platform, they can go now and work with that. For me it is time to do something else. I don’t want to be in a situation where I get calls from players saying ‘my electricity isn’t working because the club has not paid the bill’, or ‘I have to take my car back because it is not being paid for’. The manager should not be the one to have to sort those things out.”
With an English wife, and his children in school in England, Hasselbaink wants to work here, ideally at Championship level. “I am looking for the right opportunity, a club that is honest. It is not about money, it is about the challenge: where a club wants to go, how, and when they want to get there. It has to be realistic. There has to be a plan. I like working with people, someone like a director of football so I can concentrate on the team. I am not a manager who only comes on the pitch on Friday, I like the coaching.”
As well as the experience he picked up in Belgium he has a wealth of knowledge acquired from his playing days citing Louis van Gaal, George Graham and McClaren as his main influences. “I am my own man, but you learn from them all,” he said. Now he wants to put those lessons into practice.
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