Paul Ince: 'The lack of opportunity for black coaches is alarming'

Paul Ince of Blackburn celebrates a last minute winning goal duirng the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Blackburn Rovers - Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Paul Ince of Blackburn celebrates a last minute winning goal duirng the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Blackburn Rovers - Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Paul Ince has spoken of his “alarm” that 15 years after he was appointed by Blackburn Rovers he remains the only black British manager to have taken charge of a Premier League club on a permanent basis.

“It’s the 21st Century and I am not only the first black British manager to have worked in the Premier League but, 15 years later, the only one,” he says in an exclusive interview with Telegraph Sport. “I couldn’t say no because I was a trailblazer. You want to use that so that hopefully others follow. But that’s not happened. That’s quite sad. Hopefully in five years’ time… but then who? Who is going to make that jump? I don’t know. I don’t see it.”

It is a mark of the responsibility that Ince feels that he passionately discusses the importance of bringing through black coaches, although it is sad that he admits he will discourage his 30-year-old son Tom to consider that path when he retires.

Tom is a player at Reading where his father is the manager and where they are preparing for a prestigious fourth round FA Cup tie against Ince’s former club, Manchester United, at Old Trafford.

“How many black managers and coaches are there? It doesn’t bode well. I have my son Thomas who is 30 now and six, seven years’ time…” Ince says.

Is Thomas thinking about coaching?

“Why would I put him into it? Is he going to get the chance? I don’t think so,” Ince argues. “It’s why you see so many ex-players go straight into media. Look at someone like Sol Campbell – first job he got was Macclesfield. First job I got was Macclesfield. Other players are getting bigger clubs.

Tom Ince at Reading - Ed Sykes/Reuters
Tom Ince at Reading - Ed Sykes/Reuters

“Look at someone like John Barnes. When you talk to him about football, some of the things he says are amazing. After he left Tranmere he couldn’t get a job. How can he not get a job? It’s madness.

“There is definitely something there. There has to be an opportunity for black coaches. It’s really alarming. Some people turn a blind eye to it but I, for one, wouldn’t push my son into management at this moment in time. But that’s not my decision. It’s his decision.

“I worry about the future. I worry about black players coming to the end of their time, will there be avenues for them in coaching? Fifteen years down the line and we haven’t moved on.”

Ince lasted just 17 games at Blackburn, and admits it came too soon in his managerial career which started at Macclesfield Town and then MK Dons. Since then there have been caretakers and interims in Terry Connor, Chris Ramsey and Hayden Mullins while Darren Moore was only given the full-time job at West Bromwich Albion after they were relegated in 2018. Chris Hughton at Brighton is often cited, and was born in London, but he is Irish.

Ince claims clubs the football bodies such as the FA, PFA and LMA talk about giving black coaches a chance but are paying lip-service. “We talk about this Rooney rule we have in America. Clubs try and make out they are aware of it but their eyes are shut,” he says. “I just hope that going forward we make sure that there are enough black coaches going for interviews, that there is a pool big enough so that every time a job comes up they do have to interview a black manager. He might not get the first job, or second job but might get the third one. It will have a domino effect.”

Given he is one of the few black British managers, Ince says it is important for him to speak out.

“I do, I do,” he says. “I feel sometimes we need a voice. But the voice when we talk about black coaches always comes from black people. As the years have gone on, nothing has really changed.”