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Page last updated at 05:40 GMT, Monday, 23 June 2008 06:40 UK

Barnes battles for post as boss

By Simon Austin

John Barnes and Paul Ince
Barnes says Ince's elevation does not mean a new dawn for black bosses

During Paul Ince's rise to the rarefied heights of the Premier League, John Barnes has been struggling to even get recognition in the foothills of the game.

Ince became the top flight's first black English manager when he was appointed as Mark Hughes' successor at Blackburn on Sunday.

Barnes, on the other hand, has been applying for vacancies in the lower leagues without success.

It is a situation that has left England's finest black player perplexed, frustrated and angry.

"I've applied for numerous jobs and sometimes I haven't even had the courtesy of a reply to my application letter," Barnes told BBC Sport.

"Perhaps I could understand it if I was applying for jobs at the top level but these were clubs in League One."

Barnes, whose playing career included spells at Watford and Liverpool, did get a big break when he was appointed head coach of Celtic in 1999 in tandem with director of football Kenny Dalglish.

Managers: Paul Ince (Blackburn), Keith Alexander (Macclesfield)
Assistants: Keith Curle (Crystal Palace), Iffy Onuora (Lincoln)
First team coaches: Chris Hughton (Newcastle), Terry Connor (Wolves)
Other: Noel Blake (England Under-16 coach), Chris Ramsay (Tottenham Under-16 coach), Steve Brown (QPR Centre of Excellence boss)
* From Warwick Business School

He was sacked eight months into his troubled tenure, the final straw being the now infamous 3-1 defeat by Inverness Caledonian Thistle in the Scottish Cup.

The former England winger admits he made mistakes at Celtic but not enough to consign him to the managerial scrapheap forever.

"There aren't many managers who have never made mistakes, especially early on in their careers," said Barnes.

"You learn from your mistakes and come back stronger and better from them. There are also plenty of managers who keep failing but continue to get employed.

"I'm passionate about football and management and am willing to make my way up from the bottom but I'm not getting any opportunities."

While the 44-year-old is delighted by Ince's appointment, he is sceptical about whether it will herald a new dawn for black bosses.

His experiences, as well of those of other aspiring black managers like Luther Blissett, have persuaded him that there is not equality of opportunity.

"I believe the situation for black managers is like it was for black players back in the 1970s," he stated.

"Black players used to be put out on the wing because it was deemed they could run fast but not think too well.

"They weren't trusted to be a playmaker in central midfield or to wear the captain's armband.

"Now I think there is an analogous situation in management. Chairmen don't believe we can do the top managerial jobs.

"I look at someone like Luther Blissett, who is a former England international and has played abroad at the top level.

"He has been applying for manager's jobs in the Football League for 15 years and not got anywhere. This is all about opportunities."

John Barnes
Winger Barnes won 79 England caps and made over 300 league appearances for Liverpool
Although Ince's appointment has been heralded as a major breakthrough for black managers, there is still a dearth of coaches of non-white bosses in the game.

Keith Alexander, who succeeded Ince at Macclesfield, is the only other black manager in the Football League.

Even more startling is the statistic, provided by Warwick Business School, that there are only seven other black coaches of any capacity in the league.

This constitutes only about 1% of the total number of coaches - despite more than 20% of players being black.

Perhaps drawing on his own experiences at Celtic, Barnes says it is unfair to hold Ince up as a pioneer for all black managers.

He said: "If he doesn't succeed, does that count against all black managers? I don't think so, just as if he does succeed it doesn't mean all black managers are good."

Barnes, who is currently working as a television pundit and a part-time scout for Sunderland, says he has the utmost respect for what Ince has achieved.

"He has done things the hard way, proving himself with Macclesfield and MK Dons," commented Barnes. "While Roy Keane and Gareth Southgate were given chances at the top, he went to the bottom club in the league.

"I really hope he can succeed at Blackburn."

see also
Blackburn appoint Ince as manager
22 Jun 08 |  Blackburn
Comment: Ince deserves chance
22 Jun 08 |  Football
Paul Ince career photos
22 Jun 08 |  Blackburn
Ince keen to act as black pioneer
28 Mar 08 |  Football
Focus: Football's black mark
22 Feb 07 |  Football
Hughes becomes Man City manager
05 Jun 08 |  Man City
Ince thrilled after title triumph
27 Apr 08 |  Milton Keynes
Ince unveiled as new MK Dons boss
25 Jun 07 |  Milton Keynes
Macclesfield appoint Ince as boss
23 Oct 06 |  Macclesfield
Barnes forced out
10 Feb 00 |  Scotland

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