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'FA scheme could be a watershed moment for black coaches'

OPPORTUNITY: Terry Connor is one of the black coaches on placement in the England set-up over the next few fixtures

IT IS always good to see a football manager put their faith in youth and so I reacted to Gareth Southgate’s latest England squad with a lot of warmth towards Jadon Sancho, James Maddison, and Mason Mount – three young players who have not been called up for the senior team before.

Indeed, Jadon is the first man to be called up for England who was born this century. Twenty-three of the 24 others were born in the 1990s.

They take their places alongside Marcus Bettinelli, his Southampton counterpart Alex McCarthy (the “old man” of the squad at 28!) and Watford midfielder Nathaniel Chalobah as fellow uncapped players in the squad to play Croatia and Spain.

It’s good news, it’s in keeping with what we know about Gareth’s selection policy and it shows that if you are playing regularly – even in Jadon’s case in Germany for Dortmund - you will be spotted.

As delighted as I am, you’ll forgive me if I concentrate on some other England call-ups this week.

Not as young certainly but with every bit as much promise as the players I've mentioned.

Paul Nevin is Brighton’s first team coach working alongside Chris Hughton. He’d previously spent eight years coaching at Fulham, and as a player he performed with distinction at Shrewsbury, Carlisle and Yeovil.

Terry Connor was formerly assistant manager at Wolves and Ipswich and older readers will remember him as no-nonsense centre-forward scoring goals for Leeds, Brighton, Portsmouth and Bristol City.

Very good and very long footballing CVs for both of them and this week they joined another man who has given a lot to the game - one Sol Campbell (73 England caps, two Premier League titles) - as coaches on placement in the England set-up over the next few fixtures.

Sol, you will recall, got so fed up with the lack of opportunities for BAME coaches – even for someone with his stellar playing career - that he offered to go and work for a non-league club on a “win-bonus-only" deal.

“I’m up for that,” he said last year. “I’m itching to start, I just need a chance, even just an interview in which I can say: ‘Take me for free and I’ll show you what I can do’.”

Now, he and Terry and Paul have that chance - at international level.

As Paul himself says: "When I got the call I was absolutely delighted and feel it's a very privileged position.”

The idea is that BAME coaches will work with England at all levels (in the men’s and women’s game) to “help solve the challenge of under-representation”.

It is part of a three-year strategy to “lead the way across the game in terms of equality, diversity and inclusion”.

We at Kick It Out helped the FA put together their “Equality Action Plan” (from where this move comes) so I am bound to welcome the news and wish everyone the very best even if, as I may have mentioned once or twice before, it has been a long time coming.

I have also said that this could well be a “watershed moment” and would echo what my friend and colleague (and Kick It Out founder ) Paul Elliott – now head of the FA’s Inclusion Advisory Board said this week.

“I have long felt that having more visibility around the national team could only serve to inspire others to follow in their footsteps as well as ensuring these coaches can take their work to another level. I think in future we will look back at this as moment as a defining one for coaching in this country,” he said.

And Chris Hughton has backed it as well. “Any initiative or push that can be a positive, I think will be a positive. I'm really delighted with it."

And Chris is right - it is just that - a push. A push in the right direction but a push none the less.

Yes, it does feel a bit odd that coaches with such rich pedigrees and dedication to the game such as Paul, Terry and Sol are beneficiaries of a placement - an attachment scheme if you like – but I am sure this will help correct what has been a long-running blight on football.

It’s not a substitute for equality of opportunity and it is not as I have seen it described as a token gesture.

I’ve worked alongside all the game’s governing bodies – we haven’t always agreed and I know at times they have frustrated me every bit as much as I'm sure I have irritated them.

But if this is a result – this small but significant step - then I am proud to be irritating and I hope that the BAME coaches, managers and administrators of the future - who knows one of them could be Jadon Sancho - look on this week with pride.

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