Custom Search 1

'Sol Campbell is an inspiration for young black coaches'

INSPIRATIONAL: Sol Campbell after the press conference at Moss Rose, Macclesfield yesterday

I can remember where I was. Standing at the head of a class of school children on a summer’s day in Hackney about to start a PE lesson. The school secretary rushed in and said: “Troy, you’ll never guess what’s happened!” A few thoughts quickly went through my mind before she told me, slightly breathlessly, that Sol Campbell had signed for Arsenal.

As a Tottenham fan, but aware I was in a hall full of kids, my reply, “You are joking”, was considerably less x-rated than it might have been.
I was disappointed, yes, sad, definitely, and a bit angry.

I loved the fella for his quality his imperiousness, and in a Spurs side with a good few stars in it, he was our best player.

We all know the unforgivable abuse Sol then suffered. It may have started out as anger between two sworn north London enemies but it was violently and viciously racist and homophobic too.

I got the hurt part, I really did. I couldn’t get the scale of the vitriol and hate.

I am sure Sol will draw on his strength and belief that saw him through those times when he encounters difficulties- as every manager does – while in the hot seat at Macclesfield. You don’t get 73 caps for England by being weak.

Despite getting his coaching badges and playing at the very highest level of the game, when it came to managerial opportunities, he was told he lacked “experience” – something many black coaches hear.

Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard also lacked experience but they walked into big jobs. I have all the respect in the world for Macclesfield – let's not forget they have also had Keith Alexander and Paul Ince as previous managers – but they aren’t (currently) Derby County or Rangers.

Recently Sol and Terry Connor were given placements in the England Under 21 set up at the FA as part of their “In Pursuit of Progress” initiative, which we at Kick It Out contributed to, and now Terry is part of the Ireland managerial set up as an assistant to manager Mick McCarthy, and Sol is taking charge at the foot of League Two.

As happy as I am for both of them, that doesn’t mean I will now welcome a kind of “Rooney Rule” across the board, however well-intentioned because I think it’s hard enough to be a black coach without anyone thinking you didn’t get the job for the right reasons. I also wonder if clubs have the appetite for such a rule.

What Sol has shown is that if you stick to your principles, maintain your strength and your dignity in the face of abuse – and people in football thinking you’re just a bit odd – then you’ll find somewhere for you.

There may also be a generation of young black coaches out there who will be as pleased by this week’s news as I was by the sight of him all those years ago at the heart of the Tottenham defence.

Troy Townsend, head of development, Kick It Out.

Read every story in our hardcopy newspaper for free by downloading the app.

Facebook Comments