Chris Hughton was fired by Newcastle United on Monday. This after guiding the club back to the Premier League and steering them to mid-table respectability with some fine wins, including an away victory at Arsenal, a six-nil drubbing of Aston Villa, and a 5-1 rout over arch-rivals Sunderland. Following Sunday’s loss to West Brom, Newcastle’s board released a brief statement saying the club wanted a more experienced man in the hot seat. With Hughton’s firing, the top league has lost its only manager from an ethnic minority background. Race was not a factor in his dismissal but Hughton’s absence does expose the inequity that exists in the managerial ranks. It was an issue he addressed in an interview with The Independent before the start of the season:
“Well, you certainly don’t see anywhere near the quota off the football pitch that you see on it, although when I speak to the FA I can see that strides are being made to encourage young coaches from ethnic minorities. In the past there have been barriers [stopping black men becoming managers], even to the degree of what we’ve seen on the terraces [by which I presume he means overt racism in the boardrooms]. But there has been a vast improvement in social problems regarding the colour of a person’s skin. The black players today don’t have the difficulties that black lads had in the past.” That he had? “Yes.” At certain grounds in particular? “Yes.” Which ones? “I wouldn’t like to say.”
Hughton is something of a pioneer when it comes to race. He was the first black player to represent the Republic of Ireland when he made his debut in 1979. He was a regular in the left full-back position over the next 12 years, amassing 53 caps. Hughton was also Ireland’s assistant manager during Brian Kerr’s reign. I hope we see him back in football soon.