Pitch Black: A Manager’s Moment

By Michael-Louis Ingram, BASN Staff Reporter
Updated: August 17, 2009

John Barnes (left) and Paul Ince

John Barnes (left) and Paul Ince

PHILADELPHIA (BASN) — When American football coaches Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith met at Super Bowl XLII, the outcome was never in doubt because everyone was a winner.

The first Black this or the first Black that wilted in the enormity of what we as Black folks always knew — we can do anything — so it was no big surprise to us.

On the other side the pond, football there is engaged just as passionately, and many would say, more so.

While the issue of coaching is another step up the sports evolutionary ladder in the assumption Black people are actually human and have the capacity to think, it has been rare where two Black managers get the chance to have their respective sides match wills and skills on the pitch.

Well on Tuesday August 18, such an opportunity will present itself in a British League One match between the Milton Keynes Dons and the Tranmere Rovers as former star footballers will man the sidelines.

Paul Ince and John Barnes may not generate sufficient ripples in the U.S., but it is a big deal in where their careers are going. The Jamaican-born Barnes was a great midfielder who made his mark as one of Liverpool’s best players ever.

Barnes would later coach his homeland’s Reggae Boyz to prominence in CONCACAF qualifiers before signing on at Tranmere.

Ince, who hung his hat at West Ham United and the storied Red Devils of Manchester United, made history as England’s first Black team captain. Ince would later become the first Black man to manage at the Premiership level at Blackburn Rovers.

As League One football is a couple steps down from the highest level, the given of working one’s way up the ladder is understood; unfortunately, the issue of chances always seems to come down to making an immediate success in that first effort.

Like it or not, our Brothas across the water know too well the same song gets sung when it comes to matters of leadership; and they also know what it feels like to be passed over for others of dubious credentials who are offered multiple opportunities to fail.

Both teams are near the top of the League One tables, and whatever the size of the crowd, the moment of two former greats working to prove their merit as managers would make it worth the price of admission.

It’s quite apparent this little item may not make the SportsCenter scroll; but to many soccer fans, it will be of significance, when, as in the U.S., the light may come on and it will come down to the man best skilled to do the job – and, by the way, he just happens to be Black.