SRtRC talk to ex Middlesbrough and Leeds United player, Brian Deane about his International career in football.
"I’ve seen changes of racism from when I first started playing and how difficult it was because back then if you were the butt of the jokes and you made a stand against it then you have a chip on your shoulder. And I think the attitude is totally different now. We have made progress, definitely, it’s no longer accepted in the changing rooms, it’s no longer accepted in and around football clubs - that kind of attitude."
Show Racism the Red Card speak to Brian Deane about his varied International career in football - from his first signing for Doncaster Rovers in the 1988 to playing for Portuguese club SL Benfica right up to being appointed head coach of top-flight Norwegian team - Sarpsborg 08 FF in 2012.
In this interview with SRtRC, Brian talks about his experiences of being a migrant worker, his thoughts on the 'Rooney Rule' and racist attitudes within the game of football.
Brian, you’ve played abroad and also managed abroad. One of the issues we’re facing is that a lot of migrants come here and are told that they shouldn’t be taking English jobs, so what was it like for you as a migrant worker going to play in Portugal and playing in Australia and managing in Norway, did you ever receive any hostility?
"No, I didn’t actually – it was absolutely fine. I think the biggest thing about that is that we don’t really have a good reputation for travel, as a group of people whether it’s footballers or management there wasn’t much in the way of us exporting our skills and that was quite evident when I first went to Portugal, it was not so much when I went to Australia because it was different, you’re talking about a fledging league at the time. In Norway I wouldn’t say there was much resistance when I went there but there was a feeling of, we have Scandinavian coaches why do we have to go and get an English one. I think that was because they’d not seen an English coach in those parts for a while really so yeah it was about having to prove myself, it wasn’t anything to do with race or culture, it was just about me being an English manager because we don’t really get that many abroad."
What would you say to the argument that there are too many foreign players and too many foreign managers in our game here and that’s handicapping some of the English talent? What would you say to that?
"Well I would agree, I think, to a degree. I think you will always get something from a foreign culture or manager and I think that in some ways I’ve left a legacy over there for myself but also if there are going to be other English managers or coaches go over there then I think they will be looked at, the path will have been smoothed somewhat. Sometimes you see coaching jobs come over here at the top level and they never really consider an English coach. I mean the Newcastle job; you know they’re looking abroad, you know, the ManCity job, the big jobs now I think the only people getting those are the foreign coaches, the better foreign coaches."
What about the issue of the lack of black Managers?
"Well, it’s disappointing because I think that ex players like myself are always looking to contribute and have a lot to offer. Certainly I’ve had a very varied playing career, I’ve played abroad, I’ve played with some of the best players in Europe, I’ve played under four different England managers who’ve managed England so I think I’ve got quite a diverse experience when it comes to being able to deal with players in those situations. I do think that things are improving but its tough – getting a job in football is tough anyway but I feel quite confident in the job that I’ve done abroad and now coming back with the experience that I have as a player as well. I think that I’m pretty well equipped so it’s hard; it’s always hard to say that there isn’t enough black managers because of this or that. I do think things can improve. I really feel that we can have more mentors that we should have more players who are coming the end of their career, thinking that it can actually be a career that they can go into. I don’t think there were many managers or coaches who actually asked me or were that interested in what I was doing as a person afterwards. It was only really Mick McCarthy and Alan Pardew who said look you have something to offer. Coaching hadn’t really been put into my thought process up to that point so I wasn’t really preparing for it early on in my football career."
What do you think of the idea of the ‘Rooney Rule’ – you’re aware of what it is? Where you would guarantee an interview – it’s not about a quota system but it’s about guaranteeing interview – do you think that’s something which could work?
"I think something like that is always hard to implement because if you look at some of the jobs that I’ve got recently, they sack somebody on the Friday and then somebody will start on the Monday so I’m not sure how that would work. I think what would be good about that is it would help people to prepare for the interview process because I think that, some people have an advantage in that they’ve been for interviews before and they know what to expect in an interview but then you have others who haven’t even had the opportunity of getting an interview and that’s a major problem because it shows if you have potential but you don’t know how to get through the door then you’re always going to be at a disadvantage."
You were applying for jobs then in England; did you get to the interview stage at any stage?
"No I didn’t and I don’t want to say one way or the other that it was because of this or that. They might have already had a candidate in place who they thought was right for the job – it was a little bit frustrating but I don’t think you can let that really upset you too much. You’ve got to keep trying and I know that I’ve spoken to people who applied for lots and lots of jobs and they’ve never heard nothing back - that is frustrating and we have to try and find a way to make the process more fair for everybody."
So are you currently looking to manage somewhere in the UK?
"I have a plan and hopefully that plan will come to fruition and yes, of course I’ve been managing out in Norway and I’ve been relatively successful and of course I want to manage in my own country."
In terms of racism more generally, where do you think we are in terms of attitudes in the game? Have you seen progress over your career, in terms of racism from the terraces?
"Yes, of course there’s been progress, and I’ve seen changes of racism from when I first started playing and how difficult it was because back then if you were the butt of the jokes and you made a stand against it then you have a chip on your shoulder. And I think the attitude is totally different now. We have made progress, definitely, it’s no longer accepted in the changing rooms, it’s no longer accepted in and around football clubs - that kind of attitude."
Gary Bennett relays a story about when he was a manager at Darlington of trying to get into the Director’s Box at an away ground and being told you can’t come in here – because obviously they didn’t know he was the Manager of Darlington. Have you ever experienced that kind of thing where you’ve got institutionalised racism; they wouldn’t grant him access to in the box because they thought you’re black and you can’t be the Manager of the team?
"I’ve never had any problems like that; I’ll be totally honest with you. I mean I know Gary and wherever I’ve been I think people perhaps recognise me because I played in the Premier League and I’m probably known as the first person to score a Premier League goal. I don’t know I can’t say that I’ve ever felt like that when I’ve gone to a club. I’m just being totally honest."