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Jobi McAnuff: Lack of chances for black managers an added incentive to do well

Leyton Orient v Cheltenham Town – Sky Bet League Two – The Breyer Group Stadium
(Image credit: Tess Derry)

Leyton Orient interim manager Jobi McAnuff admits the lack of opportunities given to black managers will act as an extra incentive during his initial spell in charge of the Sky Bet League Two club.

The 39-year-old has been given the job until the end of the season after O’s dismissed predecessor Ross Embleton on Saturday following a run of seven games without a win.

McAnuff is currently one of only six people from a black, Asian and ethnic minority background to be a manager in the top four divisions of English football.

BAME representation among new managerial appointments in the Premier League and Football League

BAME representation among new managerial appointments in the Premier League and Football League (PA Graphics)

Orient’s captain, who has paused his playing career for the time being, has spoken about racism and inequality in the past and conceded this opportunity may not have been afforded to him at a different club.

“I am very aware of it and it is something very, very important to me as a black player firstly and now as a black manager,” McAnuff said.

“I have spoken about the lack of opportunities there are in the wider game, but what I have to say is at this football club, it has never been an issue.

“The board and the directors are massive on equality and giving people opportunities regardless of their race, sexuality or whatever, so again I am fortunate because it isn’t the case across the game. That is a fact and the numbers prove that.

“It is an added incentive to come in and do well. If I can help in terms of the bigger issues at hand, I will always be prepared to speak on it and share my experiences as I go along. It is very important and a big issue for me.”

McAnuff clinched a first win as O’s boss on Tuesday with a hard-fought 1-0 victory at bottom-of-the-table Grimsby on his managerial debut.

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With 15 league games to go, the target for Orient is to make the play-offs and the former Jamaica international is relaxed about what will happen after the conclusion of this season.

He admitted only at the end of the campaign would he know if he wanted the job on a full-time basis and conceded results would dictate if he even had that option.

Research conducted by the PA news agency this week found the average length of reign for a manager from black, Asian and ethnic minority groups was 465 days compared to 667 days for other managers since the start of the Premier League era in 1992.

On the reason behind that statistic, McAnuff added: “I would say from my point of view it is more of a deep rooted issue. Again I think the biggest message to come through from black coaches is the lack of opportunities.

“There are an awful lot of black coaches that I know who are highly qualified, highly experienced, have had the playing career their white counterparts have had and they are just not afforded the same opportunities.

“Whether it be an interview, whether it be the same level of job when they get through an interview or afforded the biggest thing any manager needs and that’s time. Time in a job. That is across the board.

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“Time in management is not afforded to anyone but probably when you look at the statistics for black managers, they are certainly given less chance and I think also when you look at the next job after the first one, they certainly don’t have enough opportunities when the next one comes up.

“It is certainly something that we have to be aware of. For me I am hoping given time and resources I can go on and be successful.”

Sunday’s appointment of McAnuff was followed a day later by Darren Moore’s decision to swap Doncaster for Sheffield Wednesday.

It meant five out of the 33 appointments in the top four tiers of English football this season have involved managers who are from black, Asian and other ethnic minority groups.

Currently that percentage of 15.2 is the highest of new appointments who are from BAME groups, with the 2014-15 season at 10.1 per cent (seven out of 69) the previous best since the beginning of the 1992-93 campaign.

The opportunity for McAnuff to take his first steps into management at Orient, where he has made more than 150 appearances and had a spell as a player-coach following the shock death of Justin Edinburgh in 2019, is also extra special for the UEFA B licence holder.

McAnuff admitted: “When we talk about my time at the club, it has been ups and downs for both reasons on and off the pitch. It has been a real emotional journey with the football club.

“With Justin, having spoken about when I did finish, the plan was for him to still be the manager and there was talk about me going onto the coaching set-up.

“I am sure he is someone I would have worked with and I would have loved to have worked with him in that regard.

“Given everything it does make it that extra bit special for me to have this opportunity, at this time and at this football club, I can’t have asked for any more.”