Football

Boardrooms Need More Blacks For Black Coaches To Rise – Former Chelsea Assistant Coach

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Oma Akatugba

Eddie Newton might have scored an important goal for Chelsea in the 1997 FA Cup final, but when it was time to become a coach, he discovered his ascension was twice as difficult.

In a sport that still has a very low number of coaches of colour, Newton’s loyalty earned him opportunities where it all started for him as a professional footballer, and when the time was right to move on, he took the bold step.
 
A Briton of Nigerian descent, Edward John Ikem Newton had a good playing career at Chelsea where he won a number of trophies before his retirement in 2001.

He soon moved into coaching where he worked as Roberto Di Matteo, his former teammate’s assistant at Milton Keynes Dons, West Brom and Chelsea.

A Champions League winner in 2012 as an assistant coach, Newton revealed how he landed a career-defining job at Trabzonspor in an interview with Turkey’s TRT TV.

He also discussed the boardroom politics that phases black coaches out.

Landing Trabzonspor Job Through An In-Law

“Very unusual story to be honest, my brother in-law was returning back from his holidays and in transit he was waiting for the next plane. He could overhear someone speaking next to him who was currently doing a deal at the time, so when he finished and came off the phone he tapped him on the shoulder and said to him “are you an agent?” Newton said on how he ended up in Turkey.

“He said “yeah, why?” and he said because I’m interested in becoming one, could I ask you a couple of questions, he started asking questions and he said by the way my brother in-law is Eddie Newton and the guy responded that’s interesting because I know everything about him and he said would he be interested in coming to Turkey?

“I said no about three or four times on the phone, the president came on the phone with me and told me about all the problems they have overcome and how they’ve turned the club into a club that operates properly and financially wants to go and take the club further.

”They had officially asked Chelsea for permission, they went through the official way and it became real and I came over, discussed, everything looked right, I came looked around the training pitch and said okay it’s time for a change.”
 

Being Sometimes Overqualified for Premier League Jobs

”I did, I did in earlier stages but I realised very early that it wasn’t worth doing,” he said about yearning for Premier League head coach jobs.

”I felt once a manager is being sacked, there are ones waiting in the wings already, I felt that process was futile so I stopped putting my CV in, spoke to agents who may be close to owners and I just don’t think maybe I’m wrong I don’t know but personally I feel it was a futile way of going about things.
 
”(But if you had been successful and got everything right, you ticked all the right boxes) but sometimes you’re overqualified, unfortunately, it’s the way they wanna see it, though obviously it’s difficult, it’s difficult to break that barrier but one thing I used to hate is when people turn around and say you’ve never been a manager and you go yeah neither was Mourinho before he started and many others but they got their break.

”All it takes is for someone to believe in you which our president did. It wasn’t easy for him to pick me, everyone thinks because I won the cup that was an easy chance but there were more experienced managers who had been managers applied and wanted to do the job, obviously more experienced than me in Turkey, it wasn’t easy for him to pick me and I’m very appreciative of the fact that he’s put his neck on the chopping block and picked me.”
 

Playing Career Not Enough For Black Coaches, Get The Qualifications

”First of all get all your qualifications because that would be the number one thing they would put back on you if you don’t have it.

”Don’t think even if I was a superstar as a footballer, it doesn’t mean nothing, once you turn a coach you have to have your qualifications, if you want to work abroad, if you have gotten your pro license you have no chance so get your qualifications first and foremost.

”Once you get your qualifications, get experience, don’t be afraid to go into academies and learn how to coach because it’s a different experience, you can’t just say I know football because I’ve been playing football for 15-20 years, it’s not the same, you have to look after groups of different people who have got different skill set, different stages of their career, it’s not easy. My first job was in assisting U10s at Chelsea and I used to sit back because I didn’t know that much because I had to learn, I took it all in.”
 

More Blacks In Clubs’ Boardrooms Will Give Black Coaches More Opportunities
 
”No, until there’s more diversity in the boardroom, if it continues to be an all white boardroom it’s gonna be difficult, I think there would be change, there has to be change,” he said about opportunities for black coaches.

”The good thing that I like is when white people say staying quiet and ignoring it is part of the problem because it is, because it’s there and exist and because you don’t shout and you’re not negative and if you just ignore it and say well I’m not doing it you’re exactly part of the problem.
 
”But there’s a shift though, you’re seeing players calling people out very openly and honestly and I say wow that’s actually quite refreshing.
 
”I think people just had enough, it’s not just football, it’s just in general life, people are just sick and tired of being treated like second class citizens  even if you’re working as hard as the next person or as all our parents used to tell us, you have to work twice as hard as them because if you don’t, you got no chance.

”I think everyone just had it up to their neck they’re doing what everyone has to do, they’re doing their part whether vocally,  whether they’re walking, whatever they’re doing, whatever they can do because everyone’s not in the position of power to speak up like that. One thing I must say, since I’ve been here I’ve never felt anything like that, not anything close since I’ve been in this country.”

In 2017, Newton revealed his desire to be the number one. He said being an assistant coach has become tougher and just a few years after the statement, he became the head coach at Trabzonspor.

”I keep working, I know I’m good enough, I think it’s getting harder and harder for me to be a number two because I want to be a number one,” he said at the time.

Being A Head Coach After Years of Assisting
 
 ”Did I say that?” referring to the statement he made in 2017.

”That’s very poetic. Yeah, it was becoming harder and harder to be a number two, no disrespect to any person that I was assisting but my ambitions were a lot higher and I knew I had the ability especially when I was left to develop and run a long programme that was one of the most successful when I left it till date which I’m very very proud of, of course it’s not just me, the support at Chelsea and everything around it is a big major factor as well, but I developed it, I ran it and I’m very proud of it and that gave me the belief that you can, and with a lot of support of people around me, not just friends, it’s easy for friends to back you but when you got colleagues saying you deserve to be a manager, you need to go to the next level, you’re being wasted now and that’s colleagues, I’m not talking about black colleagues, I’m talking about white colleagues and colleagues of all different backgrounds which gives you that confidence because if you say or it’s only one saying it, maybe it’s just you being too ambitious but when other people are saying it then you’ve done some stuffs to recognise your capability of doing it then your next step is to do it.

”I’ve got to say I’m enjoying it so much, I swear to God I love it, it’s hard, everyday there’s something happening at this club but I love it. I’ve embraced this city, I’ve embraced this club and I’m loving every minute of it.”

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