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If I had to choose between my wife and my putter... well, I’d miss her.

Gary Player

Love of the Game

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Ricky Hill, Worthing, Pitch, 2021 ISBN 9781785318269

Ricky Hill played 13 years for Luton Town (1976-89), mainly when they were in the top division of English Football and were winners of the League Cup at Wembley. He was one of the first black players to play for England. He was a successful coach in USA and Trinidad but his only coaching job in the UK was as manager of Luton Town when he was sacked after 4 months. He made loads of unsuccessful applications in England.

The problem for black footballers to get coaching jobs in the UK is a running theme of the book. Hill suggests that “Just as black players found it hard to be accepted into the professional game in the 1970s, black managers years later would find that acceptance equally difficult”.

He tells a sad story of playing for Luton Town in an away game, aged 17 with most of the crowd singing “How much is that woggy in the window?” and “He’s a coon, a coon, he’s blacker than you and me, it’s plain for us to see, he’s a coon, he’s a coon.” No action was taken by the home club or the referee and his own team gave him no support

Having seen how the Rooney rule – requiring a black coach to be interviewed for jobs – had been implemented successfully in US sports, with fines for failures to comply, Hill met John Barnwell, the CEO of the League Managers’ Association in 2004 and other powerful administrators to urge them to introduce a similar rule in UK. It took the FA 13 years to follow the suggestion but even then it was somewhat half-hearted.

Hill wonders why the authorities were more willing to take on issues like historical sexual abuse, homophobia, disabilities, women in football, and LGBTQ than the lack of racial balance in coaching appointments.

An excellent book, an easy read but not a comfortable one.

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