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Final furlong for the privileged few

RELEGATION BATTLE: Ramsey has a real fight to keep his team in the top flight

ONE IS forced to search far and wide for the six black managers currently experiencing divergent fortunes across the Premier and Football Leagues.

The highest in the pyramid is QPR caretaker Chris Ramsey, who is earning respect for his charges’ improved performances despite their imperilled top-flight status and the uncertainty over his future.

This is Ramsey’s first senior management position but he recently admitted that results must go in his favour if he is to have serious hope of extending his tenure beyond May.

“I’ve been told that the job is there and is mine to lose,” he told journalists recently. “The word ‘lose’ sticks out but it’s my job at the moment and I’m acting as if I’m going to be here in the long term.”

Ramsey’s proven record as a coach working with and promoting young players is appealing but the fear is that another black manager finds his seat at the top table taken away without another appearing in its place, as it so often does for their white counterparts on the managerial carousel.

Chris Powell and Huddersfield Town secured their Championship status for another year after a pulsating 4-4 draw with promotion hopefuls Derby.

The former Charlton manager was coveted by Town for his fine work at The Valley, where he guided the south-east Londoners to the Championship and took them to a top 10 finish in his first campaign at that level.

Since his appointment in September Powell has consolidated Huddersfield’s status with some enterprising football, although consistency and defensive frailties have made for some tense moments.

Nonetheless, Huddersfield are set to beat their points totals of the past two seasons and with Powell’s position secure he will have the opportunity to bolster his defensive options in the summer and secure his own Championship credentials.
“I understand how rumours can snowball because of social media,” he told the Huddersfield Daily Examiner earlier this month. But the reality is that I am settled, I enjoy being manager and I have pre-season pretty much mapped out.”


CONSOLIDATION: Huddersfield’s Powell

Chris Hughton’s pedigree in the second-tier was established during an impressive spell at Birmingham and a record-breaking title-winning campaign with Newcastle.

On New Year’s Eve Brighton, a side with Premier League aspirations and a top-flight infrastructure turned to the former Republic of Ireland international following a dismal start to their campaign under Sami Hyppia.

Hughton has safeguarded the Seagulls’ Championship status and enjoys the support of his players despite some nervy moments.

“He has come in and made a massive impression on everybody at the football club,” Albion midfielder Dale Stephens told the Brighton Argus recently.

“Everyone is excited to work with him, have a good, strong, pre-season and then kick on with a good start next year hopefully.”


IMPRESSION: Seagulls’ Hughton

Leyton Orient manager Fabio Liverani became a pioneer in Italy, where he became the Azzurri’s first black international in 2001 and then Serie A’s first black manager at Genoa in 2013.

Yet those notable achievements cannot save his record at Brisbane Road, where Orient face League 1 relegation just 12 months after losing the play-off final on penalties.

Liverani’s penchant for continually changing his starting XI is counting against him, with talk of player dissatisfaction and confusion emerging at a time when stability is required.

The players and staff have been unimpressed by the Italian’s inability to communicate in English. “In the game at Colchester in January the players ended up doing their own team talk in the tunnel,” a club source told the Evening Standard.

“They decided amongst themselves which opponents they would each mark at set pieces. It’s obvious that’s never going to work and it was no surprise they lost the game 2-0.”


PIONEER: Leyton Orient boss Liverani

English football’s other overseas black manager, Burton Albion’s Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink, may pass Orient on the way up, with automatic promotion from League 2 secure and the title beckoning.

“We want to be number one. I want the second target and that is winning the league,” said Hasselbaink after the Brewers’ win at Morecambe.

The Dutchman took over a promising side from Gary Rowett, who joined Birmingham, and has taken them from fifth to first place in the intervening period.

It will be intriguing to see how Hasselbaink, whose previous coaching experience consisted of a single season in the Belgian second division, fares in League 1 next term.


CHASING THE TITLE: Hasselbaink

Keith Curle’s immediate future remained in the balance until Carlisle preserved their League 2 status recently with a 2-0 defeat of Plymouth.

“I’m trying to develop a culture that sees the club being progressive and that means we’ll all be successful if we head down that route,” he told the club’s official website.

One must cherish each black manager in Premier and Football League employment come August.


SAFETY: Curle

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