'It's not right': Colchester United's Hayden Mullins on being one of England's only black managers

It really shouldn't be in the year 2021, but the sight of a black coach like Hayden Mullins taking training is still a rarity.

The Colchester United head coach is one of just eight black managers working at the 92 clubs in England's top four divisions - a sobering statistic when you consider that about a quarter of professional players are black.

This season, he will be assisted by former Kilmarnock boss Alex Dyer - making them one of the only black management teams in the entire country.

It's a scenario that Mullins says he struggles to understand, but he's hopeful that things will be different in the future.

  • Watch an extended interview with Hayden Mullins and Alex Dyer

"I think the ratio, it's not right. Whether there is a bias or not, I'm not too sure," Mullins told ITV News Anglia.

"I think there's a lot they're trying to do now. I think it's good, but as long as it doesn't undermine the coaches and I think some of the ways that they go about placing the black coaches, I think sometimes undermines black coaches. There are plenty out there that are easily good enough."

England's black managers

Patrick Vieira was recently appointed as Crystal Palace's new manager. Credit: PA
  • Patrick Vieira (Crystal Palace)

  • Nuno Espírito Santo (Tottenham Hotspur)

  • Chris Hughton (Nottingham Forest)

  • Valérien Ismaël (West Brom)

  • Darren Moore (Sheffield Wednesday)

  • Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink (Burton Albion)

  • Keith Curle (Oldham Athletic)

  • Hayden Mullins (Colchester United)

One of the biggest obstacles for black coaches has been a lack of role models - although that is starting to change.

Former Southend United boss Chris Powell is now part of England's coaching staff as part of the FA's plan to promote more diversity in the sport, while the EFL has now made it mandatory for clubs to interview at least one candidate from a non-white background for vacant management roles.

However, Dyer says it's vital that jobs are awarded to black candidates on merit - not just to tick a box.

Alex Dyer was recently appointed as Hayden Mullins' assistant. Credit: ITV News Anglia

"I think you've got to earn the right and that means whether you're white, black, green or whatever - you've got to earn the right," said Dyer.

"If you do the right things and work hard, then you should be given the opportunity to apply your trade."

The search for more black managers

How many black managers are there?

There are currently only eight black managers in England's top four divisions. Amazingly, that's actually quite a high number compared to recent seasons - for example, there were only four two years ago.

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What's being done about it?

The Football Association launched a three-year equality, diversity and inclusion plan, called 'In Pursuit of Progress', in 2018. It's due to be reviewed later this year and the findings will be released later in 2021.

The EFL also implemented the 'Rooney Rule' in 2019 which means that clubs must interview at least one candidate from a non-white background when searching for a new manager.

The regulation was named after NFL diversity committee chairman Dan Rooney. The Premier League is yet to put in place a similar rule.

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Bukayo Saka is consoled after missing the decisive penalty in the Euro 2020 final. Credit: PA

But sadly, being a black person in the public eye comes with risk.

Dyer experienced racism first-hand during his time in Scotland when a letter containing abusive words was delivered to his club Kilmarnock, and there have been several high-profile cases in recent weeks of sports stars being targeted on social media.

It's a depressing reality for black players and coaches to face, but Dyer says that hate will never win.

"You can't let the bigots win, and the racism, you can't let it beat you," he said.

"You have to get up, get your head down, and you stick your chest out and you go again. You don't let them win and that's all you can do."