Connor on Football's Hidden Racism
Tuesday, 16th Jun 2020 20:12
Former Town assistant manager Terry Connor has spoken about his experiences of racism during his time in football and his hopes for greater equality in the years to come.
While Connor faced more obvious racism in his playing days during the 1980s and early 1990s and as a coach for the last 25 years, both from the stands and from elsewhere in the game, he says he has also experienced less overt incidents of prejudice which he believes is a more ingrained issue.
The 57-year-old, speaking to Sky Sports News recalled his time as reserve team manager at Wolves.
"We used to go to away games and have a pre-match meal,” he said. “The players would eat separately from the staff.
"As the hotel would want us to sign for the meal, of the six around the table I was the only black guy.
"And the hotel staff would present the bill to the goalkeeping coach, or the physio, or the kit man. And they'd present the cheque to everyone, bar me.
"All the staff would say, 'I'm not authorised to sign for that' and it would go around the table, until finally it got to me.
"It would be wrong to call it a standing joke, but it happened on so many occasions. It was clear they thought 'He must be the boss - it can't be him!’”
Connor, assistant to Mick McCarthy between 2012 and 2018 at Town, is one of only nine black managers to take charge of a top flight club, having had a short spell in charge of Wolves prior to his stint with the Blues.
Since leaving Town, Connor worked until recently as McCarthy’s assistant with the Republic of Ireland and before that spent some time with the England U21s.
"It was a privilege to work alongside [Lee] Carsley and Aidy [Bothroyd]. But what I noticed there was that 15 of the 23 players in the England squad were black or from an ethnic background. And yet I was the only black person in a support staff of 22 that worked with those players.
"This is not against them - they're highly qualified people - but with a squad where 15 of the 23 were black, within the support staff there wasn't any representation. And I was only there really as an observer, for 12 days.”
Connor says he has had similar experiences away from football: ”I remember when my wife went into labour unexpectedly, I rushed to the hospital in some scruffy clothes. The receptionist kept me waiting.
"I kept saying 'Excuse me', but she kept on doing other things. Eventually, I said I was here to see my wife who was about to give birth, and she said: 'Oh! I'm sorry. I thought you were a taxi driver’. I don't think she had any idea about her prejudice."
Connor is more positive about the future for the game: "There seems to be a feeling of goodwill in the football fraternity now for that element of change.
"I see Raheem Sterling, I see Marcus Rashford, speaking out about things, and when they do that, they continue carrying that flame of hope that change can occur.
"The [black] players in my generation, and before and since, have given the players of now a voice, a better platform to speak out on things.
"To the point now where they were very close in an England game to walking off the pitch, because they didn't agree with what was going on in the crowd. So for them to have that level of voice, can only be good for football.
"You'll always need someone to be the first, to break down the barriers, or someone to climb on someone else's shoulders until we get to the top of the mountain, and maybe we've got to that point where we are the backs, if you like, for future generations to come through, and have the equality to be able to succeed on a level playing field.”
Photo: Action Images
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