Stan Collymore: ‘The Thing White Men Hate Most is Outspoken Black Men’

The former England forward-turned-broadcaster has become a strident voice on football’s relationship with race and, despite the backlash on social media, he stands by every word

Stan Collymore

Sachin Nakrani | The Guardian UK

Stan Collymore has agreed to speak to me last Tuesday afternoon but it has to be over the phone as he is driving to St George’s Park for England’s pre-World Cup media day. So I call him at 1pm and connect immediately. But the line is bad and I fear our interview will not go well. Or proceed at all.

I need not have worried. The sound improves and, as it does, Collymore bursts into life. The next half an hour or so is a whirlwind as the former England forward speaks passionately, honestly, intelligently and controversially about a topic that means a lot to him: RACE.

Collymore has a lot to say, a lot to get off his chest, a lot of targets to fire at, and it is riveting.

This will come as little surprise to the 892,000-plus people who follow Collymore on Twitter. The 47-year-old is a regular user, airing views on a range of topics – including race.

The one-time most expensive footballer in Britain, and current presenter of a football show on the Russian state television channel RT, touched on the issue again last week in the wake of Frank Lampard’s appointment as Derby County manager.

Collymore listed Lampard’s coaching and playing credentials alongside those of his former England team-mates Steven Gerrard and Sol Campbell and pointed out how despite them being near-identical, only two have managerial jobs despite all three seeking such work. The implication was clear.

As he journeys to Burton-on-Trent, I ask Collymore whether he stands by that statement. His response does not answer the question but it is gripping nonetheless and sets the tone for our conversation:

“My dad is from Barbados, my mum’s white, and I was brought up by her in Cannock, which was, and remains, 99.9% white. So when people accuse me of playing the race card, which card am I playing exactly? The one that represents how I was raised by a white mother, had all white friends and was taught white history at school? Or the one that represents how I’ve been treated because of the one thing that makes me different to white working-class people – my negro features?

“I saw my mum shunned by her neighbours and have dog shit pushed through her letter box, and I remember, when I was six, being stripped naked and made to ride around the local green on my bike while kids called me ‘wog’ and ‘coon’. There was overt racism on a day-to-day basis and I lived it. So I know what I’m talking about.”

Collymore’s fire is raging and, in part, that is because he’s in the midst of dealing with the reaction to a column he has just had published by the Daily Mirror. In it, Collymore developed his observation on Lampard, Gerrard and Campbell by calling for the Rooney Rule to be implemented by the Premier League and Football League.

“The closest Sol Campbell, one of our most decorated players, has got to a major job is the assistant manager’s role with Trinidad and Tobago,” Collymore wrote. “Meanwhile, Frank Lampard has walked into Derby. Steven Gerrard has walked straight into Rangers. Joey Barton was unveiled as Fleetwood Town manager. What is the common denominator? Now is the time for the Rooney Rule, guaranteeing minorities proper consideration for positions.”

Collymore says: “At the last count there were 609 comments under my tweet plugging that column and the majority, as far as I can tell from their profiles, are from white people telling me to stop banging on about racism. That backs up my view that the mood on social media is getting darker.”

Even those who disagree with Collymore’s views cannot deny that when it comes to racially diverse representation, English football has a problem.

Currently there are only five Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) managers working across this country’s 92 professional clubs – Chris Hughton at Brighton, Nuno Espírito Santo at Wolverhampton Wanderers, Darren Moore at West Bromwich Albion, Chris Powell at Southend United and Dino Maamria at Stevenage Town – and according to figures presented by the Independent’s chief sports writer Jonathan Liew in a recent article, there is a worrying historical trend:

Since 1990, one in four retired England footballers have been from a BAME background but of those who have gone into a management job, that drops to one in seven.

Which brings us back to Campbell. The former centre-back has been seeking a managerial post for more than a year and despite having his UEFA pro licence and, as Collymore states, coaching experience with Trinidad & Tobago, he cannot get work. And with Campbell, it always tends to come back to his character.

As Collymore puts it, the 43-year-old is deemed by his critics as being a “wrong ‘un” – aloof, cocky, outspoken … weird, and the fact this constantly overshadows his playing achievements – 73 England caps, two league titles with Arsenal, one of the finest defenders of his generation – as well as his coaching credentials, points to something sinister.

“Black people are deemed good athletes but not good leaders,” says Collymore. “They’re not trusted to lead by the status quo, which is made up of white men, and this is particularly the case if they speak their mind, like myself and Sol. The thing white men hate most, that they’re scared of most, is outspoken black men.”

“The acceptable face of BAME managers is Chris Hughton. I have no doubt Chris has strong views on race and expresses them behind the scenes, but he knows that to progress in life he can’t do so in public; he has to shut up and get on with it. That’s not a criticism of Chris – it’s how most successful people from ethnic backgrounds behave.”

Collymore never had a desire to go into management after a playing career that included spells at Nottingham Forest, Liverpool and Aston Villa, and, at his peak in the mid-1990s, saw him widely regarded as one of the finest forwards in the country. And by his own admission, Collymore made mistakes off the field as well as on it, most notably physically assaulting his then partner Ulrika Jonsson in 1998 – “there was no excuse for it,” he says.

But Collymore is proud of his work as a broadcaster, establishing himself at BBC Five Live and TalkSport before his contract with the latter was not renewed in 2016. He joined RT 12-months later and has gone on to produce more than 30 episodes of The Stan Collymore Show, for which he insists he has total editorial control and which will broadcast twice a week during the World Cup. 

Professional life is good for Collymore but there is no hiding his resentment at his inability to get media work in England and, as with management, he believes this tap into a wider issue. “To be a black pundit you either need to be a comedian like Chris Kamara or Ian Wright – guys who have big pearly-white smiles and everyone loves laughing at – or Jermaine Jenas and Alex Scott, who are completely inoffensive,” he says. “What you’re not allowed to do is call out the status quo, which is what I do.”

“Opportunities have been denied to me and it’s got nothing to do with what happened with Ulrika Jonsson because I’ve worked since then. No, it’s because I’ve become increasingly outspoken and that’s not allowed in this country if you’re not white.”

“It’s not just me who is affected – look at that Sky Sports show Sunday Supplement; there are never any journalists from a BAME background on there; every week it’s a panel of all white men. That can’t be right.”

Collymore is at the gates of St George’s Park so I ask him a final question. Given the grief he gets, does he ever consider coming off Twitter? “I’ve been on Twitter for 10 years and I was the first sports broadcaster to use it as a medium to engage directly with my audience – I’m proud of that,” he says. “It also allows me to show people that I’m more than the caricature presented to them. I’m not going anywhere.

Wikipedia on Stan Collymore:

Stanley Victor Collymore (born 22 January 1971) is an English former footballer who played as a centre-forward from 1990 to 2001. He held the English transfer record when he moved from Nottingham Forest to Liverpool for £8.5 million in 1995 and was capped three times at senior level by the England national football team. He is currently a football pundit.     READ MORE

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  • Rosaliene Bacchus  On 06/14/2018 at 1:28 pm

    Well said, Stanley Collymore. As he notes during the interview, “most successful people from ethnic backgrounds behave.”

  • Clyde Duncan  On 06/14/2018 at 3:50 pm

    “The acceptable face of BAME managers is Chris Hughton. I have no doubt Chris has strong views on race and expresses them behind the scenes, but he knows that to progress in life he can’t do so in public; he has to shut up and get on with it. That’s not a criticism of Chris – it’s how most successful people from ethnic backgrounds behave.”

  •  On 06/19/2018 at 11:11 pm

    You can certainly see your expertise in the
    article you write. The arena hopes for even more passionate writers like you who are not afraid to
    say how they believe. Always go after your heart.

  • Michael Parsley  On 06/20/2018 at 2:03 am

    Sounds like the man is carrying a chip the size of a tree on his shoulder.

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