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Viv Anderson says more must be done to progress black representation in football

Viv Anderson made history as England's first black player 42 years ago – but says he only gets “wheeled out once a year” by the Football Association.

And in the wake of Greg Clarke's resignation, he warns it is “critical” that the next FA chairman is the “right person who will make a difference right now.”

On a frosty November night back in 1978, Anderson made his Three Lions debut against Czechoslovakia at Wembley in a lightbulb moment for diversity.

He is disappointed, to put it mildly, that English football is still stuck in a dinosaur age where Jurassic Clarke is brought down by his clumsy use of outdated language.

Now 64, and the founder of Playonpro, a support network for retired elite athletes who struggle to adjust when the music stops, Anderson is saddened by an entire generation of black players' know-how and insight going to waste.

And he believes the FA must catch the wave created by the Black Lives Matter movement to seize the opportunity for change.

The former Nottingham Forest, Arsenal and Manchester United full-back said: “I only get wheeled out once a year by the FA, to mark the anniversary of my England debut or for Black History Month.

“For the other 11 months, I'm stored away in cotton wool – but if they rang me to ask what I thought about various issues during the rest of the year, I would be happy to give my opinion.

“We talk about progress in terms of greater representation of black people within the game, but nothing actually gets done.

“It's not just about me: There is a whole generation of black players who served England with distinction and their experience is simply going to waste.

“I'm talking about Ashley Cole (107 caps), Rio Ferdinand (81 caps), John Barnes (79 caps), Sol Campbell (73 caps), Paul Ince (53 caps), Emile Heskey, Andrew Cole, Luther Blissett, Ricky Hill… I could go on. What are they all doing now?

“We should be giving these people a voice instead of leaving them to twiddle their thumbs.

“They have countless honours and hundreds of international appearances between them, but they are in danger of being lost to English football – and that's a crying shame.

“Even Gary Lineker, one of the most high-profile people in the game – who acknowledges there are already too many old, white men running the FA – said on TV this morning he had never been asked for his views on anything by our governing bodies.

“How can we ignore so much expertise around us? It's such a waste.”

While racism has been marginalised to some extent on the terraces – not before time – and more than 25 per cent of professional clubs' playing staffs are black, Anderson has seen little evidence of meaningful progress higher up English football's food chain.

He points out there are few black owners, chairmen and directors, and the quota of BAME coaches and managers is disconcertingly low.

Anderson said: “How many black faces do you see in the boardroom? How many black managers are there among the 92 League clubs? The FA preaches diversity, but the head count tells a different story.

“When I was manager of Barnsley and the late Keith Alexander was in charge of Lincoln in 1993, I believe we were the first black managers in the League – and 27 years on, there is still only a handful.

“If we've gone from two black managers to maybe six or seven in three decades, that's hardly a revolution.

“As much as I enjoyed the last World Cup, and cheering for a multi-racial England team who reached the semi-finals and did us proud, there weren't many black faces among the management, backroom staff and the FA hierarchy.

“If we want players to aspire to those jobs in future, they need to see the road ahead is clear. They need a pathway.”

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