Farewell to Nuno Espírito Santo, a good man who could never really make North London his home

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In the search for touchline representation in the top-flight it is very much a case of when it rains it pours, but in truth you’d hardly know it. The sacking of Nuno halves the number of black or mixed-raced with black coaches in the league from a grand total of two to one and leaves Patrick Viera as the only non-white manager in the premier league 


The sacking of Nuno Espírito Santo as Tottenham Hotspur manager was confirmed on Monday and means the number of black managers in the top-flight has been halved. The decision arrived after a string of poor results which culminated in Tottenham suffering a 0-3 home defeat to Manchester United

Nuno is not the only manager of a big club to have fallen into poor form this season. Some would argue that his opposition manager on the weekend has been further away from matching preseason expectations in the opening rounds of league fixtures. Nonetheless, unlike his peer, Nuno has not been able to survive doubts over his suitability in the role. 

The former Wolves manager would have been aware that he was under pressure heading into the weekend amid mounting rumours linking former Italy, Juventus and Chelsea manager Antonio Conte with his job. These rumours were not without substance, with Conte having taken the role as of 12:01 yesterday afternoon. 

There have only ever been nine black and or mixed-raced with black men to manage in the Premier League. With four of those having been on a caretaker or temporary basis, the number of permanent managers has been even fewer. This summer saw Patrick Viera return to England and replace the retiring Roy Hodgson at Crystal Palace, while 'Nuno' was appointed Tottenham head coach, although observers of this summers events will know that the protracted search for a replacement to Mourinho underlined where he ranked on their list of priorities. 

We’ve had talks with many managers. Antonio Conte is one of the managers we contacted, Gattuso and Fonseca too... then we decided to appoint Nuno Espírito Santo. He did an amazing job at Wolves”.

Tottenham director of football, Fabio Paratici - July 2021

Early momentum in the opening weeks of the season, which included a win against Guardiola’s Manchester City was demolished after a second-half collapse against Crystal Palace. Since then, Tottenham have picked up only six points from their following seven games and Nuno has never really recovered. He has had to field questions over his future throughout the run and despite remaining bullish over the prospects of his team, the ceramic smiles had begun to swelter under the soaring heat. A summer that had been marked by instability following the will-he-wont Harry Kane saga and knowledge that even if eventually picked he was never really chosen belied the hallmarks of the onfield discipline and organisation his Wolves side were known for. 

The bigger picture

The sad reality over lack of access to opportunities for black and mixed-race with black coaches stretches all the way to the bottom of the football pyramid. The presence of only one black manager will serve as a reminder that this is still an issue that has yet to be addressed at the highest levels of the game.

Pictured: Darren Moore | The Sheffield Wednesday manager is now one of only six black or mixed-raced with black managers coaching in the football league. For context, there are 92 managerial positions across the premier league and the football league.

In the case of Nuno, while he was given the opportunity to lead Spurs, and while his dismissal has largely been approved by Tottenham fans, the lack of patience afforded to him compared to similarly underperforming contemporaries will not have gone unnoticed.

No, Nuno is not a club legend for whom the board are sentimental toward; yes, other managers that are white have been sacked, many under even harsher conditions, but even if Nuno wasn’t the right fit, which he may very well have not been, it is a shame to see his time in the job end so soon. While many may feel the decision to have been justified, discourse on the barriers that black and mixed-raced with black managers face when earning their roles must now also extend to the problem of retaining their positions.

Since the turn of the century, on the seven occasions that a black or mixed-raced with black manager has taken the reins of a Premier League side on a permanent basis (either heading into or during the season) they have failed to see out the season four times - this excludes Chris Hughton's dismissal a day after steering Brighton to safety at the end of the 2018/19 season. Patrick Viera, the newly appointed Crystal Palace manager, is also not included.

Although pressure is a given at the elite level, for those made to wait that little bit longer for chances in the top-flight and opportunities at top jobs, Nuno's demise, or at least what it represents, will hit that much harder. At a time where we perhaps read too much into too little, not enough is made of the fact Nuno's appointment signalled the first time since Chelsea under Ruud Gullit that a black or mixed-raced with black man had taken a job in the league where his immediate goal was not to avoid relegation, nevermind challenge for Europe (although the ambitions at Wolves clearly stretch into the elite). 

Farewell to Nuno, by most accounts a good man, who was never truly wanted, and could never really make North London his home.

Mayowa Ayodele

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With Patrick Viera being the only black manager in the premier league, what does this mean for the Colour of Power and who holds infludence in leading positions in the UK today? You can find out here

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