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Newton’s Trabzonspor odyssey opens new vista for black coaches in Europe

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Eddie Newton assisted Roberto di Matteo when Chelsea won the UEFA Champions League

The number of Nigerian-born managers in big European clubs has risen to two with the recent confirmation of Eddie Ikem Newton as the substantive manager of Turkish Cup champions, Trabzonspor.

Former Nigerian international, Ndubuisi Egbo, recently made history as the first African to lead a European team to league victory when he guided KF Tirana to the Albanian title.

According to mirror.co.uk, the 48-year-old Newton, a former assistant manager at English club, Chelsea, has been named the substantive manager of Trabzonspor. This comes a few days after guiding them to a 2-0 victory over Alanyaspor in the Turkish Cup final in what was just his second game in charge.

Trabzonspor also finished second in the league, but they won’t play in the Champions League next season having been banned from European competitions for two seasons by UEFA for breaching Financial Fair Play regulations.

Newton was appointed as assistant boss to Huseyin Cimsir in February, having spent eight years on the coaching staff at Chelsea where he worked as an assistant to both Roberto Di Matteo and Guus Hiddink, as well as fulfilling several backroom roles

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Cimsir left last month shortly after Trabzonspor lost the Turkish League title to Istanbul Basaksehir.

Former Blues midfielder Newton spent 10 years in the first-team picture at Stamford Bridge, and scored in Chelsea’s 1997 FA Cup final victory over Middlesbrough

He had hoped to be considered for the Chelsea manager’s job before the appointment of Frank Lampard, which ultimately led to him looking for opportunities elsewhere

Speaking to Sky Sports shortly before the appointment was confirmed, Newton said: “I’ve been trying to become a No 1 for a while and just didn’t see it happening.

“The fact is that I’ve moved to another country and it’s taken six months to become caretaker manager so… I’ve been working in football all my life so that’s why I felt there was more opportunity over here, so I had to take the chance, basically…

“I think I got to the point where I thought I have to take this opportunity, I have to take this chance now or maybe it will never happen for me.”

Newton’s lead may be the best option for other black coaches in England, who are not getting opportunities to manage in a system affected by white prejudice.

The former Chelsea midfielder had earlier guided Trabzonspor to the second position in the league, a standing, which would have been enough to qualify for the Champions League, but their appeal against a Uefa ban for financial fair play breaches was rejected recently.

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Newton has been coaching for more than a decade and was in the backroom staff for the 2012 Champions League win but it never translated into job offers or sometimes the courtesy of a call back. Newton believes it illustrates the issues highlighted by the Black Lives Matter movement, where opportunity is unequal.

In an interview published by Telegraph.co.uk, Newton narrated how British clubs overlooked him apparently because of his colour. “I put myself forward for jobs and in the end I stopped giving my CV because I knew it wouldn’t be looked at.

“It wasn’t worth it for me, it was a waste of time. I can’t say what people are thinking but I knew it was a waste of time. I knew my CV was stronger than a lot of people being looked at. They can’t say the CV is not good enough but they will find some excuse or you get totally ignored.

“Everyone loves to say you haven’t got experience as a manager. I was willing to go to a League One club that had ambition, a project and wanted to go up and do something properly.

“I’ve had to go elsewhere to get a chance. And I’ve got my chance in six months coming to a new country. I’ve been fighting all my life in the country I’ve been brought up in to get a chance. I don’t need to say more than that, it says everything.”

When the opportunity to assist Hüseyin Çimşir came about, he agonised over leaving Chelsea but thought it was his only chance to eventually become a No 1, even if he felt it would take longer than a few months.

“It was a phone call from an agent in Turkey that I knew and at the time they had a young manager that they wanted in charge but he didn’t have much experience with their big players,” Newton said. “He was going to need support so they told me what they wanted to do and I felt it was a good opportunity to step out and do something like that.

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“The decision to go was really hard but it is one that you have to take all factors in, which I did before deciding to go. I’d given everything to Chelsea and nobody could complain about that. But I have ambitions myself and I have to try and see if I can succeed.

“I’ve always had that ambition and it was a situation that would be a little easier if I was here rather than at Chelsea. So I made the move and tried to help as much as possible and it started to go a little wrong.

“The president made the decision to make a change. I didn’t think it would happen and I was surprised, but the president felt it was needed because we had to secure second place to secure the Champions League and they wanted to win the cup as well. The president didn’t think it was possible under the manager in place and made the decision he wanted me to take over.”

Newton has the unique experience of watching at first-hand as Chelsea developed into the multinational football company they are today. He won trophies in the pre-Roman Abramovich era, then coached as the club grew.

“You see the changes,” he said. “The changes were very quick at Chelsea when Roman came in. The infrastructure. The different management positions, not just the manager but technical director and things that weren’t there everything that wasn’t there before. There was an army of staff and it was total different. It wasn’t like we weren’t winning trophies before Roman came in but then the big trophies started coming, winning the league and that great night when we won the Champions League.

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“It was the longest memory and the best memory. It was a very long night and it was a great night. It was one the club deserved, especially those players who had been close before in the semis or final, players like Petr (Cech), Lamps (Frank Lampard), JT (John Terry) even though he didn’t play in the final, Didier (Drogba). That spine of the team that got so close so many times and it just seemed to get away from them but this time they managed to get it over the line.”

The celebrations were similarly wild when Trabzonspor won their trophy last week, although players went straight on holiday as they have a quick turnaround before they are back to work this month. Newton says the crammed season will be like a Premier League campaign.

“I didn’t go back to Trabzon but I saw the pictures of the fans out until the early morning, burning flares. It looked like the city was on fire. It’s been a long time, 10 years since they won their last trophy.”

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