He was arguably the best black player of his generation, a Liverpool legend who appeared in two World Cups. But now the football career of John Barnes is in ruins: filing for bankruptcy last week, just five days after being sacked as manager of Tranmere Rovers. Barnes' dismissal from the League One club after eight defeats in the first 11 matches of the season means the English game has lost its highest-profile black coach. The official statistics are hardly an advertisement for diversity. Less than one per cent of football management posts in England are held by non-white candidates, even though almost one-quarter of all players are black. 'British owners and chairmen have got to be more forthright,' former Manchester United defender Viv Anderson, the first black player to be capped in a full international by England, says. 'If someone has the qualifications, it doesn't matter if he's black, blue, purple or green: give them the opportunity.' Barnes had to wait almost a decade to be given another chance at management after a disastrous spell in charge of Scottish giants Celtic. In the 1999-2000 season when he worked under Kenny Dalglish as director of football, Barnes was fired soon after Celtic suffered a shock Scottish Cup defeat against Inverness Caledonian Thistle. In June 2008, Barnes' former England teammate, Paul Ince, signed on at Blackburn Rovers, becoming the first black British manager in the Premier League. But after just three victories in 17 games, Ince was sacked last December after only 177 days in charge. Since July, Ince has coached Milton Keynes Dons, of League One. Another England international, Andy Cole, has been taking his first steps in management, helping out Ince as a forwards' coach at Milton Keynes and then performing a similar role at Huddersfield Town as he completes his Uefa 'B' licence. But, as he told a Manchester United TV panel, it's sometimes hard to breakdown stereotypes. 'Black players had various stigmas to deal with in the past - that we couldn't play in the winter, that we could only play on the wing and now it's a similar story when it comes to management,' Cole says. 'Will I get an opportunity at the end of it all? I don't know.' Across the Atlantic Ocean, American football seems to have smashed the colour barrier, with no shortage of non-white coaches and administrators. Super Bowl XLI in Miami two years ago saw opposing African-American NFL coaches for the first time as Tony Dungy's Indianapolis Colts took on Lovie Smith's Chicago Bears. As for former Barnsley boss Anderson, who's been out of management for more than eight years after ending a spell as Bryan Robson's assistant at Middlesbrough in 2001, he's in no hurry to get back in the saddle. The 53-year-old MBE runs his own sports travel agency, is a goodwill ambassador for England's Football Association and plays in the EPL Football Masters, with stops in Hanoi and Kuala Lumpur next month. 'You never say never, but it's been a long time,' Anderson says. 'We have to see what happens in the next chapter in my life.' His historic first England cap was earned under Ron Greenwood against Czechoslovakia at Wembley Stadium in November 1978 when Anderson was at his hometown club, Nottingham Forest. At the time, Brian Clough's Forest were reigning English champions and were about to win the first of two consecutive European Cups. While it's tough for black managers to break through, Anderson acknowledges that English football is today a vastly different landscape than in his playing days. 'Getting my first cap was a very big deal as there weren't many black faces around at the time but it's very different now when you look at the England squad,' Anderson says. 'In a multi-racial country like the UK, I don't think racism is such a big problem anymore, but when you go to Russia and some of the Baltic states, it's always there. When someone like Thierry Henry says he'd walk off the field because of racist chants, that's not good for anyone.' Anderson called on Fifa to introduce tougher penalties for racist incidents, including steeper fines and banning offending fans from matches. And, as for nurturing black coaches and managers, Anderson says more patience is needed from club chairmen and directors. 'I think John Barnes' sacking was a bit premature so early into a season: he should at least have been given six months,' he says. 'In this day and age, if you want success you have to stick with somebody you think was good enough in the first place.' Anderson cites the example of the manager who brought him from Arsenal to Manchester United 22 years ago and was on the brink of dismissal early into his tenure until a timely away victory in the third round of the FA Cup after a string of seven winless league games and a barren three-year spell without a major trophy. He survived and the rest is history. His name? Sir Alex Ferguson.