Former footballer Marcus Gayle has played for Wimbledon, Brentford and Watford amongst others in his footballing career. When he hung up his boots, he went in to coaching and for the past few years has been involved in a host of other projects.

Marcus has been enjoying some free spare time of late, due to the lockdown.

“I’ve quiet enjoyed the lockdown to be fair, I like the slowness of it, it’s calmed things down, I’ve used it as a time for reflection, sharpening my tools on my educational side and a bit more reading.”

Marcus has played for a host of clubs, but his time at Wimbledon in the nineties he remembers most.

“In the time of the mid 90’s when I started playing with them, I was there seven years and had a whale of a time and the crazy gang helped me mature from being a boy to a man in a short space of time because of the characters. It was a test every day mentally and physically at times.”

He was also fortunate to play international football for Jamaica.

“That was a brilliant period as well. I played for about two years. It was very colourful the characters again. It was a positive and historic moment as well. It was a beautiful experience playing in the world cup, you kind of dream off as a kid to represent Jamaica through my father.”

After his playing days were over, he turned to coaching and started on that path with a spell as Wimbledon’s reserve team manager.

“I played ninety-nine per cent of my career just focused on playing. I didn’t really give much thought into what to do next. The main thing was make sure you look after your money and if you’ve got time to do that you will have time to evolve into a different pathway.”

“But how it turned out at my days at Watford, I didn’t even see myself as a coach, but others did, indeed the younger players were always tapping into my knowledge and I was unaware of what I could become, but they saw me as someone that they could go to in the club a senior statesman and they saw me as a coach before I even did.” he said.

“The opportunity came around when I finished in 2008 to take over the reserve team, which I did for four years which was thoroughly enjoyable.”

“It was just to prepare them because when you get into the first team environment it can be quiet harsh, like how are you going to cope with somebody telling you something, they are not going to ask for anything in the first team, they are going to demand or tell you and it won’t be in a nice way.” he added.

Marcus eventually became manager of Non-League Staines Town, where he was for two and a half years.

“I was well equipped for it, I was happy in picking and choosing players and developing players, so I was really doing everything. I really did my apprenticeship at Wimbledon, so to step into first team management was just like another move. You were playing in a decent league Conference South, you had a budget to deal with, which was totally fine, but for me really it was giving young players an opportunity.”

“There was always a reservation about managers not wanting to play young players as the managers perspective is that he wants three points, he ain’t going to trust the youngsters, but I was the complete opposite. I signed a lot of nineteen soon to be twenty year old players as the bulk of my squad just to trust me as a coach and I will be here step by step and let’s just give you the opportunity and that is what I did.” he said.

Marcus is heavily involved with Brentford as a club ambassador, Kick It Out out and ambassador for Kick Off @3.

“I met the guys that founded that a few years ago and they just wanted my support for events and input as well so I was more than happy to do that so we have been doing that for the last couple of years. What they are aiming to do is to build up the rapport between  young people through sport and the community police in general, as I can see that there is a disconnect of trust.”

“So that want to use sport as a way of unifying everybody at the same place same time and really build up trust and understanding between the two and I totally agree with that because I think there is the disconnect at times where the police may see youngsters as problematic . The aim is that we can all be united through sport and try and mend connections that are being broken at times.” he said.

There has been a lot of talk recently of Black Lives Matter and the solidarity that everybody has shown towards this.

“I think the issue needs to be raised and the acknowledgement from the Premier League is great, having the slogans on the back of the shirts I’m not in full agreement with that as I just think that is going to open a can of worms and a wider debate and it clouds what’s really going on.”

“It’s taken away what the message is, it’s not saying only black lives matter, we all matter however there is a disproportionate rate of certain teams that effect black lives in this country and that’s historical, systematic and those are the things that we need to have a big debate about and this all starts with the leadership from the boardrooms etc  and the people who make decisions in football there is hardly anybody of colour in these positions.”

“But they all want to talk about race and equality, but we are not even in the conversation, so we need to have our voice heard. How it is today, everybody is their own broadcaster, we don’t need to go to the mainstream media to put our voice out there as we have our own social media platforms as we all talk on that.”

“I just think it is going to be problematic for the first twelve games or so but it’s going to open a can of worms later down the road, then we will have different debates about different topics and where is it ever going to end.” he said.

Incredibly, there are only six BAME Managers currently out of 91 clubs. This is a concern for Marcus.

“Even though it is six, it is better than how it was. To take six right now is an encouragement, but my thoughts on that is again it is down to the leadership, the board room and the decision makers that appoint, where is the transparency in the boardroom and openness. How players that are black play for the top sides, win titles, captain those great teams and as soon as those players are retiring are deemed you are nowhere near good enough, compared to our white counterparts.”

“The question is we want equality but we want equality to do the exact same thing the equal opportunity as a Wayne Rooney, a Frank Lampard, a Steven Gerrard and those are prevalent and that is a fair debate to listen to.”

Interview with Marcus Gayle