“For me, the great day is when we see female managers, black managers, white managers – it doesn’t matter who – getting jobs as long as they are just the best people for them.”
Joining Derby County’s new coaching team, headed by three-time Dutch title-winning boss Phillip Cocu, was almost 15 years in the making for Liam Rosenior.
The move also came a month after the English Football League made it mandatory that clubs must interview at least one black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) candidate when searching for a new first-team manager.
The regulation, informally known as the ‘Rooney Rule’ – named after the NFL diversity committee chairman Dan Rooney who helped establish the policy in American football – is one that Rosenior has spoken at length about in the past.
Asked if he thought it had had a bearing on his career, he said: “I couldn’t answer that question.”
But he knows what the rewards for dedication should be.
“I’ve always believed that if you work hard enough, you should be given the opportunity to interview, at least, to do a job you are passionate about doing,” said Rosenior, who worked towards being a coach for almost his entire 16-year playing career.
“I’ve looked at the ‘Rooney Rule’ in the NFL and the implications it has had on the league, and it has only been positive.
“For me, it is not about whether you are black, white or Asian, gay, straight or whatever religious denomination.
“Am I happy if a black guy gets a job instead of a white guy? No. I just want the best person possible to get the job.”
Two of them, Nottingham Forest boss Sabri Lamouchi and Doncaster manager Darren Moore, were both hired after the EFL introduced the ‘Rooney Rule’ policy in June.
‘Better pool of coaches will make game better’
For Rosenior, a recently retired Premier League defender who was working as a part-time television pundit and assistant manager with Brighton’s Under-23 side, his job offer from Derby “came completely out of the blue”.
While the call to join the Dutch-dominated coaching team of Cocu and co was a surprise, the rise of the 35-year-old former Hull City and Fulham man as an ambitious coach and fresh authoritative voice in the game was widely recognised.
Before he called it quits as a player, Rosenior was already a card-carrying pro-licenced coach. Then, when the boots were hung up in 2018, his understanding of the game and insight quickly made him a respected football analyst.
“Maybe it put me in the shop window and is why I’m here now,” Rosenior told BBC Sport. “TV gave me a good platform and people got to know me through that.
“The most important thing is that I can coach on the pitch and connect with players and improve players – that is what I’m here to do.”
Rosenior admits he viewed the ‘Rooney Rule’ with scepticism when first mooted because of a “lack of faith in the process”, but soon saw it as a “huge step”.
“If you are a board and you have to interview a BAME candidate, are you doing it for the right reasons? Are you doing it because you think they have a really good chance of getting a job or are you doing it for a tick-box exercise? That was my first thought,” he said.
“But you also need to sometimes be proactive in how you deal with problems.
“If we can open up the boundaries and be more transparent in the way we recruit coaches in general, then I think we will have a better pool of coaches, which therefore makes a better pool of players, which makes the game better.
“I know that there are so many different players from different backgrounds, different cultures, that need empathetic coaches who understand them.
“You need a wide range of sources of diversity, with not just race, but class, gender, all different types of things to get the best out of people.”
Research in 2017 found that just 22 of the 482 senior coaching roles in English football’s top four divisions were held by BAME coaches.
As one of that running tally of coaches – which was again highlighted when Campbell left Macclesfield – Rosenior looks forward to a time when it becomes irrelevant.
“I’d love a day when it’s not spoken about and it’s not perceived,” Rosenior said.
“What is great about the past few years is that people are starting to realise that there is unconscious bias. It is not racism, it is who we are. We all have prejudices.”
‘I’m almost in awe of these guys’
Rosenior brings a lifetime of football experience to his role as a specialist coach at Derby – which will see him focus on the development of emerging talent and working with the scouting and analysis departments.
As a player, he made more than 440 first-team appearances for seven clubs – including in the Premier League with Fulham, Reading, Hull and Brighton.
At Hull, where he spent almost five years, he was part of a promotion-winning side, played in an FA Cup final, in the Europa League and suffered relegation.
And before he did any of that, Rosenior had his father Leroy, the former Fulham and West Ham striker who went on to manage Brentford and Torquay, to look up to.
Rosenior brings a fresh perspective to Derby. Any talk of the diversity he adds to a backroom staff – one that will include former England captain Wayne Rooney as a player-coach from January – is based on his football insight.
Twan Scheepers, another specialist coach, and assistant manager Chris van der Weerden both have extensive experience working with Cocu, the world renowned former Netherlands midfielder who collected six trophies in his first job in management at PSV Eindhoven.
“There is a difference in every culture of football,” Rosenior said.
“It is a different league, a tough league, but this is Phillip Cocu and staff who have managed in the Champions League, who have won league titles.
“My job is to support them the best way I can to help Derby be successful.”
Rosenior beams when he talks about how “incredible” it is to be part of Cocu’s Rams, and what a “privilege” it is to learn from the former Barcelona player.
“It’s hard because I’m almost in awe of those guys with what they have achieved,” he said.
“It would be rude of me not to take it all in. I want to improve every single day, so if I haven’t improved in the past few weeks from learning from Phillip Cocu and the rest of the staff, then I’m in the wrong job.
“I don’t have any ambitions to say I want to be a Champions League manager, but would I love to manage in the Champions League or internationally? Of course I would, but only if I deserve that chance and earn that chance.”