- 6 October 2001
Not a clue how true this is, it being April Fools day and all thatRON Atkinson was offered a new job as coach of the Trinidad and Tobago football team yesterday - then stripped of the position after a furious players' revolt.
The disgraced former Manchester United boss, 67, was sacked as a TV pundit for branding ex-Chelsea defender Marcel Desailly "a f***ing thick lazy n****r" live on air last year.
The comments, made when he thought his microphone was switched off, instantly left him an outcast in British football dubbed "Racist Ron".
Two months ago he made another racist gaffe when he joked that Chinese women were "the ugliest in the world".
Atkinson thought he had been handed a lifeline after signing the lucrative deal to take over from sacked Trinidad and Tobago coach Bertille St Clair.
Delighted team chiefs - who had ruled out ex-Manchester City boss Kevin Keegan as too expensive - called the squad together yesterday to announce their new appointment.
After a stunned silence, one senior player screamed: "You have got to be f***ing mad! You are joking me! I am not playing for Ron Atkinson. I don't care what anybody says, he's a racist."
Other members of the squad - which includes ex-Manchester United striker Dwight Yorke, Portsmouth keeper Shaka Hislop and Southampton's Kenwyne Jones - stormed out of the meeting. They warned they would quit the side if he was made boss. The meeting was called at 2pm. The vicious backlash left the embarrassed Trinidad FA with no option but to withdraw the offer to Atkinson - which had already been signed and sealed, subject to conditions.
The former ITV commentator still commands respect in the football world for his knowledge of the game. Fifa vice-president Jack Warner, who acts as special advisor to the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association, put him forward for the job.
Mr Warner has links with big names in the world of soccer around the globe.
The Caribbean FA chiefs had hoped first to unveil him to the players yesterday, then to the world today in what they believed was a major coup.
But all hell broke loose and the mutiny was even supported by backroom staff who were present at the 20-minute meeting.
The stars who play football in England are understood to have been the first to voice their disapproval.
Atkinson has denied being a racist ever since his insult to Desailly was unwittingly broadcast live on television in the Middle East last spring and sparked a storm of protest.
In his defence, he put the rant down to "frustration" at Chelsea not beating French side Monaco in the semi-finals of the Champions League.
Atkinson explained in an exclusive interview with Mirror Sport that he still enjoys the support of black and Asian friends in the Birmingham area where he lives.
But he was also axed from his job as a newspaper columnist and has struggled to get regular TV work since.
Last year he made a searching documentary in which he met black rights campaigners and went to America to examine his attitudes towards issues of race relations.
The film, entitled What Ron Said, was broadcast on BBC 1.
But he undermined his efforts by making a string of jokes about Chinese women at a dinner, calling them "the ugliest in the world".
He has not been seen on television or heard on radio in the UK since.
But, he has been back in the pundits' box for Premiership soccer - in Norway where he has a large cult following.