Black football pioneer Cyrille Regis dies suddenly aged 59
9th Feb 1958-14th January 2018
The sudden death of Cyrille Regis has left the world of football and the black community in tears. Former team mates and associates such as Brian Dean, Dion Dublin, Darren Moore and BBC Radio WM presenter Paul Franks fought back tears as the they recalled the gentle giant who put up and overcame the vile racist abuse from the terraces of the 1970 80's and 90's . He also supported charitable causes and inspired his nephew former West Bromwich Albion, Wigan and Blackburn footballer Jason Roberts to follow his humanitarian footsteps. Quiet spoken a deep thinker and willing to share his knowledge time and experiences with those willing to listen.
He delivered a major blow to a professional game, that until then had all but excluded black players in the 1970's by kicking open the door of professional football and he held it open for decades so that black players could get the opportunity to get a fair share and enjoy in the riches of the professional game. Whilst young generations of black people at the time often were struggling with identity there were at least a few things that helped reinforce their pride. They could take joy from the brilliant young West Indies cricket team led by the dominant captains Clive Lloyd and later Viv Richards and they could dream of being like Cyrille Regis who brought the game to a generation of black young people whose parents had migrated from the many Caribbean islands. Cyrille was one of them as he come to England as a young child born in French Guiana.
He established himself as a raw but talented striker playing non league football for Hayes FC in the Isthmian league before getting his big break with West Bromwich Albion FC. He was a key part of an entertaining side that finished as high as 3rd in the old First Division which was the top league before the creation of the Premier League . He endured heartbreak, losing two FA Cup semi finals in 1978 v eventual winners Ipswich and in 1982 v underdogs QPR both at Arsenals Higbury ground. . He eventually got to the final in 1987 helping Coventry City defeat favourites Tottenham Hotspurs 3-2 in a thrilling final in front of 100,000 fans.
By today's standards his goal scoring statistics would not suggest that he was a prolific goal scorer but, he was a scorer of great goals. He won The BBC Match of the Day 1981/82 Goal of the season for a chest control, turn run and 25 yard strike into the top corner against Norwich City that was played at the start of the program for many years.
By his own admission he was not a saint but there again who is ? However he was a man of the people and found renewed faith in his relationship with God.
He attended a launch of our Steps to Work Employment Support Program and even his grandchildren attended our Saturday school one of which , Jada is now destined for athletic stardom. A man of the people, Cyrille Regis will forever hold a special place in the black community , the football community, the humanitarian community as well as the faith community.
A giant of a man in body, heart, mind and deeds.
We will miss you Cyrille
Gone But Never Forgotten
Rest in Peace .