Reader letter: Cyrille Regis was more than just a footballer
PUBLISHED: 11:33 22 January 2018 | UPDATED: 11:33 22 January 2018
One reader pays tribute to footballer and icon Cyrille Regis, who sadly died earlier this month.
I was saddened to learn of the death of Cyrille Regis, the ex-West Bromwich, Aston Villa and Coventry player. As well as winning the FA Cup in 1987 with Coventry, when they beat Spurs, older Norwich fans will doubtless remember his BBC “Goal of the Season — 1981/2” which knocked Norwich out of the FA Cup that season.
As well as playing a crucial part Coventry’s FA Cup-winning side in 1987, Mr Regis won five caps for England.
All-in-all, he played 614 league games, scoring 158 goals. He retired from football in October 1996. Cyrille’s legacy though will be much greater than his goals. Along with two fellow black players - Laurie Cunningham and Brendon Batson, who played with him at The Hawthorns - he was a pioneer for black footballers in British football. Very sadly, at that time, having three black players in the team, it meant the Baggies matches were marked with intense racial abuse, with monkey chants and bananas being thrown on the pitch.
Writing in his autobiography, Mr Regis commented: “The more abuse I received, the more I channelled my anger into my performances.” However it hurt, especially when just before his England debut, opening one of his ‘fan letters’, he found a bullet and a note (in letters cut out of newspapers) reading: “If you put your foot on our Wembley turf you’ll get one of those through your knees.”
Made an MBE by the Queen in the 2008 Birthday Honours for services to the voluntary sector and to football, Cyrille was a committed Christian and a trustee of Christians in Sport. Tributes have been pouring in from all over the country: “The fans loved him, he was brilliant to watch and an absolute gentleman.”
“The thing about Cyrille was that he was an ambassador for the game. He was brilliant, an icon - and he still is. He would happily come and talk to fans, and he made you feel like he’d got all the time in the world for you. He was a gentleman.”
“He was more than just a footballer, he blazed a trail for every black player who followed him, an inspiration to myself and many players of my era, A humble man and a great man.” (Mark Brighty).
Nice one Cyrille!