Football fans and the world at large will have today woken up to the sad news that Cyrille Regis, former Aston Villa, Coventry, Wolves and West Bromwich Albion striker, has passed away at age 59 after suffering cardiac arrest on Sunday night.
Following his immigration to England (Regis was born in French Guiana in the fifties), Regis broke through the ranks of non-league football before signing up with West Bromwich Albion.
Along with Laurie Cunningham and Brendon Batson, the trio forced their way into Ron Atkinson’s plans in the late seventies, despite their skin tone. It was incredibly rare at the time for there to be multiple black players on the pitch, but the skill of the three could not be ignored, and thus led to the larger breakthrough of black talent on the pitch, even if attitudes in the stands would take a while to adjust to the new reality that white supremacy on the pitch was not only untrue (it was falsely thought that white players simply had attributes that black players did not), but morally unjust.
Regis was sent a bullet by racists before he made one of his six appearances for England, but it did not put the player off his game. He kept the bullet as a reminder of the evil that burnt away inside the hearts of plenty. It was his motivation. Nobody was going to stop him. Not now. Not ever.
Regis turned to faith after his friend, Cunningham passed away in a tragic car accident in 1989 His career wouldn’t end though - Cyrille moved to Aston Villa from Coventry City, where he was an FA Cup winner, and continued to notch up the goals despite him not getting any younger.
All in all, Regis would make 52 appearances for Aston Villa scoring 12 goals, before moving on to Wolverhampton as the Premier League era dawned. The scope of Regis was in that he managed to outlive a number of footballing eras and hold the banner high for black footballers in England.
With Cyrille’s passing, the world will mourn, however his legacy still exists and the entire Midlands football scene owes much to Cyrille Regis. Rest in peace.