VERY sad to wake up today and hear that Cyrille Regis, the former West Brom and England striker, has passed away at the early age of 59.
Regis was a key part of a breakthrough period of black players in English football when he, Brendan Batson and Laurie Cunningham suddenly appeared in Ron Atkinson’s brilliant Albion side in the late 1970s.
My clearest memory of the trio, known as the Three Degrees (unless my memory is playing dark tricks), was an incredible match at Old Trafford in which Regis and Cunningham, in particular, starred in a 5-3 victory for the Baggies over Manchester United.
We only ever saw the highlights on Star Soccer but it wasn’t the kind of game you could easily forget.
I also recall Regis scoring a goal that broke my Forest heart very briefly.
Cloughie’s side had already won the League Cup and were heading for the First Division title when they went to The Hawthorns in the FA Cup quarter final and lost 2-0. The fact The Reds had played a fifth round second replay less than 48 hours earlier was neither here nor there!
Let’s get to the point. Racial discrimination was rampant in those days in English football.
For no bigger reason than black players looked different – and ignorant fans always want to have a verbal go at opposition players.
I can’t recall if I took part in the ‘monkey’ chants – I hope not. But I forgive myself if I did because I knew no better.
But that all stopped when Viv Anderson, the first black player to play for England, came into the Forest side.
Our attitudes changed not because of political correctness – that had scarcely been invented – but because Anderson was very good at his job and he was one of us.
And that’s the way it is in the real world.
Skin colour doesn’t matter a jot when you get to know someone. It’s no more significant than whether someone is left or right handed, blonde or ginger.
Players such as Regis, Anderson and Cunningham, who tragically died in a car crash in Spain years ago, weren’t selected for England because of their colour – it was on account of their talent.
No need for quotas such as the ludicrous idea that England’s national team should always interview at least one candidate from ethnic minorities when selecting their manager.
Either you’re good enough, or you’re not. Anyone who ignores talent is plain crazy.
The death of Cyrille Regis is another body blow in a difficult season for West Brom fans.
Let’s remember also that Atkinson, forever labelled a racist because of a stupid remark he made off air a few years ago, gave black players a very significant chance in this brilliant trio.
That’s the difference between racial discrimination, which should be deplored and legislated against, and so-called racism which is politically correct nonsense.