Nice One Cyrille
When Saturday Comes|March 2018

A raw talent who thrilled crowds, Cyrille Regis overcame vicious racism to begin changing attitudes and inspire later generations of black players.

Peter Bateman

The times immediately before the arrival of Cyrille Regis were actually good for West Bromwich Albion. Johnny Giles quit as manager at the end of 1976-77 having transformed the club in his two seasons in charge, promotion to Division One being followed by a seventh place. Giles’s astute signings were a mix of experience and promising youngsters, one of the latter being Laurie Cunningham, bought from Orient in March 1977. The arrival two months later of a 19-year-old striker from Hayes for £5,000 barely registered beyond talk of his exotic background, in French Guyana.

West Brom fans had lacked a genuine terrace hero since “King” Jeff Astle left three years earlier. All this changed in a few days at the end of August and beginning of September 1977. With injuries limiting his options, new manager Ronnie Allen picked Regis for a League Cup tie against Rotherham. He scored twice in a 4-0 win and kept his place for the league game against Middlesbrough. And in the moment that he launched into a run from the halfway line, attacking the heart of allegedly the league’s meanest defence before scoring into the bottom corner, he claimed Astle’s crown. He was inexperienced, a talent whose rawness made him exciting. He played without fear.

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A raw talent who thrilled crowds, Cyrille Regis overcame vicious racism to begin changing attitudes and inspire later generations of black players.

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March 2018