The Brent Schools’ Football Association was deeply saddened by the passing of Cyrille Regis MBE, who grew up in Brent and represented the Association in his youth. Having moved from French Guiana to Stonebridge at the age of five, Cyrille attended the school now known as Newman Catholic College.
In addition to his talents on the football pitch, Cyrille showed promise as both a cricket and athlete. Upon leaving school, he qualified as an electrician and combined working in this trade with playing semi-professional football; first for Molesey, then for Hayes. It was from Hayes that Cyrille was transferred to West Bromwich Albion in May 1977, at the age of 19.
He scored twice on his debut for the Baggies, against Rotherham United in the League Cup, and was PFA Young Player of the Year in 1978. Alongside his Albion team mates, Laurie Cunningham and Brendon Batson, Cyrille did much to facilitate the acceptance of black players in professional football.
In a 2006 interview with the Coventry Telegraph, he recalled: “"Being a black player in the late-1970s and early-1980s, I had to put up with a lot of racism from opposition fans.
"There were many doubts about black players - that we were hot-weather players and that we didn't have enough courage, bottle or temperament for the game.
"But at the same time as I came into the sport, a lot of other players, like Justin Fashanu, Ricky Hill and Dave Bennett, were also helping to change people's perceptions.
"It was intimidating to run on the pitch and be faced with five or ten thousand people chanting racist abuse at you, or throwing bananas on to the pitch."
Cyrille successfully overcame the prejudice that was so prevalent in that era and became the third black player to win an England cap, representing his country a total of five times. He also won The FA Cup with Coventry City and also represented Aston Villa, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Wycombe Wanderers and Chester City in a professional career that lasted 19 years and saw him score 205 goals in 701 appearances.
Chris Ampofo, Chair of Brent Schools’ FA, commented: “We send our heartfelt condolences to Cyrille’s family and friends at this desperately sad time. Cyrille was a hero to me; as a young apprentice footballer I looked up to him, because he had shown me what was possible, partly because he had played football with my brother at the OK (Oxford & Kilburn) Club before turning professional. That underlined that hard work was what really counted.
“I had the pleasure of meeting Cyrille after his playing career ended and a friendlier and more genuine man you could not wish to meet. He was a pioneer and will be sadly missed.”