From the archive: Ian Ridley interviews Cyrille Regis

Cyrille Regis dead West Brom Coventry

Cyrille Regis dead West Brom Coventry

The former Baggies player died aged 59 after falling ill on Sunday night and Deane, one of United's all-time greatest strikers, broke down in tears as he paid tribute to Regis.

You probably don't need us to tell you that Regis was a titan of the 1970s and 80s footballing landscape, thrashing in 112 goals in 297 appearances for West Brom between '77 and '84 before moving on to do likewise at Coventry City and, later, Aston Villa.

Regis played his football in an era when racism was rife, paving the way for future generations along with Laurie Cunningham and Brendon Batson at West Brom and becoming just the third black player to win a full England cap - the first of five - when he lined up against Northern Ireland in February 1982.

"Our deepest condolences go out to Julia and all of Cyrille's family and close friends".

Former Luton Town and Tottenham Hotspur manager David Pleat has said Cyrille Regis made a significant impact on English football, following the death of the ex-West Bromwich Albion and England forward.

The Professional Footballers' Association announced the news yesterday morning and wrote in a tweet from its official account: "A true gentleman and legend, he will be deeply missed".

The trio became known as the "Three Degrees" and were frequently the targets of racist abuse and chants.

At a time at a time when the only other black player appearing regularly in the English top flight was Viv Anderson at Nottingham Forest, Regis, thrilling winger Cunningham, and Batson, an elegant defender, were a novelty in English football.

WBS Pens player Christian Thomas named to Canadian Olympic team
The emphasis was on skill at the forward positions, a mobile defence and some size - or The Canadian Way, as Burke put it. We were more confident (going) with the players that we know than hoping with the players that we didn't know".

"And he was an even better bloke than he was a player".

There was no talk of stopping games, no fines or punishments and very little in the way of institutional support for the black players.

"The worst for me was getting my first England cap and receiving a bullet through the post saying 'if you put your foot on our Wembley turf, you'll get one of these for your knees, '" Regis recalled.

During his time at The Hawthorns, he would also begin his global career, eventually winning five senior caps after coming through the Under-21 set-up.

Regis also played for clubs like Coventry City, Aston Villa and Wolverhampton Wanderers during a 19-year professional playing career.

Signed by West Brom in 1977 for 5,000 pounds, Regis made a spectacular debut by scoring twice in a League Cup match against Rotherham.

Regis was awarded an MBE in 2008.

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