Andy Cole. Dion Dublin. Ian Wright. Les Ferdinand. Four World-class strikers in their time, who made their fair share of contributions to the English top flight, three of whom ended up winning the Premier League. If there’s one other thing they’ll want to be known for having in common, it’ll be finding inspiration in former West Brom and Aston Villa forward Cyrille Regis, who proved to be a pioneer, a motivator for black footballers to chase their dream in the country, despite the adversities that came (and still comes) with it.

‘There was Brendon (Baston) and Laurie (Cunningham) and Viv (Anderson) but there was something about Cyrille that myself and Wrighty and Ferdinand’ said an emotional Dion Dublin earlier this week, after Regis passed away of a heart attack. ‘We were the players that looked at those players and thought we want to play, we want to be like you’. ‘Me in particular playing centre-forward, Cyrille Regis was my hero. All I wanted to do was play like him’ Dublin went on. ‘I used to watch him all the time and if it wasn’t for him I would never have been a professional footballer.

If it wasn’t for Regis, not many black players would have lived the dream of making it at professional level, Cole and Viv Anderson rained in their tributes over his impact, while Ian Wright referred to Regis as Martin Luther King. And from the looks of it, Regis had quite a dream, otherwise he probably would have been deterred by the seemingly endless bouts of racism he received in his playing time, from the monkey noises in a game at Newcastle, to the bullet sent to him in a threatening letter about stepping on to the pitch right before he made his international debut for England, but Regis was a man who barely aired his distaste for the discrimination he received, rather he kept on playing, week in, week out, to the disdain and ridiculousness of the abusers.

‘Cyrille was the main reason why a lot of young black kids looked at football and thought there was a genuine opportunity to play’ said Brian Deane, scorer of the Premier League’s first ever goal. ‘He embodied the spirit of the inner cities of the time…’. And when teams came out to play this weekend, they stopped to recognise Regis, even though the Premier League didn’t plan on it at first, initially West Brom were the only Premier League side who were going to pay tribute to the former forward, but calls from the likes of Anderson led to Premier League eventually deciding on it. The recognition was beyond the English top flight though, as every game in the English Football League paid tribute as well, even the Scottish cup, and Celtic winger Scott Sinclair, whom Regis was his agent, spoke of the guidance and advice he and the other players under Regis received from the 59-year-old.

It’s still naïve to say that racism in the game has vanished, the issue of players being despised for the heinous crime of being black is still very much rife, as Liverpool’s Rhian Brewster and the attack on Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling in the past few weeks have shown, but as Jefferson Jackson, in the CW’s fictional Legends of Tomorrow, said to the slaves when he travelled back in time to America’s more despicable days ‘it doesn’t become equal, or anywhere near good enough, but it gets better’. And it has gotten better in Britain, thanks in no small part to Cyrille Regis.

A player who turned out for three Midland clubs, all rivals with each other, yet not when it came to him. And at the weekend, the rest of bickering teams in the land united in acknowledging a pacesetter.

Elsewhere:

  • Amidst the applauding in unison, there was still football to be played, and no one played it this weekend like Eden Hazard. It was only five minutes into the game at Brighton, when the Belgian had thumped Chelsea in front, and played a part in an exquisite second, from Willian. Hazard added another in the second period as Chelsea ran out 4-0 winners, a result which probably didn’t quite reflect Brighton’s efforts. Two goals, wonderful turns and dribbles, moments of seemingly daring the opposition to make a tackle, yet Hazard’s best touch came after the final whistle. Class.
  • There’s just this love affair that happens when Sergio Aguero and Newcastle come face-to-face, although it is the kind of love affair that the Magpies will more than want to end, as the Argentine’s hatrick gave Manchester City three points on Saturday, bouncing back from the Liverpool defeat in effective, if not at times uncomfortable fashion. At times it was hearts in mouth for the home fans, especially when the score was at 2-1, but Newcastle never really seemed like a side that were believing they could leave the Etihad with something. And a wonderfully incisive Leroy Sane run into the box later, Aguero would cap off the win and his treble, his 12th goal against the Toon in less than eight years, one of which Newcastle spent in a different division.
  • Alexis Sanchez seems all but gone from Arsenal now, but on evidence of this game, who needs him? Only 22 minutes had gone when Arsenal were 4-0 up against Crystal Palace, Alexandre Lacazette getting on the score sheet to end his goal drought, and become the scorer of the 500th goal for Arsenal by a Frenchman. If this performance was anything to go by, perhaps the Gunners were glad to see Sanchez leave. But with Arsenal, it’s always a soon-to-be disproved ‘if’.
  • Marco Silva has become managerial casualty number eight of the season (that means an average of a managerial departure every three match-weeks), after Watford lost at Leicester. Silva had expressed confidence in the safety of his job after the defeat, something the Hornets hierarchy clearly didn’t echo, and they were keen to point out a lack of focus as the reason for the Portuguese’s dismissal. Javi Gracia is the new man in charge.
  • Speaking of a new man in charge, it was a happy start to life at the Bet365 stadium for Paul Lambert, as Stoke bagged three much-needed points at home to Huddersfield, thanks to Joe Allen and Mame Biram Diouf. The Potters have climbed out of the bottom three.
  • There was applause at the start at Goodison Park, for Regis, while in the second half there were tears from the face of West Brom forward Salomon Rondon, after his unfortunate accident with Everton’s James McCarthy resulted in the latter suffering a double leg break, not long after returning from a two-month lay-off. Elsewhere, there was a first league point, goal and shot on target of the year for Everton after 20 days. That seems about right. The Toffees lie in ninth place, as close to eight spot as they are to 18th.

Results

Brighton 0-4 Chelsea

Burnley 0-2 Manchester United

Arsenal 4-0 Crystal Palace

West Ham 1-1 Bournemouth

Everton 1-1 West Brom

Leicester 2-0 Watford

Southampton 1-1 Tottenham

Manchester City 3-1 Newcastle

Stoke 2-0 Huddersfield

Monday Night Football: Swansea v Liverpool

 

 

Published in International Watch