Other Free Encyclopedias » Brief Biographies » Biographies: Dudley Randall Biography - A Poet from an Early Age to Ferrol Sams Jr Biography » Cyrille Regis Biography - Became A Professional Soccer Player, Built An Impressive Record, Enjoyed A Twenty-year Career

Cyrille Regis - Became A Professional Soccer Player

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The move from London-based Hayes to West Bromwich, near Birmingham in the English West Midlands involved more than just relocating to another part of the country; the difference between the two clubs was immense. The professional WBA team was one of the founding clubs of the English Football Association and had been promoted to the English first division (now The Premiership) in 1976. WBA was considered one of the big football clubs of the time, regularly playing in front of large crowds. Regis debuted for WBA aged 19 in a League Cup game against Rotherham on August 31, 1977. Until then he had never played in front of more than 500 people, but the crowd that day numbered 13,000, an experience he described to Contemporary Black Biography (CBB) as "truly scary, but then you feel the passion of the fans as well." He endeared himself to the supporters by scoring in his first game, but gaining acceptance took longer than one game. Seventeen more goals were to follow that season, in which "The Baggies" made it to the FA Cup semi-final largely because of the goal scoring partnership of Regis with Ally Brown and Tony "Bomber" Brown.

Regis moved to WBA at the same time as another black player from the amateur leagues, Laurie Cunningham, and the pair became close friends. When manager Johnny Giles left the club in 1978 his replacement Ron Atkinson brought in a third black player, Brendon Batson, a surprising move at a time when racism was deeply ingrained in British soccer. Fielding three black players for the first time ever in English football, WBA came in for harsh treatment from opposition fans. Regis, Cunningham, and Batson were nicknamed "The Three Degrees" by Atkinson, after the popular black singing group of the time. Although it was meant affectionately, the nickname was in questionable taste; in 2005 it would not be acceptable to single out players that way. In fact many English fans at the time still believed that black players were lazy, lacked skill, and would not be able to play in cold weather. Some expressed their views by throwing bananas onto the pitch during games. But Regis told CBB that while racial abuse was certainly one of the "mind games" used by opposition fans inside the arena it was not part of his everyday experience. Even so he did once receive a bullet in the mail with a note warning him never to play at Wembley, the national stadium. He explained that on the pitch he was able to channel his anger into improving his performance: "the best answer to it was to score a lot of goals," he told CBB.

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