“Through his excellence on the cricket field, Sir Everton helped in a fundamental way to change Barbados for the better, forever, by proving that true excellence cannot be constrained by social barriers.”

– PM of Barbados Owen Arthur

Sir Everton Weekes one of the Three W’s and one of the world’s greatest cricketers, he was born in a wooden shack in Pickwick Gap, St. Michael, Barbados on 26th February 1925.

Leaving school at 14 with no job, Weekes honed his cricketing and football skills on the streets of Barbados, before joining the army in 1943. Joining the army allowed him to play cricket at a higher level under the Barbados Cricket Association. It’s never been clear if it was his deliberate plan to further his sporting ambitions.

Weekes had a classic batting style, possessed a variety of shots on both sides of the wicket, and is considered one of the hardest hitters in cricket history. Sir Everton had a phenomenal international career scoring 4,235 runs in 46 tests, averaging 58.01 and scoring 14 centuries and 19 half centuries, he was the fastest in world to reach 1000 Test runs (shares the record with Herbert Sutcliffe) by achieving the feat in the 12th innings of his career, but more of this later.

His county cricket in England was spent at Bacup Cricket Club, Lancashire between 1948 and 1959. In the Lancashire leagues he was described as a devastating batsman scoring 25 centuries and passing 1,000 runs in each season. In the 1951 season he scored 1,518 for Bacup Cricket Club which remains a record to this day. When he first arrived in Bacup.

Weekes was greatly affected by the cold and took to wearing an army great coat everywhere, to the extent it became part of his League image. His homesickness for Barbados was tempered by his landlady’s potato pies and the presence of Frank Worrell and Clyde Walcott, they met up at Sir Everton’s home regularly to play jazz piano and sing. So revered was Sir Everton Weekes in Bacup, that the town council have proposed building a lasting memorial in his honour.

The THREE W’s

The term ‘Three W’s’ was coined by a British journalist during the 1950 West Indies tour of England. In that tour Weekes was in excellent form, scoring 338 runs at 56.33 and playing a significant part in the West Indies 3–1 victory in the Test series, as well as 2310 first-class runs at 79.65 (including five double centuries, a record for a West Indian tour of England). In 1951 Weekes was named ‘Wisden Cricketer of the Year’ for his outstanding performances.

The ‘Three W’s’, were of course himself, Sir Clyde Walcott and Sir Frank Worrell, all noted as the outstanding batsmen from Barbados of their time, who all made their Test debut in 1948 against England. The three were all born within seventeen months of each other and within a mile of Kensington Oval in Barbados and Walcott believed that the same midwife delivered each of them. Weekes first met Walcott in 1941, aged 16, when they were team mates in a trial match. They shared a room together when on tour and, along with Worrell, would go dancing together on Saturday nights after playing cricket.

His career showed a steely determination of pure cricketing genius and yet he was a humble gentle man, the statistics however are mind blowing.  

CompetitionTests Firstclass
Matches48 152
Runs scored4,455 12,010
Batting average58.61 55.34
100s/50s15/19 36/54
Top score207 304*
Balls bowled122 1,137
Wickets1 17
Bowling average77.00 43.00
Best bowling1/8 4/38
Catches/stumpings49/– 124/1

He continued to play first-class cricket until 1964, when he surpassed 12,000 first-class runs in his final innings. He died on 1st July 2020. Barbados Today and the Guardian amongst other publications had heart warming obituaries for this cricket legend.

Singer – actor – athlete – political activist

“We realise that our future lies chiefly in our hands. We know that neither institution nor friend can make a race stand unless it has strength in its own foundation”

When it comes to those who stand up for their beliefs, those who stick their heads above the parapet to be counted and in doing so invoke the the full wrath of those in power, here you must count Paul Robeson amongst the great USA Civil Rights activists.

Many know him only as a great American bass baritone concert artist and stage and film actor who became famous for his cultural accomplishments, but in the USA he was also famous for his political activism in a time when this could cost you your life.

In the words of Paul Robeson:

“To be free – to walk the good American earth as equal citizens, to live without fear, to enjoy the fruits of our toil to give our children every opportunity in life – that dream which we have held so long in our hearts is today the destiny that we hold in our hands”.

To his credit Robeson did not just fight for Black Civil Rights he also fought for Civil Rights for the ‘Working Class’ and the poor of all colours. Travelling the world to supporting workers rights.

His concert career reads like a world traveller’s passport: New York, Vienna, Prague, Budapest, Germany, Paris, Holland, London, Moscow, and Nairobi.  His travels taught him that racism was not as prevalent in Europe as it was back home. In the United States, he couldn’t enter theatres through the front door or sing without intimidation and protest, but in London he was welcomed with open arms and standing ovations. Robeson believed in the universality of music and that by performing Negro spirituals and other cultures folk songs, he could promote intercultural understanding.  As a result, he became a citizen of the world, singing for peace and equality in twenty-five languages including Chinese, Arabic, Russian and various African languages

Robeson based himself in England from the 1929 to the outbreak of the Second World War; a house in Camden bears a Blue Plaque with his name. In England he said he:

“learned that the essential character of a nation is determined not by the upper classes, but by the common people, and that the common people of all nations are truly brothers in the great family of mankind”.

During this period he was also deeply influenced by the Spanish Civil War against fascism and saw it as a turning point in Human Rights performing in concerts to support the conflict refugees. He joined the Communist Party in 1934 and enjoyed huge popularity in Soviet Russia. He remained a Marxist-Leninist until the day he died.

His support of workers and workers rights was a ‘hallmark of the man’. Performing in docks, shipyards, mines and strike gatherings around the world, including pits in Wales and Scotland taking every opportunity to perform the Civil Rights song ‘Joe Hill’, ironically about White unionist and poet and founding member of  the Industrial Workers of the World Union (The Wobblies) Joel Hägglund executed in 1915.  In 1952, with the encouragement of his friend the great Welsh politician Aneurin ‘Nye’ Bevan (founder of the NHS), Robeson recorded a number of radio concerts for supporters in Wales.

When performing and supporting the Aborigines cause in Australia he was told that they were ‘backward’, to which he retorted:

“There’s no such thing as a backward human being, there is only a society which says they are backward”.

During his travels he visited the Soviet Union and found them to be a tolerant and friendly nation, he began to protest the growing Cold War hostilities between the United States and the USSR.  He began to question why African-Americans should support a government that did not treat them as equals. 

All this was taking place at a time when dissent was hardly tolerated, Robeson was looked upon as an enemy of the state by his government.  In 1947, he was named by the House Committee on Un-American Activities ‘McCarthyism’, and the State Department denied him a passport until 1958.

Paul Robeson on his socialist politics in 1958:

“I do not believe that a few people should control the wealth of any land.”

Robeson along with his friend W.E.B. Du Bois made serious political misjudgements, most notably on the Hungarian Uprising and Stalinism, but they never faltered from their beliefs in basic human rights and what they believed was the best political system to deliver it, right or wrong.

Looking back on his life as a young man, you can clearly see how this wonderful honourable man developed.

In his formative years Robeson was awarded a four year academic scholarship to Rutgers University in 1915, the third black student in the history of the institution.  Despite the openly racist and violent opposition he faced, Robeson became a twelve letter athlete excelling in baseball, basketball, football, and track.  He was named to the All American Football team on two occasions.  In addition to his athletic talents, Robeson was named a Phi Beta Kappa scholar, belonged to the Cap & Skull Honour Society, and graduated valedictorian of his class in 1919.  

He went on to study law at Columbia in New York and received his degree in 1923.  There he met and married Eslanda Cardozo Goode, who was the first black woman to head a pathology laboratory.   Robeson worked as a law clerk in New York, but once again faced discrimination and soon left the practice because a White secretary refused to take dictation from him.

Before the 1950s, Robeson was one of the world’s most famous entertainers and beloved American heroes – once being named ‘Man of the Year’ by the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People. Despite all his accomplishments, Paul Robeson remains virtually ignored in American textbooks and history.

Today we are looking again, he has become revered man once more, not just for his musical and cultural talents but for his long overdue recognition as a political activist, who put body on the line for what he believed to be a just and fair society.

Listen to this interview in 1960

In truth we abandoned him after his ‘McCarthyism trial’ the slander stuck. Robeson disappeared in a sea of mental breakdown, sadness and loneliness. A cruel end for a man who conducted a life full of desire and achievement, passion and conviction: 

“the story of a man who did so much to break down the barriers of a racist society, only to be brought down by the controversies sparked by his own radical politics.”

Listen and Enjoy

Land of My Fathers 3.04min (Wales)

Old Man River 3.18min to Sydney Opera house workers: 

The First Black star tribute 6.44min

The Volga Boatman 2.42min

The first British Black Football manager

A few days ago on 8th February 2021 we lost one of the true pioneers of British football, Tony Collins (b. 19th March 1926) was a talented left winger who played for Sheffield Wednesday, York FC, Watford (twice), Norwich City, Torquay United and Crystal Palace where he became their first Black player.

Note: It is often stated that Keith Alexander who managed Lincoln City in 1993 was the first Black manager in the EFL, this is not so, it was Tony Collins.

Division IV Rochdale AFC was the team where he established his managerial credentials and became the Football Association first Black manager. He took Rochdale AFC to the 1962 League Cup final, the only team from that tier to reach a final until 2013 when Bradford City achieved it. It remains the only major cup final in Rochdale AFC’s 114 year history.

After a spell of coaching and scouting at Bristol City (then managed by Don Revie), he gained a reputation as an astute analyst of players abilities and tactics, to such a degree that Don Revie brought him to the England camp as part of his management team, where he worked on compiling dossiers on opponents. In 1975 the Scottish team railed against Collins, with a double page spread in the Daily Record, dubbing him ‘Master Spy’, they believed his dossier on the Scottish team was the reason for their 5-1 defeat.

He is however probably remembered for his scouting work for Manchester united under the management of Ron Atkinson and then Sir Alex Ferguson from 1982 to 1988, where he bought Lee Sharpe and Paul McGrath to the club, he also spotted the young Ruud Gullit, unfortunately for Atkinson he was not for sale.

Overall he spent six decades of his life in the service of football, finishing off as scout for Leeds United until he retired at the age of 77.

He received the ‘League Managers Association Service to Football Award’ from the in 2017.

In 2016 Matt Stanger reviewed his biography written with his daughter ‘Tony Collins: Master Spy’ (see below):

He might be too modest to admit it, but Tony Collins is a football pioneer

In 1960 he became the first black manager in England when he was appointed by Rochdale, leading the club to the League Cup final two years later. Although they lost to Norwich over two legs, Rochdale remained the only team from the lowest division to contest the final until 2013, when Bradford City played Swansea.

Now 90, and residing in a care home near Manchester, Collins has told his fascinating story with the help of daughter Sarita in the new book Tony Collins: Football Master Spy.

Despite his achievements as a manager, Collins is most renowned for his scouting work during a career that spanned six decades. It is these memories that he enjoys most, such as the time he perched at the back of the stand on a freezing, rainswept midweek night to get a glimpse of the new hotshot striker making a name for himself in the Southampton reserves.

That particular example, just one of many Collins recalled during our conversation, saw him recommend a young Alan Shearer to Manchester United, long before he joined Blackburn Rovers, won the Premiership title, and then rejected the Old Trafford club in favour of signing for boyhood side Newcastle.

For most football scouts the nickname ‘Super Spy’ would be worn as a badge of honour, but for Collins the moniker he earned as Don Revie’s assistant with England was just a bit of fun.

He had been asked by Revie to compile a scouting report on Scotland ahead of a 1974/75 British Home Championship match at Wembley, and watched as England perfectly executed his advice to defeat the auld enemy 5-1.

“Don gave each player a copy and the match went exactly as I thought it might,” says Collins. “But afterwards one of the England players left their report behind. The papers got news of it and came up with the name ‘Super Spy’.”

The Daily Record’s double-page spread on Collins’ report, bemoaning the comparative standard of Scottish scouts, attracted plenty of attention. As many working in football already knew, ’Super Spy’ was a fitting nickname for Collins, with Ron Atkinson – who wrote the foreword to the new book – a keen admirer of his vast knowledge of the game.

As Manchester United manager, Atkinson once sent Collins, then the club’s chief scout, to watch a Dutch right-back that had caught his eye. But twenty minutes into the game Collins was unimpressed with what he had seen, instead finding himself distracted by a skilful, dreadlocked centre-half.

“He was a beautiful player, pulling it down, sweeping it out to the wings. I thought, ‘Blimey, he looks a bit special’.” Sadly for Atkinson and United, the young Ruud Gullit wasn’t for sale.

Gullit wasn’t the only future star Collins tracked for United. He travelled to Ireland to watch a 22-year-old Paul McGrath playing for St. Patrick’s Athletic, and quickly persuaded Atkinson to recruit the talented defender.

“He was cool as you like on the ball,” Collins recalls. “Clever, a good passer – a very good player all round.”

Collins’ own playing career was almost over before it began when he was conscripted into the army as an 18-year-old. Having been set to join Brentford before his call-up, the tricky left winger served for three years in Italy before signing for Sheffield Wednesday in 1947.

He had some help in the move to Hillsborough from two fellow soldiers, who supported the Owls and had been wowed by Collins’ ability in army matches. 

“There were two Wednesdayites who told me ‘Leave it with us’,” explains Collins.

“They wrote letters to Eric Taylor, who was the manager at Wednesday, and he got back to me and said, ‘You’ve been strongly recommended, we’d like to fix you up for a trial’. So I went up there, they put me up in a hotel, and after the match Taylor called me into his office and signed me.”

Despite being highly regarded by the clubs he played for, Collins wasn’t afforded the same opportunities as his peers. He was overlooked by England manager Walter Winterbottom, who watched him playing for Watford in 1954, although Collins doesn’t feel that prejudice blocked his path to the top.

As a mixed-race footballer in the 1950s, he faced many challenges. His daughter Sarita found 13 job applications her father had sent during his time as Rochdale manager, with not a single one receiving a reply. After leading the unfashionable fourth-tier club to the League Cup final, Collins’ achievements undoubtedly warranted greater recognition.

Management’s loss was to be scouting’s gain, as Collins’ talent for player-spotting was sought throughout the game. As well as Atkinson and Revie, he also worked with Jock Stein and, briefly, Sir Alex Ferguson, to whom he recommended the raw Torquay winger Lee Sharpe.

“I saw Lee Sharpe and thought he was good enough to work on if the money was right,” he says. “I went down to Torquay with Alex Ferguson and Archie Knox and introduced them to the Torquay manager. There were one or two clubs interested but he came to United.”

Tony Collins: Football Master Spy Biography review by Matt Stranger in The Set Pieces

Posted by Rob Burns

1888 – 1918 football genius and war hero

Walter Tull, the son of a joiner, was born in Folkestone in April 1888. Walter’s father, the son of a slave, had arrived from Barbados in 1876 and had married a girl from Folkestone. Over the next few years the couple had six children. In 1895, when Walter was seven, his mother died; Walter’s father re-married but died two years later. The stepmother was unable to cope with all six children and Walter and his brother Edward were sent to a Methodist run orphanage in Bethnal Green, London.

After finishing his schooling Tull served an apprenticeship as a printer. Walter was a keen footballer and played for a local team in Clapton. In 1908 Walter’s talents were discovered by a scout from Tottenham Hotspur and the club decided to sign this promising young footballer. Walter was only the second black man to play professional football in Britain. The first was Arthur Wharton, the Preston North End goalkeeper.

Blue Plaque to commemorate Walter Tull installed in 2018 in Rushden where he lived 100 years earlier

Walter played for Tottenham until 1910 when he was transferred for a large fee to Northampton Town. Walter Tull played 110 times for Northampton Town’s first-team. Playing at wing-half, Walter became the club’s most popular player. Other clubs wanted to sign Walter and in 1914 Glasgow Rangers began negotiations with Northampton Town. However, before he could play for them war was declared.

Phil Vasili on Walter Tull the footballer

On the outbreak of the First World War Tull immediately abandoned his career and offered his services to the British Army. Walter, like many professional players, joined the 1st Football Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment. The Army soon recognised Tull’s leadership qualities and he was quickly promoted to the rank of sergeant. In July 1916, Tull took part in the major Somme offensive.

Tull survived this experience but in December 1916 he developed trench fever and was sent home to England to recover. Tull had impressed his senior officers and it was recommended that he should be considered for further promotion. When he recovered from his illness, instead of being sent back to France, he went to the officer training school at Gailes in Scotland. Despite military regulations forbidding “any negro or person of colour” being an officer, Tull received his commission in May, 1917.

Lieutenant Walter Tull was sent to the Italian front. This was a historic occasion because Tull was the *first ever black officer in the British Army. He led his men at the Battle of Piave and was mentioned in dispatches for his “gallantry and coolness” under fire.

Tull stayed in Italy until 1918 when he was transferred to France to take part in the attempt to break through the German lines on the Western Front. On 25th March, 1918, 2nd Lieutenant Tull was ordered to lead his men on an attack on the German trenches at Favreuil.

Phil Vasili on Walter Tull the war hero

Soon after entering No Mans Land, Tull was hit by a German bullet. Tull was such a popular officer that several of his men made valiant efforts under heavy fire from German machine-guns to bring him back to the British trenches. These efforts were in vain as Tull had died soon after being hit. Tull’s body was never found.

*As late as 2007, most publications will state that Walter Tull was the first Black officer in the British army; this was before military research uncovered James Horton Africanus.

Walter Tull’s first match for Spurs was at their first division debut in 1909. The London team had crowds that numbered thirty thousand, and they thrilled to Tull’s skills. He was an inside forward, with the role of supplying the winger with good passes. The Daily Chronicle observed that Tull was a class above many of his team mates. It was felt that had Spurs obtained a decent winger then the combination would have been the best in England. Newspaper reports of Spurs matches refer to Tull as “West Indian” and “darkie”.

Jeffrey Green, Black Edwardians (1998)

Playing at inside left, Tull’s future looked bright. Then, in a game at Bristol City in 1909, he was racially abused by fans in what the Football Star called “language lower than Billingsgate”. The incident was deeply traumatic for Tull and the club. The following season, he played only three first-team games; the season after, he was sold for “a heavy transfer fee” to Northampton Town. There, Tull flourished again, playing 110 first-team games for the club, mostly at wing-half. He was probably their biggest star.

 The Guardian (25th March, 1998)

In 1914, he was on the point of signing for Glasgow Rangers, and then came the war. It was perhaps inevitable, given the spirit of muscular Christianity in which he was raised, that Tull should make a swift transition from sport to war. What was less inevitable was that he should conduct himself with even more distinction on the battlefield than on the playing field. Yet he did. He enlisted in the 17th (1st. Football) Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment, alongside many other professional footballers. By 1916, he had been made a sergeant. Among other actions, he was involved in the murderous first battle of the Somme. We can only guess the horrors he endured, but they did not break him.

“He was popular throughout the battalion. He was brave and conscientious. The battalion and company had lost a faithful officer, and personally I have lost a friend.

Walter Tull’s commanding officer in the 23rd Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment, sent a letter to Edward Tull after the death of his brother (March, 1918)

In the last few years there has been growing interest in Walters’ life. In 1998 the Walter Tull Memorial Garden was opened next to the Northampton Town’s Sixfields Community Stadium. A film has now been made on Walters’s life, and there is also some indication that Dover Council intends to erect a commemorative monument to him.

Read more about Walter Tull

As a baby weighing in at 15 pounds on 6th August 1934, as Billy Boston says, he was a ‘whopper’. Growing up in Wales at 17 he was a rugby playing in the first team for the Cardiff International Athletic Club.

Sadly, Billy’s dreams of a senior Welsh cap would never be realised, nor were his union ambitions at club level fulfilled. Although he played several games for Neath and Pontypridd, he craved the attention of his home city’s prestigious club.

“I was disappointed that Cardiff never showed any interest in me and I think that was because of my colour,” Boston says. “They certainly wouldn’t let me into their clubhouse after I turned professional. I don’t think I would ever have been picked for Wales at union.”

Robert Gate also believes an undercurrent of racial prejudice in the Wales of the early 1950s robbed the union game of a potential icon.

“Bearing in mind Billy’s proven qualities, it is hard to believe that he would never have won a Welsh cap, or indeed a shed full of them,” he writes. “That may, however, be just wishful thinking. The unpalatable fact remains that Wales, unlike England, did not cap any black player until the 1980s. After Billy other black players who forewent the opportunity of trying to win Welsh caps included Johnny Freeman, Colin Dixon, Frank Wilson, Mike Elliott and Clive Sullivan. It is surely stretching credulity to its limits to suggest that none of those were good enough to warrant capping.”

Union’s loss was league’s gain. In August 1953, Billy signed for Wigan. Such was the frenzy of excitement up north about the youngster from Wales, more than 8,000 spectators turned up to watch his reserve team debut. His dazzling progress ensured he was swiftly capped for Great Britain against France and selected for their Australia tour while still a teenager.

The Welsh sporting legend who is too often forgotten in the land of his birth Wales Online 25th October 2017

Boston’s rugby team, Wigan Athletic named of their stands after Boston at their DW Stadium in Robin Park, near Wifgan.

Martin Offiah, Alex Murphy, Dorren Ashton (widow of Eric), Bev Risman (son of Gus Risman) and Billy Boston (left to right) pose with the statue

Image at start of blog: Billy Boston sculpted by Steve Winterburn located at Believe Square, Wigan, Lancashire and unveiled on 3rd September 2016

An elegant, skilful and pacy forward. He was lethal in one-on-one situations and could play well in any attacking position. He had also had a very accurate shot with this left foot and great ball control. He was the first Englishman to play for Real Madrid.
 
He made his debut for West Bromwich Albion at the age of 21. Two brilliant seasons there and a great performance against Valencia in the UEFA Cup caught the attention of Real Madrid. The Whites were not the only ones interested but they managed to sign him after some tough negotiations.

Sculpture of Laurie Cunningham by Graham Ibbeson Coronation Gardens Leyton London

 The ‘Black Pearl’, as he was known at Real Madrid, was only one of the few Madrid players to receive an ovation at the Camp Nou. This happened on the 10th of February 1980 when Real Madrid beat Barcelona 0-2. Cunningham’s fantastic performance had the crowd on their feet as he took on and beat every Barça player who tried to tackle him.

Real Madrid Football Legends

The Football Times takes up the story:

Having grown up winning dance tournaments throughout South London’s many discos, Laurie Cunningham was always ready to steal the limelight if the moment arose. In the end, the most significant thunder-stealing moment of his life came not on a dancefloor but rather on a football pitch. On 6 December 1978, Cunningham upstaged one of the world’s finest footballers, Mario Kempes.

Inspired by the relentlessly fast winger they possessed in Cunningham, Ron Atkinson’s stellar West Bromwich Albion side of the late-1970s knocked strong pre-tournament favourites Valencia out of the UEFA Cup, with a 2-0 victory in the second leg of the third round. 

By this time, Cunningham was already a household name in Britain. His dazzling performances at Leyton Orient and West Brom saw him become the first black player to represent England at under-21 level in 1977. Furthermore, at West Brom, under the tutelage of Atkinson, next to Cyrille Regis and Brendon Batson, he formed one-third of the famous Three Degrees strikeforce that took English football by storm.

Laurie Cunninghan, Brendan Batson and Cyrille Regis – the Three Degrees

However, outside the UK he was a relative unknown. Luckily for him, Spanish public television broadcast the UEFA Cup tie live. It just so happened that the Real Madrid hierarchy, along with the rest of the country, took notice as Cunningham’s sheer pace and light-footed trickery stunned the Valencia defence. Read full story here

Sadly Cunningham’s 2 young nieces Samantha and Syretta and his brother’s partner, Norma Richards were murdered in 1982. Twenty eight years their murdered faced justice and sentenced to life in prison. In 1989, just 33 years old, Laurie Cunningham died in a car crash. He had shown such incredible talent.

Nubian Jak Community Trust put up a plaque for Laurie Cunningham in 2013 outside Brisbane Road, home ground for Leyton Orient and the National Trust put a plaque up on his childhood home on Lancaster Road in London. Image at top of blog: Sculpture of Laurie Cunningham by Graham Ibbeson Coronation Gardens Leyton London

Britain’s first professional black footballer

Arthur Wharton was born in Ghana in 1865, his father was half Grenadian and half Scottish, and his mother was from Ghanaian royalty. In 1882 Arthur moved to England to train as a missionary, but quickly became bored with the academic and religious life and left school to pursue a sporting career.

A talented athlete, he set a new world record for the 100 yard dash (10 seconds) at Stamford Bridge in 1886. This success gave him the opportunity to compete in professional athletics tournaments, where he was able to make a living from appearance fees. His abilities also brought him to the attention of various professional football clubs.

He was first signed as a semi professional player with Preston North End in 1886, as goalkeeper. His highpoint with Preston was to make it to the FA Cup semi finals in 1887 where they lost 3-1 to West Bromwich Albion. There was speculation at the time that Arthur was good enough to play for England, but he was never considered for the position by the FA, due in part to the racial prejudice of the time.

He turned fully professional in 1889, when he signed for Rotherham United, and in 1894, Sheffield United poached him. Unfortunately, the move was not a success; he was getting older, and was competing with United’s new and younger goalkeeper, Bill “Fatty” Foulke.

Posted by Phil Vasili

Arthur’s career then drifted as he moved from club to club to try and make a living. At the same time, he started drinking heavily, and eventually retired from football in 1902. His life after retirement was not happy, and Arthur Wharton died in 1930, a penniless alcoholic who had spent the last 15 years of his life as a colliery haulage hand.

His story was uncovered in 1997 by the Sheffield United based project, “Football Unites Racism Divides”. His unmarked grave in Edlington has been given a headstone, and his picture was included in an exhibition of British Sporting Heroes at the National Portrait Gallery.

Read more about Arthur Wharton, in the Northern Echo when the statue was installed in 2014

Britains first Black female footballer, Emma Clarke 1876-1905

By Rich Laverty – These Football Times 2012

Born in Liverpool in 1876 to parents William and Wilhelmina, there was nothing remarkable about Emma Clarke at the time of her birth, except perhaps that she was one of 14 children. Clarke, though, would go on to leave an indelible mark on football in Great Britain – a mark not fully realised nor appreciated until as recently as 2017, when it was revealed Clarke was the first black female footballer to play the game, making her one of the most remarkable footballers you’ve possibly never heard of.

Historian Stuart Gibbs made the discovery less than two years ago but it had been thought for some time that it was a teammate of Clarke’s who held the honour.

Records referred to a right winger, described by a South Wales newspaper as “The fleet-footed dark girl on the right wing” – but also to a “coloured lady of Dutch build” who played goalkeeper by the name of Carrie Boustead. But an image of the team with pictures of the players was found by a colleague and it was discovered the honour belonged to Clarke.

Growing up in the Bootle area of Liverpool, the same area to which current Manchester United captain Alex Greenwood would be born over a century later, Clarke lived a normal childhood and, while there were wild differences between the late-19th century and the modern day, she likely started her football career in exactly the same fashion as Greenwood; by kicking a ball around in her neighbourhood with friends. At 15 she became a confectioner’s apprentice, but just five years later she’d be playing football in front of thousands of people around the country, at stadiums including St. James’ Park and Portman Road.

The first record of a woman’s football match occurred when Clarke would’ve been just five years old, an international match between England and Scotland, the latter otherwise known as Mrs Graham’s XI, on 9 May 1881 at Easter Road, the home of Hibernian. Eleven days later, the game was played again in Glasgow, in front of 5,000 people, but the match had to be abandoned after hundreds of men invaded the pitch and the players had to flee in horse-drawn carriages.

Similar incidents happened in more matches, putting paid to any attempts to introduce women’s football on a more regular basis. The press coverage described the idea of women playing football as “grotesque” and, despite the odd compliment, most write-ups were more than negative about the idea, with contempt largely for player appearance and the standard of play, with the underlying tone that football simply wasn’t for women.

Fourteen years later, just two years after New Zealand had awarded adult women the right to vote, the British Ladies Football Club was created by Nettie Honeyball, with Lady Florence Dixie acting as the club’s chairman and sponsor. Captain Honeyball, whose real name is believed to have been Mary Hutson but, like many players, used a pseudonym to avoid harassment from supporters and the media, explained her motives in an interview with The Sketch in February 1985.

“There is nothing of the farcical nature about the British Ladies’ Football Club. I founded the association late last year, with the fixed resolve of proving to the world that women are not the ‘ornamental and useless’ creatures men have pictured.

“I must confess, my convictions on all matters, where the sexes are so widely divided, are all on the side of emancipation and I look forward to the time when ladies may sit in Parliament and have a voice in the direction of affairs, especially those which concern them most.”

Towards the end of 1894, adverts had been placed for those interested and the club was officially formed on 1 January 1895, after 30 women responded to the advert and began to train twice a week under the guidance of ex-Arsenal and Tottenham player Bill Julian. Clarke and her sisters, June and Mary, were three of the players involved with the club at some stage during its two-year existence.

They were denied permission to train at The Oval but the side soon found a home in London. Just two months after their creation, the team played their first game on 23 March, at Crouch End in London, in front of 11,000 curious spectators. The women were allowed to wear normal football boots as opposed to the specially tailored high-heeled boots used in 1881 and no longer had to wear corsets, but bonnets remained a necessity in the uniform. The bonnets were such a nuisance that play regularly had to stop if anyone headed the ball so the player in question could re-adjust theirs before play resumed. 

A smaller ball than the standard size was used and it’s unknown if the game was a full 90 minutes or shorter. Clarke played in the match, which was regarded as ‘The North’ versus ‘The South’. Curiously, it appears she played for the latter despite being born in Bootle.

Nevertheless, Clarke was on the losing side as their northern counterparts ran out convincing 7-1 winners. Just as it had been four years earlier, press coverage was once again scornful of the idea and they were constantly heckled by the crowd. The Manchester Guardian reported at the time:

“Their costumes came in for a good deal of attention … one or two added short skirts over their knickerbockers. When the novelty has worn off, I do not think women’s football will attract the crowds.”

The team would go on to play over 100 matches in the next two years thanks to a tour sponsored by Lady Dixie and attracted plenty of attention from the media, but the eventual toll of playing so regularly and the lack of funds meant they never played again after 1887. The tour included a charity match in Brighton to raise money for local medical charities and many more around the country.

Lady Dixie was a Scottish traveller, a war correspondent and a feminist who firmly believed in women’s rights, but appeals for more funding fell on deaf ears. Clarke herself had only spent a year with the British Ladies before touring with the aforementioned Mrs Graham’s XI in Scotland in 1896. Helen Graham Matthews, a Scottish suffragist thought to be the first British women’s footballer, had lived just a few streets away from Clarke when she was a child and Matthews was the brainchild for the team, though once again, it is believed her name is a pseudonym. 

Their matches regularly attracted thousands of people and the players received paid expenses, approximately amounting to a shilling per week. Clarke would go on to play in a ‘women vs men’ match in 1897, with the women winning 3-1, though the media coverage was typically derisory, despite the impressive victory.

Clarke’s career as a footballer continued until 1903 but details of her life and the lives of her sisters are relatively scarce after that, with her date of death also unknown. The lack of information led Gibbs to believe Clarke died around 1905 at the age of 30 due to her disappearance from the national census, but the finer details of Clarke’s possibly short but remarkable life may never be known.

Now it is about ensuring that while it is a brief story, given the lack of information available, Clarke’s story never gets forgotten. In October 2018, The FA backed calls to commemorate Clarke and Anna Kessel, the co-founder of Women in Football, and appeals for a blue plaque at her childhood home. Women in Football also contacted The FA about the possibility of a statue of Clarke, either at Wembley or St. George’s Park, with only two current statues in the UK dedicated to sportswomen.

As many as 143 years after Clarke’s birth, there is still an ongoing fight for equality when it comes to women’s football, regarding both ethnicity and gender, which is why it remains more important than ever to acknowledge just how far back in history pioneers such as Emma Clarke go in making strides to help those in the future play the game they love just as we do.

By Rob Burns

This larger than life character was a fire eater in a circus, a sailor, a boxer, a model in Germany where he was imprisoned in WW1, but most of all he was the most famous ‘Horse Race Tipster’ in Britain, I love the stories below found on the website My Brighton and Hove, they sum up this larger than life character perfectly.

By Colin Southwood – My Brighton & Hove

My first recollection of Prince Monolulu (1880-1965) was as a six year old boy in the early fifties when my grandfather used me to take to the Brighton races with him. Part of the excitement for me was the trolley bus ride up Elm Groove, my grandfather and me sitting on the top deck looking at all the punters making their way laboriously up the steep hill on a summer’s day.

A giant black man

To a six year old lad the first sight of him was amazing, there was this giant black man in a brightly coloured outfit with large coloured ostrich feathered plumes from his hat. The first sighting made all the more exciting when my grandfather told me he was a Zulu Prince from Africa!  At six years old I had never seen a black man before let alone a black prince!

A tipster in fancy dress

My grandfather was a regular visitor to Brighton race course and knew him well.  On the first occasion my grandfather introduced me to him I remember standing there petrified!   Fifty odd years later I can still see the man and him shouting, “I Gotta Horse” to anyone that would listen as he strode around the course in his fancy costume and plumes.

The most famous black man

Ras Prince Monolulu was the most famous black man in Britain. Between the wars, he was a national icon renowned for his eccentricity, a racing tipster of such theatricality that even in the days when newspapers carried few photographs and television was in its infancy, he was still the most recognisable racing personality other than the top jockeys.

Catchphrase – “I gotta horse!”

Everyone knew that he wore a bizarre costume of massive baggy trousers, and a headdress of ostrich feathers atop ornate waistcoats, and colourful jackets. Prince Monolulu would be at all the important race meetings where he would sell his tipping sheets in envelopes. He was very funny, and would have the crowds in stitches with his banter – just like a market trader, only with much more style. His catchphrase “I Gotta Horse” guaranteed him a place in most newsreels of the day featuring racing.

Of Scottish descent

He claimed to be the chief of the Falasha tribe of Abyssinia, but in reality he came from Guyana, as it is now and was of Scottish descent – his real name was Peter Carl Mackay. According to his memoirs, called, funnily enough, “I Gotta Horse”, he started out as a sailor but re-invented himself as a Prince after being press-ganged aboard an American ship in 1902.

He was told princes were important people, and he figured a prince wouldn’t be shanghaied again. He was soon off round the world, eating fire in a travelling circus, working in Germany as a model and boxing in France, pretending to be an opera singer in Russia, and becoming a fortune-teller in Italy.

Battle against racist attitudes

Interned in a German camp during the First World War, he emerged to become Britain’s most famous racing tipster – unlike some of today’s TV tipsters he was funnier, louder and considerably more accurate with his tips!  

Indeed he came to prominence because of an extraordinary coup in the 1920 Derby. Virtually alone among tipsters he plumped for ‘Spion Kop’ the 100-6 outsider which romped home in record time to win him £8,000 – a fortune in those days. His career was made; soon no major race meeting was complete without a visit from the Prince and his envelopes of tips.  He was a figure of fun, yes, but he also contributed in his own uniquely humorous way to the battle against racist attitudes.

First black man on TV

Such was his fame that in 1936 he achieved a slice of immortality – on 2nd. November in that year, the BBC began its television service and Prince Ras Monolulu was the first black person to appear on screen on that very first day of British television broadcasting. He himself estimated that between 1919 and 1950, he made and lost up to £150,000 on the Turf, and while his health and fortunes declined in the late 1950s he was still a much-loved character.

Remembered as an amazing man

Images courtesy of Mashable 1920s – 1950s: Ras Prince Monolulu

Prince Monolulu was always himself as a bit of a ladies man and was believed to have fathered many children and married several times. Once was to the actress, Nellie Adkins on the 21st August 1931. When he died of cancer on the 14th February 1965 at the age of 84, the Daily Telegraph and many other newspapers carried full obituaries of this amazing man.  Prince Monolulu, the man who had brought a ray of sunshine to the punters at many race courses throughout Britain regardless if they won or lost!

Read more

Ras Prince Monolulu BBC in 2010 and here in BBC Sports in October 2020

Jeffrey Green’s blog pictures him in 1957 with Dutch fashion models

Short biography in Gambling online news

By Rob Burns

Taking the knee has become a form of debate and to some a pointless, controversial gesture. However, this gesture is not about ticking boxes it is about human respect for Black footballers and Black people – a level playing field. It’s no coincidence that no one seemed to mind when the grounds were empty of spectators, but authorities and media have become uncomfortable since the public have been allowed back in and the debate to scrap taking the knee is rising. To those who’s courage is failing I say this,

“it only stops when they have respect as equal humans”.

The strange anomaly is that a lot of abuse comes from the terraces, which except for colour many are from the same working class backgrounds as many of the footballers. Respect is not a giant step.

The history of Black footballers in Britain goes a long way back Arthur Wharton the first Black professional footballer when he signed for Rotherham in 1889. Wharton was an all round sportsman, 3 years earlier in 1886 he broke the world 100 yards dash record at Stamford Bridge, he was the Usain Bolt of his day. Walter Tull the war hero signed for Tottenham Hotspurs but his death in ‘No Mansa Land’ just before the end of the first world war cut short what would have been a magnificent career.

There were many notable stand alone heroes through the decades from Jack Leslie (Plymouth), to Roy Brown (Stoke), to John Charles (West Ham) and I’ve highlighted a few below. But a special mention must go to those who faced the racist crowds and hooliganism of the 60’s and 70’s, these are just a few of those pioneering heroes – Clyde Best, the Neville brothers, Laurie Cunningham, John Barnes, Cyril Regis, Luther Blissett, Brendon Batson, John Fashanu and many other greats who fought through prejudice to give the working class public of all shades some wonderful moments to treasure.

NOTE: Further below some observations from Emy Onuora regarding his book ‘Pitch Black’.

Arthur Wharton

The Ghana-born goalkeeper is widely considered not only England’s, but the world’s first Black professional footballer. He started his career at Darlington and was also part of Preston North End’s so-called ‘Invincibles’ during the 1880s.

Wharton was quick and athletic, even setting a new world record for the 100-yard dash (ten seconds) at Stamford Bridge in 1886

Walter Tull

After Arthur Wharton, the First World War hero Tull was the second person of Afro-Caribbean/mixed-race heritage to play in the top flight of the Football League, and the first to be commissioned as an infantry officer in the British Army.

His professional football career began after he was spotted whilst playing for his local amateur club, Clapton FC. Tull, an athletic wing-half, played for Tottenham between 1909-1911, but spent the majority of his pro career with Northampton Town, before he went to fight in the First World War, thereby putting paid to a proposed transfer to Glasgow Rangers.

Jack Leslie

Born to a Jamaican father in Canning Town, Leslie was the only professional black player in England during his time with Plymouth Argyle (1921-1934). He was set to become the first non-white player to represent England at international level before he was denied the opportunity when selectors were made aware that he was “a man of colour”. Later in his life, Leslie told journalist Brian Woolnough: “They must have forgot I was a coloured boy.”

Emma Clarke

(1876-1905)

Britain’s first-known BAME female footballer was first described by the South Wales Daily News as:

“the fleet footed dark girl on the right wing.”

Clarke made her professional debut for British Ladies in 1895 in Crouch End in front of a crowd of over 11,000, and graced famous stadiums like Wembley, St James’ Park and Portman Road.

Clarke also played in goal, though was actually confused for decades with fellow keeper Carrie Boustead, who was originally billed as the first Black female footballer until historian Stuart Gibbs discovered she was actually white.

John Charles

The West Ham United defender first represented England’s youth teams on 20 May 1962, and thus became the first Black player to feature for a representative team when he scored against Israel in Tel Aviv in a UEFA tournament, a 3-1 win for the Young Lions.

In March 1963, the U18s travelled for a game in Switzerland and on 21 March 1963 he was in the side that beat the Swiss by 7-1 in Bienne. He also played in and won the 16th International Youth Tournament which was held at the now extinct Shepherd’s Bush Stadium in London from the 11-23 April 1963. 

Charles also played for Young England v England at Highbury in April 1967, when they beat the World Cup winning team by 5-0. ‘Young England’ was for players aged up to 23 and John was 21 on this date. He went on to play over 100 games for the Hammers before retiring. Sadly, Canning Town-born John Charles passed away in August 2002 at the age of 57.

Benjamin Odeje

In 2013 The FA, in conjunction with BBC London, were able to confirm the 64-year-old was the first Black footballer to represent England schoolboys. In March 1971, the then 15-year-old was called up for England schoolboys in a 1-0 win over Northern Ireland. Odeje was known as ‘Pele’ by his peers after scoring almost 400 goals in youth football. He went on to play for Charlton Academy, Hendon, Clapton and Dulwich Hamlet, while after retiring he coached at Queens Park Rangers, too.

Cyrille Regis

Regis scored 112 goals in 297 appearances for West Bromwich Albion and also played for Aston Villa and Coventry in the English top-flight, winning the 1987 FA Cup with the latter.

A true pioneer for Black footballers, he played alongside Lawrie Cunningham and Brendan Batson during his time at the Hawthorns, with the trio nicknamed the ‘Three Degrees’ by their then-manager Ron Atkinson.

Regis won his first England cap in 1982 in a 4-0 victory over Northern Ireland. He sadly died in January 2018 of a heart-attack, but will always be remembered for paving the way for future generations of Black footballers.

Brendon Batson

Born in Grenada, Batson moved to England aged nine, in 1962. In 1971, Arsenal signed him as a schoolboy, but he didn’t make it at the Gunners, and signed for Cambridge United in 1974. However, the full-back is best-known for his time at West Brom (1978-1982), when he was one of the famous Three Degrees, along with Cyrille Regis and Lawrie Cunningham.

Laurie Cunninghan, Brendan Batson and Cyrille Regis Statue at West Bromwich Albion

Express and Star Three Degrees statue unveiled honouring footballing icons May 21st 2019

Brendon Batson and family members of the Three Degrees with the statue at the unveiling of the statue

And for surviving Three Degrees star Batson, the statue should come to symbolise that ongoing fight against prejudice.

“The statue isn’t just about the three of us,” said the 66-year-old.

“It symbolises the journey that we are on as players in that era, but also all the other black players in that era that had to show a lot of resilience as well, so I think it is a tribute to all the black players, no matter what the generation.

“I think people can come along and see, those who have never heard of us, will be able to look us up and see what it was all about and why that statue was put in place.”

John Barnes

1963-

Heralded as one of Liverpool and Watford’s greatest stars, Barnes won 79 England caps. Born and raised in Jamaica, he moved to London when he was 12 and after starting his career with Watford went on to win two titles at Anfield after his move north, with his speed and vision mesmerising fans all over the world.

He was also voted the 1988 PFA Players’ Player of the Year. Both as a player, and since retiring, Barnes has been a vocal voice on issues such as racism and discrimination, appearing regularly at rallies and, most recently, as a guest on BBC One’s political affairs programme Question Time.

Luther Blissett

The Jamaican-born striker became the first Black player to score a hat-trick for England, netting three times on his debut in a 9-0 victory over Luxembourg in 1982. Blissett was born in Falmouth, Trelawny Jamaica.

Domestically, he is best known for his fruitful partnership with John Barnes at Watford and spells with AC Milan (who he joined for £1 million in 1983) and Bournemouth. Blissett still holds Watford’s all-time records for both appearances (503) and goals (186).

Viv Anderson

Anderson was the first Black player to win a senior England cap in 1978 against Czechoslovakia. The speedy and tenacious right-back went on to claim 30 caps and was part of the squads at two World Cups, Spain 1982 and Mexico 1986, although he didn’t make a single appearance at either.

Anderson played under Brian Clough at Nottingham Forest – who he has often praised for helping him deal with racist abuse – and was Sir Alex Ferguson’s first signing (along with Brian McClair, who joined at the same time) at Manchester United in 1987.

Hope Powell

The 53-year-old is currently manager of Brighton Women in the FA WSL, but is perhaps best-known for her tenure the first female and Black manager of any England national team.

After winning 66 caps for England Women, scoring 35 times, Powell took charge of the Lionesses between 1998-2013, winning the Cyprus Cup in 2009 and 2013. She was also the first female ever to obtain a UEFA Pro licence –the highest qualification available to a coach in Europe.

Uriah Rennie

Uriah Rennie was one of England’s top referees. At his peak, the now 61-year-old was described by Keith Hackett (head of the Professional Game Match Officials Board) as:

“the fittest referee we have ever seen on the national or world scene.”

Rennie took charge of over 300 Premier League games and officiated the 2001 play-off Final as Bolton Wanderers beat Preston North End 3-0 at Cardiff’s Millenium Stadium. Rennie retired in 2004 and is now president of Hallam FC, who play at the world’s oldest football ground, Sandygate Road, in Sheffield. He has also recently been elected as an FA Council member, representing the Sheffield and Hallamshire County FA.

Paul Ince

The self-styled Guvnor, who shone in Man Utd’s midfield, was the first black player to captain England, when he took the armband in a tour match against the USA. Ince was also the first black Briton to manage a top flight team in England (Blackburn Rovers, in 2008).

Forty years after black footballers entered the modern game, racism is still a huge problem

By Emy Onuora (first published in 2015)

The claim that the former England manager Graham Taylor was asked by senior Football Association officials to limit the number of black players in the national football team is just one of several stories related by players I interviewed for my book Pitch Black.

The book charts the development of black footballers from the time they first came to prominence in the 1970s to the present day. Some 20 black players told me of their experiences, insights and perspectives on their careers, and on the overt and covert racist discrimination they suffered (and continue to suffer).

Three things have been lost in the media coverage so far. First, that as England manager Taylor never gave in to pressure from FA officials.

While he will, like all England managers, be subject to the usual armchair criticism of his squad selections, racism cannot reasonably be seen as a factor in his decision-making. Taylor has a fine record of supporting black players for both club and country. He was also among those who spoke out against racism before it was popular to do so. In breaking colour bars in the game, Taylor is inarguably a hero, not a villain.

FA told Graham Taylor not to pick ‘too many’ black players for England

Second, his comments were made to Richie Moran, a former professional footballer, during a function at Watford’s ground during the 1999-2000 season. They were reported several years ago, though Taylor was not named. Naturally, in researching the book, this was one of the things I wanted to pursue with Moran. He recalled having the conversation with Taylor in the presence of his then girlfriend and was shocked by what he was told – it’s:

“something I wasn’t likely to forget”.

And third, though Taylor disputes the story now, it’s clear Moran has nothing to gain from it. Moran has been consistent in his recollection, in the face of a legal threat from the FA, and has been categorical as to why he refuses to buckle:

“Because I’m telling the truth.”

The book examines how black players tried to cope with fans, managers, team-mates and opponents. It includes tales of dressing room punch-ups and terrace hostility, but also of mothers so distraught at the treatment meted out to their sons that they could no longer attend their games.

Retirement from Playing

After retiring from playing, black footballers often struggle to maintain meaningful roles in the game. Almost every former player I interviewed expressed frustration that their experience and expertise were overlooked. They wanted to put something back into the game they loved but were consistently denied the opportunity to do so

John Barnes’s case is a good example. Twice Footballer of the Year, former PFA Player of the Year and with over 70 England caps, he was appointed Celtic manager in 1999. He won 11 of his first 12 games in charge. However, the better-resourced city rivals, Rangers, won 12 of 12. Despite keeping Celtic within touching distance of their Old Firm rivals – he even won SPL (Scottish Professional Football League) Manager of the Month for February – he was sacked the following month after a shock exit from the Scottish Cup. In spite of all his experience, it would be an incredible nine years before he got another managerial appointment, at Tranmere Rovers.

Former England striker Les Ferdinand remarked how, in a recent conversation, a football club chairman told him he had never considered employing a black manager. Mostly, however, the denial of opportunities has been subtle, shrouded in appointments made within informal networks, involving word-of-mouth recommendations. This is as much an issue today as it was 25 years ago.

In any discussion on racism in football, the game likes to tell itself it has moved on. We smugly look at football in eastern and southern Europe and say we’re not like those backward, unenlightened folk. Scratch below the surface, however, and the picture isn’t as rosy as it’s often painted.

There has been a black presence in British football since the beginning of the professional era, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that black players entered the game in significant numbers. At that time there were few black referees, few black coaches, few (if any) black people in the boardroom, few black administrators, few black faces on the terraces, and black players were habitually subject to vitriolic racist abuse.

Four decades on, there are still few black referees, few black coaches, few black people in the boardroom, few black administrators and few black faces on the terraces. While the increasingly financially-driven nature of the professional game has seen a corresponding merit-based rise in the number of black players – and banana throwing and racist chants are unacceptable at English grounds – the lack of black faces in senior administrative positions reveals that in 40 years we simply haven’t made as much progress as we like to think.

Featured image at the top: John Barnes back-heeling a banana off the pitch during a Merseyside derby in 1988 is iconic. Copyright Getty Images. Guardian Interview: John Barnes: ‘I was seen as the voice of reason on race. I haven’t changed’ 14th October 2019