Football icon Cyrille Regis died suddenly on Sunday evening aged just 59. The former West Bromwich Albion and Coventry striker was taken ill upon suffering a suspected heart attack. Regis scored 112 goals in 297 appearances for West Brom. Establishing himself as a fan favourite and the figurehead of Albion’s legendary ‘three degrees’ team of the late 1970’s. In 1984, Regis signed for Coventry City where he bagged 62 goals in 274 appearances. He would become a crucial part of their FA Cup-winning side in 1987.
Football Icon Cyrille Regis Dies
Regis would go on to have short spells at Aston Villa, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Wycombe Wanderers and Chester City and had earned five England caps before retiring in 1996. But his allegiance would always be to the Baggies, where he would return for a brief spell as a coach before becoming a football agent. He found acceptance at West Brom at a time when acceptance was thin on the ground; something he never forgot, as shown in a quote from the man himself. Displayed proudly for fans to see on the walls of the concourse inside the Hawthorns, it simply reads:
“Albion is my first love. They gave me my break, I was welcomed by the fans, and still am. This is my club. It’s very special to me.”
The Three Degrees
Cyrille Regis became a symbol of the fight against racism in Britain as a pioneer for black footballers, dealing with regular racism as he fought his way to the top in a time of heavy ignorance. Regis, and his teammates Laurie Cunningham and Brendon Batson were dubbed the three degrees by boss Ron Atkinson. Regis, Cunningham and Batson played together in 1978, making history as West Brom became the first top-flight club to regularly field three black players. The three degrees would play their game whilst a torrent of racial abuse was thrown their way, but they persevered. A bullet was sent to Regis ahead of his England debut as a warning; a warning that no black man should play for England. But play for England he did, on five occasions, and he kept the bullet.
“I kept it as a reminder of the evil some people had inside them. For the rest of my playing days, it was a motivation that they weren’t going to stop me.”
Regis was widely renowned as a gentleman of the game and was awarded an MBE in 2008 for services to charity and football. The news of his untimely death sparked an outcry of sadness that soon gave way to social media stories of nostalgic remembrance of a man who always gave time to fans.
The three degrees kicked down doors and smashed the barriers that stood before young black players in England and were due to be honoured with a 10ft statue that was to be unveiled in West Bromwich later this year. A ceremony that will now be laced with great sadness but with the constant reminder that modern football owes so much to the three degrees, and to Cyrille Regis.