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Untold stories of English football’s black pioneers celebrated in new book

BLACK HISTORY MONTH: A new book celebrating the first black players to have played for all 92 Football League clubs is hitting the shelves, with some heroic players profiled

Viv Anderson was the 936th player to win an England cap – but the first with black skin.

In the 43 years since Anderson made his international debut in a friendly against Czechoslovakia at Wembley, another 99 black footballers have worn the Three Lions on their chest.

Everton ’s Ben Godfrey became the latest player to prove that the only colour that matters is the shade of the shirt when he lined up for Gareth Southgate’s side against Austria at the Riverside Stadium in June.

And although Leeds’ Paul Reaney is now regarded as the first non-white player to play for England after winning the first of his three caps in 1968, the outstanding right-back was always reluctant to talk about his family background during an era when views about racism were less enlightened.

Anderson, now aged 65, is proud to be a pioneer of the game – and was awarded the MBE in 2000 for a career that saw him star for Nottingham Forest, Arsenal, Manchester United, Sheffield Wednesday, Barnsley and Middlesbrough.



Viv Anderson is immensely proud to have been England’s first black player
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He won the old first division title and two European Cups under Brian Clough at Forest and later lifted the FA Cup and League Cup.

In the foreword for the book ‘Football’s Black Pioneers’, Anderson writes: “I am proud that I am regarded as a pioneer, both for Nottingham Forest and England.

“I hope that I showed young, black footballers that, unlike 1925 when Jack Leslie was dropped from the England squad for the ‘crime’ of being black, the colour of your skin did not prevent you from representing your country.”



The new book ‘Football’s Black Pioneers’ celebrates the first black players to play for English league clubs




The book details the first black players to have represented all 92 Premier League and EFL clubs – and includes the story of how Plymouth forward Leslie was dropped from the England team to face Ireland when selectors discovered his father was from Jamaica.

Here are some of football’s other Black Pioneers:

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CHARLIE WILLIAMS (Bradford) : The Yorkshireman is best known as a stand-up comedian of such repute that he was a fixture on TV in the 1970s and was granted a Lifetime Achievement in the Black Comedy Awards and a MBE.

Williams, the son of an illiterate sailor from Barbados, was also a talented centre-half and after starring for the works team of a local coal mine in Upton, he had trials for Leeds before eventually signing for Doncaster.



Charlie Williams found fame after football as a stand up comedian
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Black History Month)




He was given his debut by Rovers’ legendary player-manager Peter Doherty in May 1950 but didn’t sign professional forms until three years later by which time he had become known as one of the hardest but fairest players in the Football League.

Williams refused to let racist comments shake him and he played 171 games for Donny before embarking on his comedy career, which included the catchphrase ‘me old flower.

He died in 2006 at the age of 78.

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DENNIS WALKER (Manchester United, Cambridge United) : The son of an Irishwoman from Limerick and an Afro-Iranian became the only black Busby Babe when he made his Manchester United debut in place of Bobby Charlton for a 3-2 defeat against Nottingham Forest.

Walker, a right-sided forward joined United at the age of 12, two years before the Munich Air Crash and was denied the chance to become the first black player to represent England schoolboys because signing for the Reds made him ineligible.



Dennis Walker was a pioneer at Manchester United
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Northwich-born Walker moved first to York and then to Cambridge, where he helped the club become such a powerful force in the Southern League that they were elected to the Football League in 1970.

In June 1996, Walker was working as the operations manager of Manchester’s Arndale Centre when he decided to evacuate the building due to an IRA bomb threat – just minutes before the 3,300lb device exploded.

He died in 2003 at the age of 59.








The UK began celebrating Black History Month, an idea first spawned in the United States and then also adopted by European countries including Ireland and the Netherlands, in October 1987.

Black History Month helps give context to modern life and the country’s history, while championing the experiences and celebrating the contributions of Black Britons here in the UK.

The observation was first organised through the leadership of Ghanaian-born analyst Akyaaba Addai-Sebo. He served as a coordinator of special projects for the Greater London Council.

Consequently, Akyaaba created a plan aiming to recognise the contributions of African, Asian and Caribbean people to the economic, cultural and political life in the UK.




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WILLIE CLARKE (Bristol Rovers, Aston Villa, Bradford City) : When Ayrshire-born Clarke found the net for Aston Villa in the 3-2 win at Everton on Christmas Day 1901, he became the first black player to score a Football League goal.

Clarke had played a single season for non-league Bristol Rovers before moving to the midlands and was part of the Villa team pipped to the title by a point by Sheffield Wednesday and beaten by Bury in the FA Cup semi-finals.







He signed for Bradford for £200 in 1905 and helped the Yorkshire club win the old second division title three years later before then scoring the club’s first-ever top-flight goal.

Clarke moved to Lincoln before retiring to become an upholsterer and later signed up for the British Army at the outbreak of the First World War.

He died in Tunbridge wells in 1949.


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