To mark this year’s Black History Month – an event which recognises the contributions and achievements of those with African or Caribbean heritage – Birmingham County FA is delving into the archives to share some matchday programmes from memorable fixtures of years gone by, starting with the Len Cantello Testimonial match in 1979…
Len Cantello Testimonial match
This fixture, between West Bromwich Albion XI and a Cyrille Regis & Laurie Cunningham XI, took place at The Hawthorns on 15 May 1979 to celebrate the career of Len Cantello, who respresented the club between 1968 and 1979, making over 300 appearances. In this fixture, teams were selected based on the colour of their skin, with the WBA side composing of white players, and the Cyrille Regis & Laurie Cunningham XI side featuring black players.
Images from the fixture and the matchday programme can be viewed below.
Benjamin Odeje’s England Debut
In March 1971, when England schoolboys played Northern Ireland schoolboys at Wembley, 15-year-old Benjamin Odeje was selected as the first Black footballer to represent the England schoolboys team.
Odeje played as a striker in the match, and England won 1-0.
Images from the matchday programme can be seen below.
Laurence Paul Cunningham was an English professional footballer. A left winger, he notably played in England, France and Spain, where he became the first ever Englishman to play for Real Madrid.
Cunningham received his first international call-up to the England U21 side on 27 April 1977 versus Scotland while playing for West Bromwich Albion, becoming the first black footballer to represent an England international ‘senior’ team organised by the Football Association. He later earned 6 caps for the full national team between 1979 and 1980, becoming one of the first ever black England internationals.
Sadly, while playing for Rayo Vallecano, Cunningham was killed in a car crash in Madrid on the morning of 15 July 1989, at the age of 33.
Viv Anderson broke through the taboos when he made his senior debut against Czechoslovakia at Wembley on 29 November 1978. Anderson was the first black and second non-white footballer to play for the senior men's England national football team.
He played for Nottingham Forest, Arsenal, Manchester United, Sheffield Wednesday, Barnsley, and Middlesbrough during his distinguished career, before he became assistant manager to Bryan Robson at Middlesbrough.
As a player of mixed race, Reaney became the first non-white footballer to represent the men's senior England national football team when on 11 December 1968 he gained the first of his 3 senior caps when he appeared as a substitute against Bulgaria at Wembley.
Reaney's appearance for England has assumed greater importance in recent years as even though he was regarded as white during his playing career, he is viewed by many as black or mixed race now. His England debut was nine years before that of Viv Anderson, who is widely credited as the first black player to appear for England.
Collins, who sadly passed away in February 2021 at the age of 94, became England’s first Black manager when he took charge of Rochdale in 1960.
The previous manager resigned in June 1960 and the programme programme below is the first league game at Stockport in August of that season after being appointed in June 1960.
At 31, Powell became the youngest ever coach of any English national football team, as well as the first woman and the first non-white person to hold the office. On 26 July 1998, Powell managed England for the first time in a friendly against Sweden.
Albert Louis Johanneson (13 March 1940 – 28 September 1995) was a South African professional footballer who was one of the first high-profile black men, of any nationality, to play top-flight football in England. He is recognised as being the first person of African heritage to play in the FA Cup final in the 1965 match between Leeds United & Liverpool.
Ince made his international debut at the age of 24, featuring in a 1-0 defeat to Spain. He was given the captaincy in just his seventh appearance for the Three Lions, becoming the first Black England captain.
Mike Trebilcock is most famous for scoring twice in the 1966 FA Cup Final for Everton, becoming the first black player to score in an FA Cup Final.
Uriah Rennie became the first black Referee to officiate in the Premier League, when he took charge of Leeds United vs. Crystal Palace on 23 August, 1997.
Luther Blissett was the first black player to score a hat-trick for England, netting three goals on his debut for his country.
TEN KEY FIGURES FROM THE ENGLISH GAME
List of first black players for European national football teams