THE BEAUTIFUL game lost one of its greatest pioneers with the sudden death of Cyrille Regis on Sunday (January 14).
The Standard’s Rob George spoke to Worcester journalist and author Chris Green who co-wrote Regis’s autobiography for his memories of one member of football’s fabled ‘Three Degrees’.
“I will always remember him as a really good bloke, the sense of loss for me and I am sure so many others is palpable.”
Having met his hero and wrote a book with him, Chris Green felt the passing of one of British football’s greatest trailblazers as much as those closest to the former West Bromwich Albion and Coventry striker.
“It was a complete shock, we were driving in and listening to Radio Five Live and Nicky Campbell said ‘We’re hearing the former footballer Cyrille Regis…’ you never hear good news when the sentence begins like that,” he told the Observer.
“I never thought something like this would happen, he was a normal healthy bloke.
“It’s been slightly surreal, I’ve found it very difficult to talk about something I didn’t expect to be talking about for another 10/15 years, if ever.”
Having arrived with his family from French Guiana to life in racially divided West London, Regis scored 112 goals in 297 appearances for the Baggies before joining Coventry City for £250,000 in 1984.
He would go on to win the FA Cup with City in 1987 but will be fondly remembered as part of the iconic Three Degrees comprising him, Laurie Cunningham and Brendon Batson.
The West Bromwich Albion trio battled horrific racism on the terraces in the 1970s and according to Green ‘broke the glass ceiling’ for black footballers.
“You have to be remember, they were being racially taunted by thousands of people, bananas being thrown at them, simply for playing football,” he said.
“What they were very good at was internalising the anger they must have felt and turned it into actions on the pitch.
“He was always very clear they couldn’t ‘do a Cantona’ and react because that was what the bigots wanted.
“He was my hero growing up, I’ll always remember standing on the back of the Brummie Road watching him as part of the Three Degrees.
“The amount of tributes from the likes of Dion Dublin, Ian Wright and his nephew Jason Roberts to the likes of Alan Shearer and Andy Carroll is quite remarkable.”
The devout Albion fan echoed the calls for the statue of the Three Degrees to be finished and urged club officials to site it at the club’s Hawthorns ground.
His career as a journalist led to Green working together with his hero on his autobiography ‘Cyrille Regis – My Story’ which was released in 2011.
“I would go around to his house on a Friday and I would be standing there thinking ‘I’m getting paid for talking to my hero’,” Green said.
“Some of the most precious memories I will cherish are actually some of the most difficult ones, Cyrille crying in front of me recounting his memories of growing up in London for example.”
“He had a shocking memory though, we would often have a yearbook out and talking about such things as a hat-trick against Manchester United.
“You and I would always remember something like that, Cyrille couldn’t unless it was put into a context of something else happening around the same time!”
“One of the many moments that has made me smile was when we were doing the promotion for the book and we got into the car after one interview and he turned to me and jokingly said ‘I never had a bad season, did I?”
The devastated author said he would always remember Regis with warmth.
“He once said to me ‘All you can leave is great memories’. Cyrille left it all on the pitch and that’s his greatest legacy.”