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The Trailblazers



The Three Degrees Statue

The Trailblazers

30 December 1978, Old Trafford, Manchester.

In-form West Bromwich Albion take the field intent on maintaining their upward trajectory; whilst hosts Manchester United seek to address deep-rooted inconsistencies – sound familiar?

Amid seasonally-appropriate conditions, match commentator Gerald Sinstadt describes the action. The game itself would prove to be a seminal moment – indeed a metaphor for cultural change.

West Brom’s Starting XI contained three Black Footballers – Brendon Batson, Laurie Cunningham and Cyrille Regis. Collectively they helped facilitate seismic change – which resonates within the contemporary landscape.

Both Cunningham & Regis, would go-on to gain full-international recognition – winning 6 and 5 England caps respectively. Treading in the footsteps of Leeds United’s Paul Reaney – the first non-white footballer to represent England (1968), and the more-commonly attributed Nottingham Forest wing-back Viv Anderson (1978).

More pertinently perhaps, elder-statesman Batson (capped at England B level), created a lasting legacy by securing a senior role within the Professional Football Association (PFA).

Batson’s tenure provided tangible and sustained black representation within the corridors of power. And whilst ‘levelling-up’ remains a misnomer, a more substantive colour co-efficient (as a societal reflection), is both necessary and inevitable.

The aforementioned 1978 fixture, produced an eight-goal thriller – six of which arrived in an ‘anything-you-can-do, I-can-do-better, first-half.

In-motion; the incomparable Cunningham resembled a downhill-skier in the Franz Klammer mould. And in a high-octane Second-half, the visitors expansive style, exposed further frailties within the United defence.

In the latter stages, a quick-fire Cunningham/Regis double completed the scoring, cementing a memorable 5-3 victory for the ‘Baggies’.

Albion began the New Year in pole-position, and although succumbing to the then current/future European Champions (Liverpool and Nottingham Forest), the West Midland outfit comfortably secured third place.

In an increasingly insular society; the contribution of Brendon Batson, Laurie Cunningham and Cyrille Regis cannot be overstated. And as an antidote to a probable winter-of-discontent, we should rejoice in their generosity-of-spirit.


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Born in 1963, Peter attended St Mary's Leith High School. Peter worked within the plumbing industry before studying a degree in journalism within the University of Stirling. Peter has been a lifelong sports fan and has volunteered within the Edinburgh Soccer School's programme on numerous occasions.


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