AS BLACK HISTORY MONTH DRAWS TO A CLOSE, WE LOOK AT SOME KEY FIGURES IN ENGLISH FOOTBALL, BOTH THE TRAILBLAZERS OF THE PAST AND THE FUTURE VOICES.
Trailblazers of English Football
Cyrille Regis (1958-2018)
Cyrille Regis’ (MBE) professional career spanned 19 years, where he made 614 league appearances and scored 158 league goals, most prolifically at West Bromwich Albion and Coventry City, winning the 1987 FA Cup with the latter. A true pioneer for black footballers, he played alongside Lawrie Cunningham and Brendan Batson during his time at the Hawthorns, with the trio nicknamed the ‘Three Degrees’ by their manager Ron Atkinson.
Regis was awarded an honourary fellowship by the University of Wolverhampton in 2001 and is regularly named as one of the greatest players for both West Brom and Coventry. In 2018, Regis died of a heart attack at the age of 59. In July that year, West Brom and Coventry City played a friendly match dubbed the ‘Regis Shield’. Regis will always be remembered for paving the way for future generations of black footballers.
Hope Powell (1966-)
Hope Powell CBE is currently the manager of Brighton Women in the FA Women’s Super League but is probably best known as the first female and black manager of any England national team.
Born in Lewisham, Powell won 66 caps for England Women, scoring 35 times. She then took charge of the Lionesses between 1998-2013 as well as the Great Britain women’s Olympic football team until August 2013. Powell was also the first female ever to obtain a UEFA Pro Licence - the highest qualification available to a coach in Europe.
Ian Wright (1963-)
Ian Wright MBE enjoyed success at both Crystal Palace and Arsenal. With Arsenal, he lifted the Premier League, two FA Cups, a Football League Cup and a European Cup Winners Cup. Wright player 581 league games, scoring 387 goals for seven clubs across his career. He is Arsenal’s second-highest scorer of all time and Crystal Palace’s third-highest.
Since retiring, Wright joined BBC’s Match of the Day, becoming a regular member of the panel. He was also a broadcaster for BT Sport from 2013-2017. Wright co-hosts the 606 phone-in show on Sunday evenings as well as BBC Radio 5live on a Monday. He has recently highlighted the role of social media as a vehicle for racism and exposes the abuse he receives online to call out racism in football. Wright was awarded an MBE for his services to football in 2000.
Rachael Yankey (1979-)
Rachel Yankey OBE was the first professional female player registered in England. Her career spanned 20 years, but it was her time at Arsenal which cemented her status as one of the greats. With Arsenal, Yankey collected six FA Women's National Premier League titles, nine FA Women’s Cups, four FA Women's Premier League Cups and one UEFA Women’s Cup.
Yankey’s international career began in 1997 and she quickly surpassed Gillian Coultard’s record of 119 caps. Rachel went on to break Peter Shilton’s all-time England appearance record, finishing up with 129 caps and 19 goals to her name. Only four players have since represented England more times than Yankey.
John Barnes (1963-)
Thought of as one of Liverpool and Watford’s greatest stars, John Barnes MBE collected two league titles and two FA Cups with Liverpool and earned 79 caps for the Three Lions. Born and raised in Jamaica, he moved to London when he was twelve and joined Watford aged seventeen. He moved to Liverpool in 1987 and finished his career at Charlton in 1999.
Barnes was awarded PFA Player’s Player of the Year for the 1987/88 season and the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year twice. Both as a player, and since retiring, Barnes has been a vocal voice on issued such as racism and discrimination, appearing regularly at rallies and, more recently, as a guest on BBC One’s political affairs programme Question Time.
Figures of the Future
Micah Richards (1988-)
Birmingham born Micah Richards began his football career at Manchester City in 2005, making 245 appearances across all competitions, winning a Premier League title and an FA Cup. After his move to Aston Villa in 2016, Richards suffered with several knee injuries which led to his retirement in 2019. On making his England debut in 2006, Richards became the youngest defender to be called up to the England squad.
Since his retirement, Richards has become a regular pundit for Sky Sports and a BBC Sport Columnist, where he has spoken candidly about the abuse he received online after his injuries and support for footballers facing the end of their careers. He has also used his punditry platform to speak out on racism in broadcasting surrounding the assumption that pundits, such as Richards, are only on TV to tick diversity boxes.
Alex Scott (1984-)
Alex Scott MBE, who was raised in East London, was scouted by Arsenal at the age of eight. It was with Arsenal Scott would win six FA Women's Premier League titles, including one WSL, as well as seven FA Cups. Most memorably, Scott scored the winning goal for Arsenal in the 2007 Champions League final. Scott retired from international football in 2017 with 140 caps for the Lionesses. At the time, she was England’s second most-capped player.
Since retiring, Scott has become one of the leading sports broadcasters. She became well known in her coverage of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, becoming the first female pundit at a World Cup for the BBC. In August 2018 became the first female pundit on Sky Sports, joining the Super Sunday team. More recently, she been announced as co-host for Goals on Sunday alongside Chris Kamara.
Marcus Rashford (1997-)
Marcus Rashford MBE is the current forward for Manchester United and the England national team. Rashford joined United from the age of seven and since then, has made 145 appearances for his club, scoring 45 league goals. Rashford scored on his senior England debut in 2016, making him the youngest English player to score in his first senior international match. He was the youngest player at the 2016 Euros and at the 2018 World Cup.
In 2020, Rashford partnered with the poverty and food waste charity FairShare to deliver meals to those in Manchester who were no longer having their free school meals. He wrote an open letter to the government calling on them to end UK child poverty and, a day later, the government announced the extension of free school meals for children during the summer holidays. As a result of his work, Rashford received an honourary doctorate from the University of Manchester and was awarded an MBE for his efforts fighting child food poverty.
Raheem Sterling (1994-)
Raheem Sterling, who moved from Jamaica to London at the age of five, is currently a player for Manchester City and the England national team. He was signed by City in 2015, aged 21, for £49M, the highest transfer fee ever paid for an English player at the time. He won back-to-back Premier League titles with the club and, in the 2018/19 season, won PFA Young Player of the Year and FWA Footballer of the Year.
Sterling continues to become a strong voice off the pitch, using his growing profile and platforms to speak out and highlight issues on racism and equality. In light of the Black Lives Matter movement, Sterling launched a social media campaign to call upon the government to address under-representation of black people in Parliament and on the boards of sporting organisations.
Eniola Aluko (1987-)
Eniola Aluko is a British-Nigerian former Lioness, football executive and commentator, who is now the director of women’s football at Aston Villa. During her career, Aluko played for Birmingham City, Charlton Athletic and Chelsea in the FA Women’s Premier League and, before her retirement in 2020, she joined Juventus. Aluko made 102 appearances for England between 2004-2016, competing in three World Cups and two Euros.
In 2014, Aluko appeared on Match of the Day, the first women to appear as a pundit on the show. She provided commentary for ITV’s coverage of the 2018 World Cup and Fox Sports coverage of the 2019 Women’s World Cup. Furthermore, Aluko featured alongside her fellow Lionesses in FIFA 16, the first time female players were included in the game.
You can read about more footballing greats on The FA’s website here: