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HISTORY: We profile Cyrille Regis, as part of Black History Month

27 October 2023


HISTORY: We profile Cyrille Regis, as part of Black History Month

27 October 2023

Cyrille Regis is a player and a man rightly lauded by both Coventry City and our next opponents West Bromwich Albion.

It is a tragedy that he still not with us today, having passed away aged only 59 in January 2018. However his impact and legacy in the game he loved, and wider society, continues and he is widely credited with changing attitudes inside and outside football.

Regis joined the Sky Blues in 1984 for £250,000 following seven years at The Hawthorns, a Club where he had scored 112 goals in 297 appearances - including the 1981/82 Match of the Day Goal of the Season. Debuting for the Baggies in 1977, he became a regular and played European football and won his first international cap in 1982 - becoming the third black player to play for England after Viv Anderson and club team-mate Laurie Cunningham.

Regis’ exploits, along with those of Cunningham and Brendon Batson, earned the trio at Albion the nickname of the “Three Degrees”. They paved the way for more black players to take up football and silenced racists with their incredible performances on a weekly basis, at a time of racial tension in Britain.  


Regis grew up in French Guiana. Struggling to make ends meet, his family moved to London when he was just five years old, and it was there that his love affair with football would begin. A trained electrician and an excellent player at non-league level, clubs in London refused to offer him a pro contract. West Brom scout Ronnie Allen was keen on Regis and the Baggies gave him a break and secured a gem of player.

Regis, Cunningham and Batson would experience disgusting jeering and banana-tossing at games, horrific hate mail and death threats. Just before making his England debut, Regis received some appalling mail which read: “If you put your foot on our Wembley turf, you’ll get one of these through your knees.” The letter was accompanied with a bullet, which Regis kept.

Regis, and Cunningham and Batson, would rise above the racists and let their football do the talking, and be pioneers and role models for other black players looking to make their way in the game.


In 1984, manager Bobby Gould signed Regis and he made the move to City. Cyrille played 238 games for the Sky Blues and scored 47 times, in a career at Highfield Road from 1984 to 1991.

Regis played a key part in last day First Division survival battles in his first two campaigns before excelling under the stewardship of John Sillett and George Curtis. He became one of Sillett’s dressing room generals and a player who ‘Snoz’ made sure he got the best out of, and, as well as goals himself, he was a key provider for others too.  

In the 1987 FA Cup run, Regis netted in the Third Round win at home to Bolton, as well as the Quarter Final win at Hillsborough against Sheffield Wednesday before spearheading the strike force in the final at Wembley, where Regis picked up a winners medal after the 3-2 win over Tottenham.


Regis’ form for the Sky Blues lead to a recall for England, earning his fifth and final international cap. Following the departure of Sillett in November 1990, Regis would leave the Club in 1991 with his place as a legend of the Sky Blues secure, though many fans were dismayed at what they felt was a premature departure.  

He would go on to play for Aston Villa, Wolves, Wycombe and Chester, before hanging up his boots in 1997. He was awarded a testimonial at Highfield Road in 1999, when the Sky Blues faced West Bromwich Albion in a pre-season game, and honoured with an MBE in 2008 by Queen Elizabeth II.


When he passed away, the world of football united in tribute and then joined together to attend a memorial service at the Hawthorns. Thousands of football fans, former players, colleagues and relatives paid a moving tribute to Cyrille as the “gentle, thoughtful, generous, passionate, determined, resilient giant” who blazed a trail for a generation of black footballers.


A version of this article also appears in Monday's Matchday Programme PUSB. 

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