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Remembering Laurie Cunningham

Laurie Cunningham will probably always be best remembered as being one of West Bromwich Albion's so-called Three Degrees, along with Brendon Batson and Cyrille Regis, in the late 1970's. After beginning his career at Orient, in early 1977 Laurie was sold to West Brom, and on 27th April that year became the first black player to represent England at international level, when he scored the only goal of the game in a 1-0 win for the under-21s against Scotland at Bramall Lane.

Here at Football Unites, Racism Divides, there is added interest in what happened after the game. Following a request from youth workers at The Hub African-Caribbean Centre on Sharrow Lane, Laurie visited the pioneering youth project after the match, chatting away to many of the members till late. In an ironic but appropriate twist, The Hub original youth club building is now the home of the Football Unites, Racism Divides project.

Friday 27th April 2007 marked the 30th anniversary of this landmark occasion, both as a significant milestone in the contribution of black players to the national game, and also as a memorable experience for the members and youth workers who were privileged to meet Laurie that night. Tragically, Cunningham was killed in a driving accident in Spain in July 1989.

The Hub, FURD and Sheffield United are currently discussing ways in which the wider history of black footballers in Sheffield can be fully recognised, with plans for an exhibition in the Legends of the Lane. The Blades' John Garrett is on the hunt for any artefacts, photos, press cuttings, programmes or just plain memories. Old members of The Hub are urged to contact youth worker Ishaaq Heywood on 07970 871 801 or Ruth Johnson at FURD.

Laurie Cunningham
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