Best: Regis deserves ultimate accolade
Clyde Best sheds a tear whenever late friend and fellow footballing trailblazer Cyrille Regis comes to mind.
There were plenty more tears to be shed as news of the late West Bromwich Albion and England forward’s induction into the National Football Museum’s Hall of Fame reached Best last weekend.
The presentation took place on Saturday at Villa Park, where Regis scored 12 goals in 52 appearances for Aston Villa towards the end of his sparkling career, during a mentoring event organised by the Cyrille Regis Legacy Trust “Strike A Change” project. Regis’s widow, Julia, was presented with the award by her late husband’s former England team-mate John Barnes.
“I just wish he was here to be involved in the celebrations,” Best said. “He’s sadly missed, I’m sure, by his family and wife and everybody.”
Regis died last year from a heart attack. He was aged 59.
His career started at non-League Hayes before being scouted and signed by West Brom in May 1977.
It was during a seven-year stint at the Hawthorns where the powerful striker rose to prominence as the iconic figurehead of the legendary “Three Degrees” along with Brendon Batson and the late Laurie Cunningham, who died in a car crash in Madrid in 1989.
Regis, who scored 112 goals in 297 appearances for West Brom before joining Coventry City in 1984, had the ability to unsettle any defence, such was his explosive, raw power, pace, aerial prowess and finishing.
He won an FA Cup winner’s medal with Coventry and was capped five times for England between 1982 and 1987, becoming the third black player to play for England after Viv Anderson and Cunningham. He also played for Wolverhampton Wanderers, Wycombe Wanderers and Chester City before retiring in 1996.
“He was a tremendous person and what I really admired about Cyrille was the way he carried himself,” Best added. “He was down to earth and knew how to play the game, and he played it in the right way.”
Like Best before him, Regis blazed a trail for black players to follow through his extraordinary exploits on the pitch.
“Every time I hear his name, it brings tears to my eyes because he meant that much to me,” Best said. “He was a great, great person and I can’t sing any more higher praises than that. If anybody deserves the honour, it would be definitely him. He was a pure example of how to behave despite all of the adversity and he kept the train going for the players coming after us.
“He did that very well, so I’m proud to have known him, proud to have been in his company and to be his friend.”
Off the pitch Regis broke down barriers when racism on the football terraces was rife, and supported several charities.
“He was tremendous and I just hope he’s up there looking down on us and saying, ‘Hey, we still got to make progress’. So let’s make it even better now than what it is because racism is still coming up. We’ve got to get rid of it altogether because, as I always say, the game doesn’t belong to one race of people, it belongs to all of us.”
The Hall Of Fame exhibition in Manchester celebrates the achievements of those who have made an outstanding contribution to the game. Previous inductees include Sir Bobby Robson, George Best and England women’s player Kelly Smith.
“It’s obviously a great honour,” said Kyle Lightbourne, the Bermuda coach, who was a close friend of Regis. “I’m sure his family and friends will be very proud. He was a pioneer for the game and this helps to keep his legacy moving on.
“It still seems sort of surreal that he’s not with us any more. I’m pleased for him to get that honour.”
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