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Bermuda pays tribute to Regis

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Like the rest of the football world, news of the death of West Bromwich Albion and England striker Cyrille Regis was met with great sadness and shock in Bermuda.

The legendary player, regarded as one of the great symbols of the fight against racism and a pioneer for black footballers around the world, passed away at age 59 after suffering a reported heart attack on Sunday night.

Regis visited Bermuda with Coventry City in the 1980s, and in 2014 as a guest of the African Diaspora Heritage Trail Bermuda Foundation.

He was a close friend of local professional footballers Clyde Best and Kyle Lightbourne, who are coming to grips with the late striker's passing.

“It was a big shock and I am still trying to get over it because he was a person so young and very fit,” Best, the former West Ham United forward, said. “He's surely going to be missed and my prayers go out to his wife and family.

“What we have to do is remember him for all the good things that he did.

“He wasn't only a great football player, but also a great human being, and that's what is most important.”

Regis was a big fan of Best and in an 2009 interview with The Royal Gazette called for him to be knighted for his trailblazing exploits in the game.

“He was great that way; he always gave credit where credit was due,” Best said. “He had a good thing for me and I had a good thing for him.

“I liked him as a player and the way he got around for such a big fellow. He dominated games.

“He is surely going to be a miss and I will always appreciate Cyrille because of him, Brendon Batson and Laurie Cunningham. They did what they had to and took care of business.”

Lightbourne, who also played for Coventry, spent time recently with the late footballer whom he describes as “pioneer for black players”.

Lightbourne, who is travelling in England at present, said: “He will be one who will be sadly missed in the football world because he was definitely one of the pioneers for black players.

“The news of Cyrille Regis's passing brings great sadness to me because I knew him personally and our relationship has grown over the years. It wasn't very long ago since I last saw him. I am very shocked about the news of his passing because he seemed to be in good health.

“Now we have to celebrate the life that he had and all the good things that he did for football as a whole and not just for the black community.

“He was working as a football agent and he took a lot of time to know players, so he will be a great miss to the game. To know Cyrille Regis personally, someone that when I first met him he knew all about me, was very special in itself.

“Here in England all the tributes are pouring out to him and I don't think there's anyone who has a bad word to say about Cyrille Regis, who went on record saying our own Clyde Best was one of his heroes. Here he is a legend in the game and someone from Bermuda inspired him to play professional football! What a gentleman he was.”

Shaun Goater, another former local professional who made his mark in the Premier League, took to Twitter to pay homage.

“He was one who blazed a trail for every black player who followed him, an inspiration to myself and I'm sure to many many others,” the former Manchester City star tweeted. “What a man, he was also so humble. My condolence goes to the Regis family.”

Lawrence Trott, a sports reporter for The Royal Gazette, has been a West Brom supporter for several decades and a fan of Regis, whom he met three times in Bermuda and abroad.

“He was a hero of mine during his West Brom days when they were one of the top teams in English football, although I wasn't at all happy when he transferred to Coventry in 1984,” Trott said.

“It was because of Cyrille Regis, Laurie Cunningham and Brendon Batson — the Three Degrees as they called them under manager Ron Atkinson — that I became a West Bromwich Albion fan 40 years ago. They finished the 1977-78 season in sixth place and the following season finished third in the First Division, much of it down to the goals scored by Cyrille and Laurie.

“The team also had the likes of Derek Statham, Len Cantello, Bryan Robson [later the England captain], Remi Moses and Ally Brown and in his book Cyrille described the team of 1978-79 as the best team he ever played in.

“I met Cyrille Regis on three occasions, the first when he came to Bermuda with Coventry City in the 1980s. He was good friends with Dennis McIntosh, a Jamaican chef who worked at the Holiday Inn and Southampton Princess, and Dennis asked my brother and me to pick up Cyrille and another player, Lloyd McGrath, at Belmont Hotel where the team was staying and bring them to his house near by for a gathering.

“The second time I met Cyrille was in 2005 when my wife Carol and I, living in England at the time, went to Reading to stay with Shaun Goater and went to Reading's ground to watch a preseason game against Goater's former club, Manchester City. Cyrille was at the game and I met him again in the lounge after the match and told him I was a big fan of his. I told him I remember when West Brom signed him from non-League club Hayes for £5,000 in 1977, which got a reaction from him.

“I met Cyrille again in 2014 when he came to Bermuda as part of the United Nations International Day of Remembrance for Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. He coached a Cyrille Regis team that played a Clyde Best team in a match at Somerset and it was there that I got him to sign my copy of his book Smokin' Joe.

“What I neglected to tell him then was that I took the picture of him standing next to cricket great Viv Richards, which appears on page 114 of the book. It was taken in 1988 at Edgbaston during a West Indies training session the day before a one-day international.

“Cyrille came to the ground to see Viv who wasn't training and when I saw the two of them watching the training session from the stands, I took several shots.

“I gave Dennis a black and white photo to give to Cyrille and it ended up in his book. Small world!”

“Cyrille, thanks for the memories. If West Brom had a striker of your quality we wouldn't be struggling at the wrong end of the table.

“I was shocked when my brother Anthony contacted me to tell me that Cyrille Regis had passed. I'm sure many who remember Cyrille from his footballing days will also be saddened by the news.”

Regis's career started playing in the Isthmian League at Hayes before being scouted and signed by the Baggies 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, that also consisted of Brendon Batson and the late Laurie Cunningham, who died in a car crash in Madrid, Spain in 1989.

Regis, who scored 112 goals in 297 appearances for the Baggies 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, making his international, becoming the third black player to be capped by England at the highest level after Viv Anderson and Cunningham.

True legends: Cyrille Regis, left, poses with Clyde Best on the island in 2014 as a guest of the African Diaspora Heritage Trail Bermuda Foundation (Photo by Akil Simmons)
Cyrille Regis and Kyle Lightbourne (Photograph by Colin Thompson)
Rising star: Cyrille Regis in his West Brom playing days

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Published January 16, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated January 15, 2018 at 11:56 pm)

Bermuda pays tribute to Regis

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