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Calvin ‘Bummy’ Symonds honoured in new book as football pioneer

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Calvin Symonds with his Rochdale team-mates (Photograph supplied)

Calvin “Bummy” Symonds says he is honoured by the recognition of his ground-breaking exploits during a brief professional stint at Rochdale in the 1950s.

The Bermuda sports legend is the first Black player to have played for the club and is featured in the book Football’s Black Pioneers, which highlights the first Black players to play for the 92 league clubs in England.

“It feels very special to be regarded as a pioneer in English football and it’s a wonderful honour,” Symonds told The Royal Gazette.

“I feel honoured that I went there and thank God for all the strength he gave me to go up there.”

Calvin Symonds on his departure for trials at Rochdale in 1954 (Photograph supplied)

Symonds joined then third division side Rochdale as a 19-year-old striker in 1954 after successfully completing trials and he hit the ground running by scoring three goals in his first two appearances for the club’s reserves.

He went on to appear for Rochdale’s first team before suffering a serious knee injury six months after arriving in the UK that required two operations and ultimately ended his professional career.

“I feel honoured by the experience I had there for 18 months although my professional career came to an early ending as I was hurt,” Symonds added.

“It was special and I thank all the Rochdale fans I had and apologise for my career coming to such an end.”

Although not the first black player to suit up for West Ham, Clyde Best is also regarded as a pioneer in the book for the huge impact he made during his remarkable career as a striker for the London club.

Clyde Best during his days playing for West Ham in the 1970s (File photograph)

“It makes you feel good because you know you've been on the trail before a lot of guys that are in the book who looked up to us and treated you with very high respect,” Best said.

“It goes to show that Bermuda can produce talented people so that should be a good inspiration to a lot of our young people that have aspirations to follow in those footsteps to understand that if you put the work in you can get something from it.”

Best credits Symonds and others for inspiring and teaching him the rudiments of the beautiful game.

“Bummy Symonds is a lot older than me so I learnt from watching him and all those players in his era play,” he added.

“It was great to learn things from them and that's what's it's all about,” Best said.

“Learning and having people that pass information on to you, that's what makes you a better player.”

Co-authors Bill Hern and David Gleave are thrilled to highlight the pioneering exploits of black players in the English game in the book, especially the likes of Symonds and Best coming from a small island such as Bermuda.

“It’s been an absolute pleasure and what can be more rewarding than meeting people like Calvin, who I would have never heard of if I hadn’t done this work,” Hern said.

“The people in Bermuda are unbelievably helpful and friendly, and Calvin epitomises it all, while to me Clyde Best has played well and he’s an absolute legend in England.

Football’s black pioneers co-author Bill Hern, Clyde Best, Calvin Symonds and co-author David Gleave (Photograph supplied)

“Shaun Goater [former Manchester City striker] and Nahki Wells [Bristol City striker] are mentioned as well, but Calvin is the one that paved the way.”

Gleave added: “Calvin is a very good example of why we needed to do the book when we did it because a lot of this history is going to be lost and forgotten.

“He was so close to being forgotten if I hadn’t contacted some of the older Rochdale fans who won’t be around forever.

“If they weren't there to prompt us we would not have been able to write about it, so it’s important to get this history while you can.

“Nobody in England would have heard of Calvin Symonds apart from those handful of Rochdale fans who remembered him.

“We've been able to put his name in front of a wider audience now and justifiably so because he was one of the pioneers.

“There were so few people black players in that era he must’ve been lonely, but he was a pioneer.”

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Published April 18, 2024 at 7:58 am (Updated April 18, 2024 at 7:31 am)

Calvin ‘Bummy’ Symonds honoured in new book as football pioneer

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