Laurie Cunningham photos have showed up online in light of the upcoming film about his life. Cunningham was the first black British football player whose stunning career ended abruptly with his death by way of a car accident at the age of 33. We reported yesterday that Ashley Walters has been asked to play his role in the ITV film.
Tomorrow will mark what would’ve been the 57th birthday of West Brom legend and pioneering black football icon Laurie Cunningham, had his life (and career) not been cut tragically short in 1989 when, at the age of 33, he sadly died in a car crash in Madrid.
Laurie Cunningham was the First Black British Footballer
One of Ron Atkinson’s famous “Three Degrees” at the Hawthorns (alongside Cyrille Regis and Brendan Batson), Cunningham was the first black player to represent England at any level (he received his first U21 cap against Scotland in 1977) and the first black player to play for the England senior side in a competitive match (with Nottingham Forest’s Viv Anderson having made his groundbreaking debut in a friendly six months earlier), which meant having to deal with all the racist abuse that came with it – this was the 1970s and 80s after all.
However, the colour of his skin was not the only reason he gained plaudits – he could bloody well play a bit too.
In 1979, Cunningham moved to Real Madrid for close to £1 million and quickly became a cult hero at the Bernabeu, with Barcelona fans famously referring to him as “the Black Johan Cruyff” before a string of injuries (including a nasty ruptured knee ligament inflicted by a Madrid teammate in training), sheer bad luck and increasing friction with the club over discipline and his “goldfish bowl” private life bought about Cunningham’s eventual decline.
Do you remember Laurie Cunningham? Pioneers always have the toughest time it seems, but do you think he was accepted as any other football players were in his time?