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Everyone connected with West Bromwich Albion football club was left devastated on Monday when it was reported that legendary striker Cyrille Regis had died from a heart attack at the age of 59.
Regis, who was born in French Guiana, joined The Baggies in 1976 after the club plucked him from Non-League side Hayes in the Isthmian League for an initial fee of just £5,000. The West Brom Head Scout at the time, Ronnie Allen, was so sure that Regis would be a success that he offered to pay the money out of his own pocket.
In a period of seven years for Albion, between 1977 and 1984, the striker would score a total of 112 goals in 297 appearances and proved himself as one of the deadliest strikers in Europe. Regis’ goals helped Albion to third and fourth-placed finishes in the old First Division and the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup. He also earned a total of five England caps.
But it wasn’t just his goalscoring that was so special about big Cyrille. He joined the club alongside both Laurie Cunningham and Brendon Batson, with the three nicknamed ‘The Three Degrees’, and in a time when it was very unusual to name three black football players in one team, Regis was an integral part of a movement that helped break down racial barriers in British football.
As a West Brom fan, I am incredibly proud and honoured that Regis played for my club, and while I wasn’t born when Regis was playing football, I can still appreciate the incredible talent that he possessed, and more importantly, how much of a gentleman he was off the pitch.
After leaving West Brom in 1984, Regis would go on to play for Coventry City (winning the FA Cup in 1987), Aston Villa, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Wycombe Wanderers and Chester City.
RIP Cyrille Regis, a true West Bromwich Albion legend, you will never be forgotten.