Sport on TV: Laurie had a lot on his plate and it still leaves a nasty taste

Laurie Cunningham was a pioneer for one obvious reason: he was the first black man to play football for England at any level. Of course that meant he was at the frontier of the fight against racism, weaving around the bigoted barbs of the crowd just as he had to jump over the tackles of brutish Seventies defenders. But that should not put his other groundbreaking feats in the shade: First Among Equals: The Laurie Cunningham Story (ITV, Wednesday) revealed that he taught Mark Bright what cutlery to use and introduced Peter Reid to garlic tiger prawns. He had to peel it for Reid, though; he may have been at the cutting edge, but to bring English football out of the dark ages you had to go one step at a time. At least he wasn't selfish with his knowledge of shellfish.

Cunningham was miles ahead of the rest in many ways. He learned all about prawns while playing for Real Madrid in the days when they were only allowed two foreigners, and spoke fluent Spanish. He didn't really fit in with the England team because his stepovers and dropped shoulders were a little too fancy for the English game – he ploughed the same furrow that Cristiano Ronaldo now does at the Bernabeu.

Cunningham was into ballet and yoga too, and he would have been a surefire hit on Strictly Come Dancing. He and his partner, Nicki Brown, went from one nightclub to another – at least some things never change – winning competitions in different dance categories in order to pay off the fines he received for being late for training at Leyton Orient.

The rise of the "Three Degrees" at West Bromwich Albion seemed to be a game-changer for black players but as John Barnes, a target of racists, noted: "We have been elevated out of blackness. We have been accepted into the mainstream. They don't see us as black. So what does that mean?" He added: "As we've seen in the last few months, it's still alive and kicking."

We are told a third of English pros now come from ethnic minorities and yet there are only five black managers. Cunningham died aged just 33 in a car crash. If he was still alive he might be bemused to see that racism is again bedevilling his beautiful game.

* When Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean agreed to appear on Piers Morgan's Life Stories (ITV, Friday) they must have known the slippery former tabloid editor would ask if they had ever "done it". As they are Britain's "most famous and best-loved double act", it's a story that red-top journalists have been chasing for three decades.

Dean revealed they "dabbled", that he "may have kissed her" while she was asleep once. Their co-presenter on Dancing on Ice, Philip Schofield, opined: "There's something about the ice, whether it's the fumes from the fake tan or the amount of sequins, there's something about it that makes a human being rampant." Clearly that was not the case with Torvill and Dean, who hardly broke the ice in their 38 years as a pair.

Dean has now hooked up with Dancing on Ice judge Karen Barber, whom he has known for even longer than Torvill. So instead of generating the heat of passion it would seem skating romances are slow burners. At least that gives you a chance to get off the rink before the cracks begin to show.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Recruitment Genius: B2B Media Sales Professional - Work From Home

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Enjoying rapid growth we contin...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Media Sales Professional - Work From Home

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Enjoying rapid growth we contin...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Media Sales Professional - Work From Home

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Enjoying rapid growth we contin...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Media Sales Professional - Work From Home

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Enjoying rapid growth we contin...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'