Dion Dublin has paid an emotional tribute to Cyrille Regis, who died this week, welling up with tears as he spoke of his admiration for the former England international.
Regis was a pioneer for black footballers in Britain and played alongside Laurie Cunningham and Brendon Batson during his time at the Hawthorns that helped change the face of the game when it came to racial equality, despite the trio being racially abused by opposition fans on numerous occasions in the late 1970s.
A statue of the three players was erected in West Bromwich in 2014, and at the time, Regis said: “We were part of that first generation of black players in this country and I’m sure that if you ask any second generation player they will tell you they were inspired by Laurie. That’s why the statue will be so important.”
Regis died on Tuesday aged 59 after suffering a suspected heart attack. Speaking on the BBC in the buildup to Chelsea’s FA Cup replay with Norwich at Stamford Bridge, Dublin said: “There was Brendan and there was Laurie, and there was Viv [Anderson], but there was something about Cyrille.
“As a centre forward, Cyrille Regis was my hero. All I wanted to do was play like him. I wanted to back in and hold it up and score goals. If it wasn’t for him I never would have been a professional footballer. He will be so missed.”
A tearful Dublin, who played for several clubs including Manchester United, Coventry City and Aston Villa and earned four England caps, added: “There was an ignorant minority, an uneducated minority, but the rest loved him. Black, white, orange or blue, people loved him.”
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