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Published 01 October 2022 2 min read

England's Black pioneers celebrated at Wembley

Written by:

Nicholas Veevers

Ahead of Black History Month 2022, a number of English football's Black pioneers were present or represented at Wembley for England's game with Germany
Black History Month takes place throughout October and we were honoured to welcome some of England’s Black footballing trailblazers to Wembley.

Ahead of the annual month of celebration, we were able to pay tribute to some of the key Black figures in England's football history at the Three Lions' game with Germany in the UEFA Nations League.

The theme for 2022’s Black History Month is ‘Time for change; Action not words’ and it was fitting that among the dignitaries in the Royal Box on the night, were some of those individuals in person as well as the families of others who can’t be with us.

From the men’s teams, we welcomed Benjamin Odeje who was the first Black player to represent England schoolboys back in 1971 and he was joined by Luther Blissett (pictured above), who was the first Black goalscorer for the men’s senior team.

Also represented on the night by their families was John Charles, the first Black player to feature for an England team when he was capped by the MU18s in 1962, with his son Mitch and wife Tibby Charles present.
L-R: Mitch and Tibby Charles, Liam and Dorothy Rooney, Paul Elliott, Lesley Hiscott, Matt Tiler, Benjamin Odeje, Fern Whelan and Kerry Davis
L-R: Mitch and Tibby Charles, Liam and Dorothy Rooney, Paul Elliott, Lesley Hiscott, Matt Tiler, Benjamin Odeje, Fern Whelan and Kerry Davis
Arthur Wharton, who is widely considered to have been the first Black professional footballer in the world was represented by his great-grand daughter Dorothy Rooney and her son Liam while the first Black MU21s player Laurie Cunningham was represented by his daughter Rhodene Cunningham.

Cunningham’s former West Bromwich Albion teammate Cyrille Regis, one of the great pioneers of historical importance, who formed part of a playing trio with Brendan Batson at the Hawthorns was represented by his daughter Michelle Regis.

And Jack Leslie, who was the first Black player to receive an England call-up but never played, was also represented by his eldest granddaughter, Lesley Hiscott and Matt Tiler.

Sending their apologies were the first England men's senior Black international Viv Anderson and first Black captain Paul Ince, with both unable to attend on the night.

We also had representation from our women’s teams too, with former top goalscorer and the first Black women’s England international Kerry Davis in attendance.

Fern Whelan, the former Lioness and Brighton and Hove Albion defender who is now the PFA’s first women’s football equality, diversity and inclusion executive was also in attendance while England's first Black manager Hope Powell and first Black captain of England Women Mary Phillip both sent their apologies after being unable to attend.

As we begin Black History Month, you can find out more about some of English football’s Black pioneers here as well as hear from Jobi McAnuff, who is an independent non-executive director on the FA Board.