Midland footballer Cyrille Regis has spoken of his pride after he was made an MBE in the Queen’s birthday honours.
The former West Bromwich Albion, Coventry City, Aston Villa and Wolverhampton Wanderers striker was honoured for his tireless charity work and a football career which helped lay the foundations for the modern game.
Regis was one of only a handful of black players in the late 1970s, a time when spectators often hurled racist abuse.
But Regis’ generation of black players helped change the attitude of fans and forced the Football Association to take action against racism.
Regis said: “It is a great feeling being awarded the honour. I have done a lot of charity work, but I suppose the main thing I have been recognised for is sport.
“It was an exciting and challenging time for a black player in the late 1970s, not just for myself, but a host of players including Laurie Cunningham, Brendan Batson and Viv Anderson, the first black player to play for England.
“There was a lots of racism from fans of opposing teams but we overcame that and have helped the game progress.”
Regis added: “It is good now that black players are judged on their talent and nothing else. I think back then we helped to lay the foundations for that.
“It is a lot easier for black players now, but there is still a lot of work to do, particularly in getting Asian footballers into the game.”
Regis also said black managers should be encouraged, and was particularly pleased MK Dons manager and former Manchester United and Wolverhampton Wanderers star Paul Ince is being linked with Premiership Blackburn Rovers.
“It is great to see Paul Ince doing well in management and being linked with one of the top jobs in English football,” he said.
Regis, aged 50, was born in French Guyana and started his career with Hayes before moving to West Brom in 1977. However, he considers himself more of a local lad.
“I played for four clubs in and around Birmingham and have lived here 31 years now so I would definitely consider myself a Brummie,” he said.
Regis is heavily involved with charity work and is ambassador for Water Aid, an organisation which helps provide clean drinking water for poor people, and campaigns for more to be done to help communities with no water.
He recently travelled to Ethiopia to find out how WaterAid is working with local partners to increase water consumption among the local population.
Other charities Regis is involved with include 100 Black Men and the Jason Roberts Foundation. Regis is also an accredited football agent with The Stellar Group Ltd and a born again Christian.