By Simon Leyland
Heart-warming news from the West Ham United official website.
The family of Jack Leslie, the first black player to receive an England call-up, were presented with a posthumous honorary cap ahead of the England win over Ukraine at Wembley on Sunday.
The inside left, who started his career playing for non-league Barking Town, scoring over 250 goals and winning the London League title, before going on to Plymouth Argyle where he scored 137 goals in 400 appearances between 1921 and 1934, and was then called up to the national team in 1925 but had his invitation withdrawn due to the colour of his skin.
A bad eye injury forced him to retire as a professional in 1935 and, after returning to east London and his original trade as a boilermaker in the East India Docks, he worked in the Hammers’ boot room in the 1960s and 1970s after being approached by manager Ron Greenwood. He worked with the likes of Bobby Moore, Sir Geoff Hurst, Martin Peters, Sir Trevor Brooking and Billy Bonds before retiring at the age of 82.
The Argyle favourite died in 1988 aged 87 and his family were presented with an honorary England cap– 98 years after his first call-up – as the Football Association recognised his ‘contribution to the game and wider society, and to right a historical wrong.’
Carlton Cole said: “For all Black footballers, Jack is a true pioneer. His story is incredible, moving from Barking Town to Plymouth Argyle in an outstanding playing career, before returning to East London and working at West Ham United, a club that has always had diversity embedded throughout – something that makes me extremely proud”.
An amazing story regarding Jack Leslie, a man who not only had the ability to make the grade but also had to overcome the narrow small-mindedness of the self-righteous dinosaur authorities of the day.
A true West Ham legend and a welcome acknowledgement of the national injustice of his era ⚒⚒