The Stories of the First Black Players to Represent the 92 League Clubs

By Bill Hern & David Gleave

Football’s Black Pioneers

Ninety-two chapters tell the unique stories of the first black players to represent each of the Football League clubs.

A new perspective on the lives, careers and experiences of groundbreaking black footballers in England.

Four years of original research have not only identified these history makers but have also uncovered a wealth of fascinating and often eye-opening personal tales. This collection of rich and hugely varied stories spans the period from Arthur Wharton’s debut for Sheffield United in 1895 right up to the present day, covering over 130 years of social history. They include personal interviews with many of the players – including Viv Anderson MBE, Chris Kamara, Tony Ford MBE, Neville Chamberlain and Roland Butcher – and family members of stars from the more distant past.

Football’s Black Pioneers features an incredible variety of emotive human stories and forgotten characters, together with a powerful theme of struggle against now-unthinkable attitudes, and the revelation of many unexpected historical facts.

Read Football’s Black Pioneers and you will discover:
 The first black player to represent England at any level (and it isn’t Anderson, Cunningham or Odeje)
 The player who was picked for England, then dropped when the selectors discovered he was black
 The only black Busby Babe
 The footballer/psychologist who served 12 years in a US jail for acid attacks on his wife and her attorney
 The first black player to play for Wales – 50 years before Viv Anderson appeared for England
 The clubs that went over 100 years before fielding a black player
 The first black player to play cricket for England, as well as a Football League side
 The first Jamaican to play in the First Division, who became a TV personality in the Caribbean
 The player attributed as the first Australian to play in the Football League – who has no connection whatsoever with that country
 The player who went on to become the first black manager in England
 The player who went on to become a comedian and showbiz personality
 The player who made over 1,000 League appearances (second only to Peter Shilton)
 The player whose career was ended when he was run over by team-mates
 The family whose origins we have traced back to enslavement in Jamaica that has provided one past and one current England international

What they say:

  • “The human stories are pretty unbelievable. Really, really fascinating to read.” (Nick Hatton, BBC Radio Leeds)
  • “There are always stories that crop up that make you scratch your head and think, really? Is that what was going on back in the day?” (Jules Bellerby, BBC Radio York)
  • “Learn about the unsung black trailblazers of the game. ‘Football’s Black Pioneers’ profiles the first black player at each of the 92 league clubs.” (Kick it Out)


    “Bill Hern and David Gleave, authors of Football’s Black Pioneers, say they set out four years ago to write a dip-in-dip-out tome that would appeal to sports fans. Yet the result is only ostensibly about the (not always) beautiful game. Rather, what emerges over 92 wildly different mini-biographies, is a far wider social history about the black British experience over the last 130 years, touching on everything from slavery to Windrush and black lives mattering.  Here, writ large in often agonising detail, is racism, prejudice, isolation and the loneliness of going where others have not yet been.” The Independent

The book is available through and Amazon

The authors

Bill Hern and David Gleave are two of the historians behind the Historycal Roots project, centring on black British history.

Bill and David are lifelong followers of Sunderland and Crystal Palace, respectively. Their tribute to football’s black pioneers is a celebration of the courage of those young men whose suffering and ritual humiliation played a part in eventually changing attitudes, paving the way for the black players that would follow.

Paperback: 228 pages Publisher: Conker Editions (31 August 2020)
ISBN-13: 978-1999900854 Size: 148 x 210mm RRP: £16

Please contact: – 07947 634535
Conker Editions Ltd. 22 Cosby Road, Littlethorpe, Leicester LE19 2HF


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