Cyrille Regis: Ex-West Brom and England forward dies aged 59
Cyrille Regis, the former West Brom and England forward, has died aged 59.
He scored 112 goals in 297 appearances for the Baggies before joining Coventry City for £250,000 in 1984.
He was a pioneer for black footballers in the game when he played alongside Laurie Cunningham and Brendon Batson at The Hawthorns.
His widow, Julia, described him on Monday as "a beautiful man and a wonderful husband, father, grandfather, brother and uncle."
Regis, who was appointed an MBE in 2008, returned to West Brom as a coach before becoming a football agent.
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In a tribute posted on West Brom's website, Julia Regis continued: "Losing him has turned my whole world upside down. It is a void that will never be filled.
"I have been moved by the many messages of support and condolences I have received and the kind things people have said about Cyrille as a person and a professional."
Regis is survived by two children Robert and Michelle and three grandchildren Jayda, Renée and Riley.
"He came into football the hard way and never lost his passion for the game. He was a role model for so many because he always treated everyone he met with kindness and respect."
The trio of Regis, Cunningham and Batson, nicknamed the Three Degrees by their then-manager Ron Atkinson, were subject to racist abuse from fans during the late 1970s.
They are due to be honoured with a 10ft statue, called The Celebration, in West Bromwich. It is set to be unveiled this season, following a delay.
At a preview of the structure in 2013, 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."
Cunningham died in a car crash in Spain in 1989.
Regis, who won five caps for England, scored 62 goals in 274 appearances for Coventry and was a crucial part of their FA Cup-winning side in 1987. He retired from football in October 1996.
Former Manchester United and England defender Rio Ferdinand paid tribute to "a great man. Helped set the foundations for others. Always remembered".
Ebony Rainford-Brent, the retired England cricketer, described him as "one of the most amazing men I have ever met".
'A role model and a trailblazer'
BBC Sport's chief football writer, Phil McNulty
Cyrille Regis was not simply an outstanding striker for West Brom and an FA Cup winner with Coventry City - he was a role model and a trailblazer for black footballers.
Regis, along with Brendon Batson and Laurie Cunningham at West Brom and the likes of Viv Anderson at Nottingham Forest, broke down barriers and demonstrated what could be achieved at a time when high-profile black players were a rarity in Britain.
And Regis did it the hard way by coming through the Isthmian League at Hayes before being spotted and signed for the Baggies by then-manager Ronnie Allen in May 1977.
It was under Ron Atkinson that he achieved the status that made him a legend at The Hawthorns; a striker of explosive, raw power and finishing who could unsettle any defence. Regis was powerful in the air, quick and a scorer of any type of goal, spectacular or scrappy.
Regis was a gentle man away from football but such was his threat on the field, particularly when subjected to heavy physical attentions from opponents, that opposing managers used to specifically instruct their players not to upset him or annoy him in any way as the results could be devastating. In full flight, Regis was a magnificent sight.
For all the glorious memories he created at West Bromwich Albion, Regis is also remembered fondly at Coventry City, where he was a member of the side that won the FA Cup in 1987, beating Tottenham 3-2 at Wembley.
Regis also played for Aston Villa, Wolves, Wycombe Wanderers and Chester City later in his career but it was at West Brom and Coventry where he enjoyed his greatest glory.
He will be remembered as one of the most significant footballing figures of his generation, not just for his impact on the field but his wider influence off it.
'A genuine fella'
Former Scotland striker Kevin Gallacher played with Regis at Coventry
I was a young lad coming down to England and he helped me along. His physical presence took the centre halves away and allowed me to take the glory and score the goals.
He just wanted to help you along and settle you into the club. He did the kind things, he put an arm around you. Every time you saw him at the ex-players' stuff at Coventry he always wanted to speak to you, he was such a genuine fella.
He was one of the masters, along with Brendon Batson, who helped to change the face of football. It was fantastic and that's why he got a lot of respect from fellow professionals, what he did to help the other side of football.
'My absolute hero'
BBC 5 live presenter and West Brom fan Adrian Chiles
He was my absolute hero. When he made his debut, he was electrifying. It was a difficult time in Birmingham in terms of race relations and then suddenly these men, especially Cyrille, were our heroes. What they went through was horrific and, psychologically, they were made of girders to deal with the horrors that were put in front of them.
The one thing everyone also said about him was that he got younger every time you saw him, he was in spectacular physical shape all the time so it's the last thing you'd expect.
I was supposed to meet him and Brendon tomorrow to organise a big celebration to mark the 40th anniversary of when Laurie Cunningham made his debut and to celebrate what the Three Degrees achieved for the club and the game. I'm just devastated.
|Cyrille Regis' league record|