When Facing The ‘All Blacks’ Meant Something Completely Different

Molineux Duo’s Memories Of Unique Fixture

The young and easily identifiable George Berry.

The young and easily identifiable George Berry.

Wolves’ part in the uneasy introduction of black players into British football is to be given an airing on TV this weekend.

Unthinkable and politically incorrect though it now seems in the Kick It Out era, a game was once staged in the West Midlands between a team of white players and a side made up purely of black players.

Young Molineux defenders George Berry and Bob Hazell were in the line-up assembled by Cyrille Regis – a man destined to spend part of his latter career at Wolves but then approaching his peak as an Albion legend.

And they and all their team-mates have tales to relate from the days when it was depressingly familiar for black players to be singled out by crowds for booing and much worse.

How Football Changed A Nation is being screened on Sunday as part of the BBC’s Black and British season and is a one-hour film documenting the clash between Regis’s black team and Len Cantello’s all white one.

The game was played at The Hawthorns in May, 1979, as the highlight of Cantello’s testimonial year and was won 3-2 by Regis’ side, who also included Laurie Cunningham, Brendon Batson, Garth Crooks and Remi Moses.

The show, for which Regis and ex-Albion and Wolves captain Alistair Robertson featured in a q and a in the middle of the month, is being screened on BBC 2 on Sunday at 9pm.

Berry, Hazell, Robertson and Batson are among the participating players reunited nearly four decades on, with Adrian Chiles criss-crossing the country’s football landscape to assess reaction to the match from then and now.

Bob Hazell......another Molineux hopeful from the testing late 1970s.

Bob Hazell……another Molineux hopeful from the testing late 1970s.

Ian Wright, Les Ferdinand and Dion Dublin are other former players who have been interviewed.

Chiles has also met the wives and girlfriends of some of the famous black players of yesteryear and Ian Sergeant, mac Cinema and Screen Producer, said: “It’s a rare opportunity to see how much the game has evolved and is a reminder of the battles fought. They paved the way and kick-started a proliferation of black players in top-flight teams.”

Today, around 30 per cent of English professionals are reported to be black.

Thomas Publications