The black footballers who changed West Bromwich Albion’s fortunes in the 1970s are the stars of the new drama

Brendon Bateson

Three Degrees, backed by Film4, follows Cyril Regis, Brendon Bateson and Laurie Cunningham, who changed the fortunes of the team during the ‘Winter of Discontent’ – the period between November 1978 and February 1979 when the UK was hit by a series of mass audiences. strikes.

Cyril Regis scored in the famous 5-3 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford in December 1978

They are credited with helping to break down barriers for black and minority ethnic footballers in England during a time of widespread racism in the game.

Clint Dyer is directing, with Roy Williams writing the screenplay and Dudley’s Sir Lenny Henry on board as executive producer.

Richard Holmes of Big Rich Films is producing it alongside Graham Silk of Truth Pictures.

Silk’s father was vice-chairman of West Bromwich Albion during the 1970s, and Silk brought in the last surviving member of the trio, Batson, as executive producer on the project.

Cunningham died in a car accident in Madrid in 1989 at the age of 33, and Regis died of a heart attack in 2018 at the age of 59.

It’s one of the things people will tell you, ‘You should make a movie out of this,’ Graham said.

“A lot of people have said this in the past. We just decided we were going to do it.

“It’s a movie about how three men changed the way a lot of people look.

“We still have the problem of racism in football but it’s not that bad.

“We’re looking to get things moving now.

“It will be a feature film, not a documentary, and it has gone through a number of different drafts.

“Everything depends on the events that happened. It’s a great story and it will be played out entirely with professional actors.

“We hope to go into production next year.”

Details of the casting and filming locations have yet to be announced.

It is hoped that the feature film will be released in cinemas once it is completed with further discussions needed in the future.

Laurie Cunningham celebrates after Albion’s 1-1 draw with Valencia

Graham added, “I’d never met Laurie, but I knew Cyril really well. I’ve known Brendon for a long time.”

“He’s so articulate and engaging. We were thrilled to have him put his name on this.”

Albion chief scout Ronnie Allen snatched him from non-league Hayes in May 1977, and he was so convinced by Regis that he famously raked in the sum of £5,000 out of his own pocket.

A month later, Allen was promoted to coach following the resignation of Johnny Giles and it wasn’t long until the 19-year-old Regis was making an impact in the first team.

After scoring on his debut with the reserves, he was parachuted into the senior side at the end of August.

He scored twice on his debut in a 4–0 win over Rotherham in the League Cup, and three days later he scored on his league debut in a 2–1 win over Middlesbrough, running the ball from the halfway line into the penalty area before he was knocked out. Unleash the ball. fierce shot.

With that incredible start, Regis became an instant hit in the West Midlands, quickly gaining cult hero status that would grow to iconic levels over the next seven years.

Cunningham made his Tottenham debut in March 1977 and quickly established himself as one of the best wingers in English football.

An immediate impact at The Hawthorns, he made history when he, Brendon Batson and Cyrille Regis all started against Ipswich in 1978.

It was the first time that three black players had started a league match.

The winger was outstanding when West Brom beat Man United 5-3 at Old Trafford in 1978. He then followed that up with another fine display when Albion drew Valencia 1-1 in a UEFA Cup match in Spain.

And it was that offer that alerted Real Madrid, as Cunningham joined the Spanish giants for a fee of £950,000 in 1979.

Meanwhile, Batson made 220 appearances for the Baggies between 1978 and 1984 as well as representing the England second team three times.

He has also helped break down barriers when racism was rife in the game, during his time as a player as well as working with the Professional Footballers’ Association and a number of anti-racism organizations – including his tenure as head of the Sporting Equals project, based in Birmingham.

In 2019, the 69-year-old former defender received the Sporting Equals Lifetime Achievement Award.

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