The campaign of the statue for the black player was overthrown by England

The campaign of the statue for the black player was overthrown by England

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The Leslie family

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Jack Leslie played for the Plymouth Argyle in the 1920s

The campaign for raising the statue of the football player, which was overthrown by England when the selectors discovered that he was black, begins.

Elected in 1925, Jack Leslie would be the first black player to play for England, 53 years before Viva Anderson.

At the time he died, in 1988 at the age of 88, there were many more black players at the top levels of the game.

Leslie was born in 1900 in Canning Town, in the port of London, to an English mother and a Jamaican father.

A gifted athlete, he played for Barking Town, where his prolific scoring record caught the attention of Plymouth Argyle, then a third-division club.

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The Leslie family

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Jack Leslie (third from the right) was Plymouth Argyle’s top scorer

He joined them in the 1921-22 season and stayed for 14 years, scoring 401 appearances and scoring 137 goals, making the feat increasingly impressive due to the racial abuse he experienced at the hands of both the crowd and the opponents.

He is remembered as a great striker from the inside, but also a service player who could fulfill as a central defender.

Call from England

In 1925, Argyle manager Bob Jack called his star striker to his office and gave him exciting news – Jack Leslie had been selected to play for England against Ireland.

It was a great achievement for the player and an honor to third division Plymouth.

His choice was a club-city interview – but a few days later, when the newspaper published the team, Billy Walker of Aston Villa was in the starting lineup and Leslie was named as a travel reserve.

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The Leslie family

He never traveled with the England national team to Belfast.

Instead, while England struggled with a 0-0 draw, he scored twice, while Plymouth led Bournemouth 7-2 at home.

“I believe the manager sent his request, saying,‘ I have a great player here, he should pay for England, ’” his grandson Lesley Hiscott said.

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Lesley Hiscott (left) and Lyn Davies have fond memories of their grandfather

“Then someone came down to look at him.

“They didn’t watch his football.

“They looked at the color of his skin.

“And because of that, he was denied the chance to play for his country.”

Leslie later suggested that he discover that he was black, for the chosen ones it must have been “as if he found out I was a foreigner”.

But he accepted what happened and, according to his grandchildren, never expressed bitterness.

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Family photography

They remember him as a good and in love grandfather.

He married their grandmother Lavinia in 1925, at a time when it was unusual for a black man to marry a white woman.

As a result, some of the families, especially Lavinia, experienced racial abuse.

Lyn Davies said, “If I was walking down the street with my friends and he was coming the other way, I would cross to the other side of the road so I could pretend I didn’t know him, so I didn’t suffer.

“But I would run into a road and say,‘ Hello Grandpa. “

Despite helping Plymouth get the promotion, the top four finished in the second division, winning the club and, 1931-32, scoring 21 goals in 43 games, Leslie was no longer selected for England.

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PA Media

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Viv Anderson was elected to England in 1978

Anderson, selected to play for England against Czechoslovakia at Wembley in 1978, went on to win 30 matches.

“I never heard of Jack Leslie two weeks ago,” he told BBC News.

“And it’s a shame to cry, because what he achieved and what he did should be the most important thing in every black person’s head.

“It’s a shame to cry, but hopefully the statue they’re trying to erect will carry his legacy.”

Argyle had already paid homage to Leslie’s mural and renamed the town hall after him.

And now a group of fans lead the campaign for the statue.

“At a time when some statues are being torn down, we want to place one Jack Leslie in memory of his incredible accomplishments and remember the injustice he suffered,” says campaign co-founder Greg Foxsmith.

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Jack Leslie is already honored in the mural at the club

The campaign hopes to raise £ 100,000.

And the fans include Anderson and the club itself.

“Having a statue promoted by our fans and funded by fans is a statement for them to join the fight against racism in football,” Plymouth chairman Simon Hallett told BBC News.

“History was written by the winners and I think we are now trying to pay more attention to some of the victims of those victories.”

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The Leslie family

Bill author Hearn, co-author of the upcoming book Football Black Pioneers, said: “Jack Leslie was to be a major figure in the history of British football and society.

“Everyone needs a role model and young black football players did not have that main role model in their 30s, 40s and 50s.

“If he had played for England as he should have, he would have let go of the aspirations of generations of young black players.”

Boot room

Leslie’s games came to an end days after he was injured when lace from a leather ball hit him in the eye.

He and his family returned to East London and he continued to trade as a boiler manufacturer.

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The Leslie family

After retiring and with time on hand, Lavinia persuaded him to go to West Ham and ask the club if he could do any work.

He met manager Ron Greenwood, who immediately recognized and remembered him as a great player.

Greenwood offered him a job in the trunk room, where he cleaned the mud from the boots of English stars Bobby Moore, Geff Hurst, Martin Peters and Trevor Brooking.

In another ironic twist of his story, Leslie also cleaned the boots of West Ham’s black midfielder striker, Clyde Best, who in the late 1960s and 1970s was still only a handful of black players in top English football.

Leslie loved working and hanging out with footballers, but it was hardly suitable for a man who was supposed to take a unique place in the history of football – and now he might do so.

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