106 BME players
have appeared for England through to the match against
Scotland on 12 September 2023. The first BME player at senior level, Viv
Anderson, was the 936th player to appear for England since their first match in
1872. The most recent BME player to make his England debut, Eberechi Eze, was the 1273rd player to appear for England. Thus, since the
"colour barrier" over forty-four years ago, in
November 1978, roughly just over one in every three players making an England debut has
It may have been possible to have seen the
first BME footballer playing for England back in October 1925 with London-born Jack Leslie, a prolific striker
for Plymouth Argyle between 1920 & 1935, scoring over 400 goals. Leslie had been
informed by his manager Bob Jack that he had been selected to play for
England. He later received communication cancelling his call up to the
England team stating that they didn't realise he was 'a man of colour'. Jack Leslie later remarked in 1982 to Brian Woolnough:
"They must have forgotten I was a coloured boy."
A decade later saw the
emergence of another great - Hong Y Frank Soo, although born in Buxton,
Derbyshire in 1914, he had a Chinese father. If it
had not been for the outbreak of war, he would certainly have gained
full international honours for England, as he was rated as one of the
best inside forwards of the pre-war era. He gained nine wartime and
victory caps. -
Football fine art
Even before the time of Anderson, now relatively
dubbed 'The First Black Player to Play for England', there is another
candidate, and maybe if there was not the racism problems that blighted
English football throughout the 1960's, then maybe a loud shout would
have come from the Leeds United camp. Paul Reaney, allegedly of
mixed-race. But without further evidence, other than a few
objective photographs.... then if Reaney, why not Alf Ramsey? We
are not ruling out Reaney, we just require more evidence.- CG
Perhaps race will be irrelevant one day, but
that time has not yet arrived.
racism remains a problem in English football, these numbers indicate
great strides forward have been taken at the level of national team
We have not made
a count, but we doubt any other European national side, with the
possible exception of France, comes close to England in number of BME
That is not to say racial considerations have
not influenced England squad and team selections. We have no way
of knowing whether or not they have. But we do know that,
according to a former England manager, Football Association officials on
at least one occasion tried to make race a consideration in England team selection.
Vivek Chaudhary reported in
of 24 January 2004 that a former England manager had "alleged that
during his tenure he was told by senior FA officials not to pick too
many black players."
manager, Chaudhary wrote,"claims that he was called into an office where
two senior FA officials were present and they told him that his England
team should be made up of predominantly white footballers."
Chaudhary's story said the manager, who "has
a long history of closely working with some of England's leading
players over the past 25 years, privately spoke about the incident at
the lunch" marking the 10th anniversary of
Out, the football
anti-racism group, but "refused to go public with his allegation."
surprisingly, the rest of the English media
ignored Chaudhary's report.
The manager in question is plainly
Taylor. On several occasions during his three-year managerial
tenure from 1990 to late 1993, Taylor fielded England teams
featuring a comparatively large number of BME players and was
the one England manager most likely to have been the recipient of such a
proposal for a racial quota on the England team. He also fits the
description Chaudhary gave the manager in the story. He
was known for working closely with England's leading BME players,
beginning at Watford in the late 1970s, 25 years before the story
was written. Finally,
he also happened to be in London at the time of the
Kick It Out lunch in connection with the London Marathon, in which he
[ed- Taylor once more denied these allegations in mid-2015].
Racism, of course, often takes more subtle forms
than racial epithets and explicit exclusion on racial grounds, both of
which have been widely condemned for some time.
Far more threatening than overt racism in more recent times has
been hidden racism--racism effected through discretionary decisions, where its influence is
concealed precisely because these
decisions are discretionary and thus readily rationalised on other
grounds. Squad and team selections
reflect discretionary determinations in which racism may play a covert role.
This more subtle
form of racism may also play a part in journalistic and fan support for
and criticism of certain players, or at least the level of that
support and criticism.
We hope that no England manager or head
coach has ever been influenced by racial considerations in team or squad
selections and that none ever yielded to pressure to pick more
white and fewer BME players. We also hope the incident Chaudhary describes would not be repeated within the F.A., which,
in a refreshing burst of candour when declaring in 2001 its all-out
commitment to ridding football of racism,
confessed it could have done more to battle racism in the game during
In Clarke Carlisle's 2012 documentary 'Is Football
Racist?', Carlisle, who had received a solitary England under-21 cap,
revealed that in an attempt to understand the depth of racism in the game, a
current England internationalist refused to comment, because he believed
that his place in the squad could be at risk from the Football Association.
Consequently, no names were revealed.
Selection should, of course, be
made on the basis of football considerations alone, regardless of the
racial balance that produces in the squad or the team. That is
imperative as a moral matter as well as from the standpoint of
assembling the best football side possible.
In the interest of clarity, the first BME player
to represent England at any level was in fact John Charles, West Ham United
FC defender. He earned three Youth Caps for England in May 1962, twice
against Israel, another a year later against USSR. It was another decade
that the Schoolboy level would get their first representation, by two players in
fact, Ben Odeje and Cliff Marshall. They played for the schoolboys against
Northern Ireland schoolboys at Wembley Stadium, 6 March 1971, the first of
five appearances for Odeje, the first of four for Marshall.
The 106 BME Players