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England's 111 Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) Players


111 BME players have appeared for England through to the match against Belgium on 26 March 2024.  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, Kobbie Mainoo, was the 1280th player to appear for England.  Thus, since the "colour barrier" forty-five years ago, in November 1978, roughly just over one in every three players making an England debut has been BME.

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. But please note, it was the colour of their skin that prevented their inclusion an England team, NOT their culture, and that is was what we are using as the guideline. - CG

Perhaps race will be irrelevant one day, but that time has not yet arrived.  While racism remains a problem in English football, these numbers indicate great strides forward have been taken at the level of national team selection.  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 players.

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 The Guardian 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."  The 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 black players over the past 25 years, privately spoke about the incident at the lunch" marking the 10th anniversary of Kick It Out, the football anti-racism group, but "refused to go public with his allegation."  Disappointingly, but not surprisingly, the rest of the English media ignored Chaudhary's report.  

The manager in question is plainly Graham 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 was participating.  [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 earlier times

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 made three Youth appearances 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 111 BME Players

BME Players Chronologically BME Captains Most Capped BME Players
Tammy Abraham Gabriel Agbonlahor Trent Alexander-Arnold Dele Alli Viv Anderson John Barnes
Earl Barrett Jude Bellingam Darren Bent Ryan Bertrand Luther Blissett Jay Bothroyd
Wes Brown Dominic Calvert-Lewin Fraizer Campbell Sol Campbell Steven Caulker Mark Chamberlain
Gary Charles Nathaniel Chalobah Nathaniel Clyne Andrew Cole Ashley Cole Carlton Cole
Stan Collymore Levi Colwill Laurie Cunningham Keith Curle Tony Daley Brian Deane
Jermain Defoe Fabian Delph Dion Dublin Kieron Dyer Ugo Ehiogu Eberechi Eze
John Fashanu Les Ferdinand Rio Ferdinand Anthony Gardner Kieran Gibbs Ben Godfrey
Joe Gomez Andy Gray Mason Greenwood Marc Guéhi Emile Heskey Ricky Hill
Tom Huddlestone Callum Hudson-Odoi Paul Ince David James Reece James Jermaine Jenas
Glen Johnson James Justin Ledley King Ezri Konsa Zat Knight Aaron Lennon
Joleon Lescott Rico Lewis Jesse Lingard Jake Livermore Ruben Loftus-Cheek Kobbie Mainoo
Ainsley Maitland-Niles Tyrone Mings Tyrick Mitchell Eddie Nketiah Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain Carlton Palmer
Paul Parker Chris Powell Marcus Rashford Nathan Redmond Cyrille Regis Micah Richards
Kieran Richardson Michael Ricketts David Rocastle Danny Rose John Salako Bukayo Saka
Jadon Sancho Trevor Sinclair Chris Smalling Dominic Solanke Brian Stein Raheem Sterling
Daniel Sturridge Danny Thomas Michael Thomas Fikayo Tomori Ivan Toney Andros Townsend
Darius Vassell Theo Walcott Des Walker Kyle Walker Kyle Walker-Peters Danny Wallace
Mark Walters Ollie Watkins Danny Welbeck Callum Wilson Ian Wright Shaun Wright-Phillips
Ashley Young Wilfried Zaha Bobby Zamora
England U21 BME Players England B BME Players

The Fifteen Managers Who Capped BME Players

Coach/Manager Term 1 2 3 4 5 6 P % Blk
Debut %
usage %
P Players
Debut All
Blk Plyrs
Debut Blk
P inc.
col 6÷col 1 col 5├Ěcol 3 col 4├Ěcol 2
Sam Allardyce 2016 1 14 0 6 0 1 100 0 42.9
Fabio Capello 2008-2011 42 640 26 22 10 42 100 38.5 34.4
Sven-Göran Eriksson 2001-2006 67 1064 40 337 16 67 100 40 31.7
Ron Greenwood 1978*-1982 44 547 22 19 3 16 36.4 13.6 3.5
Greenwood's record begins with Match No. 526, 29 November 1978, the first game a BME player appeared. We have only counted his record from this match in fairness to Ron Greenwood and for comparative purposes only.
Glenn Hoddle 1996-1999 28 380 10 75 3 28 100 30 19.7
Roy Hodgson 2012-2016 56 832 35 307 12 56 100 34.3 36.9
Kevin Keegan 1999-2000 18 256 13 47 3 18 100 23.1 18.4
Steve McClaren 2006-2007 18 265 10 90 3 18 100 30 34
Stuart Pearce 2012 1 17 1 7 1 1 100 100 41.2
Bobby Robson 1982-1990 95 1237 64 160 12 86 90.5 18.8 12.9
Gareth Southgate 2016-2024 93 1375 64 585 32 93 100 50 42.5
Graham Taylor 1990-1993 38 486 29 136 12 38 100 41.4 28
Peter Taylor 2000-2001 1 16 0 4 0 1 100 0 25
Terry Venables 1994-1996 24 326 27 32 4 21 87.5 14.8 9.8
Howard Wilkinson 1999, 2000 2 29 0 6 0 2 100 0 20.7
Total 1978-2024 526 7476 341 1831 111 485 92.2 32.6 24.5
This is a list to show how often BME players feature in each of the England manager's tenure. It gives a detailed list of each manager with their time in charge of the national side, and how many games they managed. This is followed by the number of players used by each manager and how many of those players where winning a cap for the first time. In comparison, the number of BME players used and making debuts from the same period is noted. A percentage is derived from these tallies to provide an accurate comparison between them.

Matches Involving BME Players

  Many thanks to Colin Yates of Footballfineart.com for his contributions to the BME players project.  In particular, his paintwork of Ian Wright, simply known as 'Martyr'.