Montserrat’s Winston White Featured in New Book on Football’s Black Pioneers

Winston White was the first black player for Leicester City. (Courtesy Bill Hern)

Former footballer Winston White was the first black player for Leicester City. His story of triumph, dealing with racism and playing more than 600 professional games is featured in a new book Football’s Black Pioneers to be released August 31, 2020.

Football’s Black Pioneers – The Stories of the First Black Players to Represent the 92 League Clubs by Bill Hern and David Gleave is a 228-page book to be released by Conker Editions. It gives a new perspective on the lives, careers and experiences of groundbreaking black footballers in England, say the authors.

Hern told Discover Montserrat that “after four years of research, we have identified the names of the first black footballers at each of the 92 English Football League clubs. They span the period 1885 right up to the current date. Slightly to our surprise we found that all had very different stories to tell so we have come up with 92 quite varied chapters.”

This collection of rich and hugely varied stories spans the period from Arthur Wharton’s debut for Sheffield United in 1885 to Forest Green fielding six black players in their first league game in 2017, covering over 130 years of social history. They include personal interviews with Viv Anderson, Chris Kamara, Tony Ford, Neville Chamberlain and Roland Butcher, plus family members of many players from the more distant past. Football’s Black Pioneers features an incredible variety of emotive human stories and forgotten characters, together with a powerful theme of struggle against now-unthinkable attitudes, and the revelation of many unexpected historical facts.

Included in the collection is Winston White of Montserrat, who was the first black player for Leicester City. Over 17 seasons (1977-1993) Winston played 608 games in England.
“Winston was born in Leicester on 26th October 1958. The proud parents were Thomas Benjamin and Ella Rebecca White (formerly Gerald) and the family home was in Roslyn Street, Leicester.
Thomas had come to Leicester from the tiny Caribbean island of Montserrat in the early 1950s and was followed four years later by Ella. Winston was the youngest of the couple’s seven children, all of whom displayed a sporting prowess. Thomas was a hard worker and spent 27 years at the local Rank Taylor Hobson factory making lenses. Ella worked as a child minder. Eventually the Whites were able to move to a larger property in East Park Road. A classic situation of a young couple coming to England from the Caribbean and making a successful and happy life for themselves and their family.
Many teams wanted to sign Winston when he left school but it was a dream come true when he joined his home club, Leicester City.
“Winston experienced racism throughout his career but he was able to set it aside and focus on what he loved doing most – playing football. He told me of one occasion when Jimmy Bloomfield brought him on as substitute in a pre-season friendly at Millwall. He was greeted with the usual racist vitriol. On the team coach returning to Leicester Bloomfield told Winston he wanted to see him in his office when they got back to Filbert Street. Fearing he had done something wrong Winston went to the manager’s office where he was asked how he felt when he went onto the pitch. “Well, great boss” Winston replied. Bloomfield explained that he meant how did Winston feel about the abuse? “I didn’t hear a thing, I just wanted to play.” “That’s it, you’ll make a player” said Bloomfield.

While Winston did not overly worry about his own welfare he did fear for his family who went to games to watch him. They would pose a readily identifiable minority and had little or no protection against racist fans and abuse. He attributes racist attitudes to pure ignorance and while it is totally unacceptable now, things were sadly different in the 1970s.” (Excerpt from Football’s Black Pioneers)

Football’s Black Pioneers reveals:

  • The first black player to represent England at any level (and it isn’t Anderson, Cunningham or
    Odeje)
  • The player who was picked for England, then dropped when the selectors discovered he was
    black
  • The only black Busby Babe
  • The footballer/psychologist who served 12 years in a US jail for acid attacks on his wife and her attorney
  • The first black player to play for Wales – 50 years before Viv Anderson appeared for England
  • The clubs that went over 100 years before fielding a black player
  • The first black player to play cricket for England, as well as a Football League side
  • The first Jamaican to play in the First Division, who became a TV personality in the Caribbean
  • The player attributed as the first Australian to play in the Football League – who has no connection whatsoever with that country
  • The player who went on to become the first black manager in England
  • The player who went on to become a comedian and showbiz personality
  • The player who made over 1,000 League appearances (second only to Peter Shilton)
  • The player whose career was ended when he was run over by two team-mates
  • The family whose origins we have traced back to enslavement in Jamaica that has provided one past and one current England international

About the Authors

Bill Hern and David Gleave are two of the historians behind the Historical Roots project, centering on black British history. Bill and David are lifelong followers of Sunderland and Crystal Palace, respectively. Their tribute to football’s black pioneers is a celebration of the courage of those young men whose suffering and ritual humiliation played a part in eventually changing attitudes, paving the way for the black players that would follow.

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