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Former West Ham stars back Jack Leslie statue campaign

PUBLISHED: 17:00 05 August 2020

Jack Leslie with fellow Barking FC players from the 1921-22 season. Picture: Barking FC

Jack Leslie with fellow Barking FC players from the 1921-22 season. Picture: Barking FC

Barking FC

Former West Ham stars Sir Trevor Brooking and Clyde Best have backed a campaign for a statue in memory of a talented footballer denied the chance to represent England due to his race.

Former West Ham players Clyde Best and Trevor Brooking (back row, second and third left) have given their support to a statue in memory of Jack Leslie, who worked at the club during their playing days. Picture: PA ArchiveFormer West Ham players Clyde Best and Trevor Brooking (back row, second and third left) have given their support to a statue in memory of Jack Leslie, who worked at the club during their playing days. Picture: PA Archive

Jack Leslie, who was born in Canning Town and began his career at Barking FC, was called up to play for his country in 1925 - which would have seen him become the first black England player. However, he was denied his cap when the selection committee realised the colour of his skin.

He made his name playing for Plymouth Argyle, where he scored 137 goals in 401 appearances, and was the only professional black footballer in England for much of his career.

A crowdfunding campaign was set up to raise £100,000 to build a statue to Jack outside Plymouth’s Home Park stadium.

And Sir Trevor - who played for the Hammers during Jack’s 15 years of working in the club’s boot room - has given his support to the campaign in a bid to raise the final £15,000 needed.

Sir Trevor Brooking shared his memories of Jack Leslie. Picture: Paul BennettSir Trevor Brooking shared his memories of Jack Leslie. Picture: Paul Bennett

He described Jack as a “lovely guy who would do anything for you”, adding: “Jack looked after all of us brilliantly in a quiet, unassuming manner.

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“The incredible thing though was that none of us - me, Geoff Hurst or Bobby Moore included - knew he was a player! Jack never mentioned it; that was how humble he was.

“I was amazed when I read about the campaign and heard about Jack’s history in the game. I just wish he’d told us at the time, but that was Jack and I’m only too delighted to support the campaign for a statue to be erected at Home Park in his honour.”

Clyde, who became one of West Ham’s first black footballers when he signed for the club in 1968, also remembered Jack fondly.

He said: “We would call him Uncle Jack and go and pick up our boots from him when we had away trips or brought him in after a home game and he would look after everything for us.

“At the time I played it was tough, but finding out what Jack had to go through, I’m sure it was a lot harder. He would have been by himself, just like I was by myself and it makes you a different individual when you have to face that.

“I’m just glad that people have joined together to get something that he richly deserves, a statue.”

To donate towards the statue fund, visit crowdfunder.co.uk/jack-leslie-campaign by Tuesday, August 11.


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