FILE - In this file photo dated Sept. 30, 2017, Former West Bromwich Albion player Cyrille Regis, poses on the pitch in West Bromwich, England. Cyrille Regis, a pioneer for black footballers in England who endured racist abuse while forging a career with West Bromwich Albion and playing for England, has died aged 59, according to an announcement issued Monday Jan. 15, 2018, from Professional Footballers’ Association.
LONDON — Cyrille Regis, a pioneer for black soccer players in England who endured racist abuse while forging a career with West Bromwich Albion and playing for England, has died. He was 59.
The death was announced on the Twitter accounts of the Professional Footballers' Association and the West Brom Former Players' Association, which said he died Sunday after a heart attack.
The PFA tweeted that Regis was "a true gentleman and legend, he will be deeply missed."
The Stellar Group, where Regis worked as an agent after retiring, called the former forward a "role model to his young clients."
Born in French Guiana in 1958, Regis moved to London with his family when he was 5. He did not come through the youth ranks with a professional soccer club and was spotted playing for non-league teams around London.
West Brom signed Regis in May 1977 for 5,000 pounds. He made a spectacular debut a few month later, scoring twice in a League Cup match against Rotherham.
Along with Laurie Cunningham and Brendon Batson, Regis was part of a trio of black players at West Brom nicknamed by manager Ron Atkinson as "The Three Degrees" — after an American singing group of three black women — at a time when English soccer was blighted by racism.
FILE - In this file photo dated Jan.31, 1987, Coventry City's Cyrille Regis, left, and Manchester United's John Sivebaek, in Manchester, England. Monday January 15, 2018. Cyrille Regis, a pioneer for black footballers in England who endured racist abuse while forging a career with West Bromwich Albion and playing for England, has died aged 59, according to an announcement issued from Professional Footballers’ Association.
A statute of the trio called "The Celebration" was unveiled at West Brom four years ago. Regis told the BBC in 2013: "We were part of that first generation of black players in this country."
He was voted the PFA Young Player of the Year in 1978. Regis made his England debut in 1982 and went on to make five appearances.
He scored 112 times in 297 appearances for West Brom before moving to Coventry in 1984. A playing career that also included stints at Aston Villa and Wolverhampton ended in 1996.
After retiring from the game, Regis worked as an agent for the Stellar Group, the company which represents Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale.
"Cyrille was a wonderful person to work with and his death has left everyone in the company and the players he represented with a great sense of sadness," Stellar chief executive Jonathan Barnett said Monday. "Our deepest condolences go out to Julia and all of Cyrille's family and close friends. Cyrille was a pioneer in British football and hugely respected by everyone in the game. He was a role model to his young clients and a genuinely lovely man."