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West Brom legends honoured in Midlands ceremony

RECOGNITION: Brendon Batson receives his Honorary Doctor of Letters

TWO OF West Bromwich Albion’s iconic Three Degrees were honoured in separate events in the Midlands recently.

The legacies of Brendon Batson and the late Cryille Regis were further ingrained into folklore with the naming of a tram after striker Regis and the awarding of an honorary degree to defender Batson.

An image of Regis has been captured on the side of a tram operated by West Midlands Metro in tribute to his immense contribution to the game both on and off the pitch.

His widow Julia, other family members and former teammates, including Batson, gathered for the naming ceremony in Wednesbury, which was organised by Transport for West Midlands (TfWM).

Cyrille’s son Robert and grandson Riley flew in especially from their home in Los Angeles.

INSPIRING

They were joined by Deputy Mayor of the West Midlands Cllr Bob Sleigh and Cllr Joy Edis, Mayor of Sandwell. Cyrille, who died of a heart at- tack on January 18 last year aged just 59, blazed a trail for black players in the 1970s and ‘80s, inspiring a generation of youngsters to take up the game. He also played a key role in the “Kick It Out” campaign to tackle racism in football.

Julia said: “I believe Cyrille would have been quite surprised to have a tram named after him, but equally I think he would have felt humbled and honoured, especially as the Cyrille Regis tram will be carrying thousands of fans of his beloved West Bromwich Albion to the Hawthorns for many years to come. As a family we are saddened that he is not here with us to enjoy this wonderful tribute, but proud to accept it on his behalf.”


PICTURED: The family of Cyrille Regis gather for the naming ceremony of a tram in honour of the late striker

Batson added: “If he’s looking down he will be quietly pleased at this, and you can bet this tram will be the fastest in the feet over the first 60 metres. The fans getting on this tram will enjoy their journey and he will be remembered fondly, not just as a fantastic goal scorer, but as a great character off the field, too.”

Brendon, Cyrille and Laurie Cunningham were dubbed “The Three Degrees” during their time at West Bromwich Albion and are considered pioneers for black footballers, helping to break down barriers in the face of often blatant racism.

Cllr Sleigh said: “We can see the terrific legacy that Cyrille, Brendon and Laurie have left us in the exceptionally talented black players that grace the modern game.

"Cyrille also holds a special place in the hearts of thousands of football fans right across the West Midlands, not just Baggies fans but also Coventry, Wolves and Villa fans. It’s for these reasons we wanted to mark our appreciation in the best way we could – by naming a tram after him.”

Batson attended the tram naming fresh from receiving an Honorary Doctor of Letters
from the University of Warwick for his contribution to football. After retiring in 1984 following a career in which he also played for Arsenal, Batson went on to work at the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) and continues to serve as a trustee.

FLATTERED

He told the media: “I’m very honoured and attered that they think I’m worthy for this reward – it’s quite an exciting day, really. I remember seeing my kids graduate many years ago and I was very nervous watching them get their degrees, it’s new ground for me, so we’ll wait and see.

“I’ve enjoyed what I’ve done over the years I’ve been involved in football, I’ve been very fortunate, so for people to recognise not only what you did as a player, but over your career, is really flattering.

“Sometimes you can’t always be at the elite end, but you can get involved in a multitude of ways, volunteering is very important for any sports discipline you want to be involved in.

“I know people who have been involved in sport all their lives as participants, as administrators and as volunteers, and it’s amazing the joy you get from being involved and being involved with young people. You’ve been through it, you came out of it the mature end, but you see young people getting involved and it’s great to be proud of it, because it’s a great social environment, too.”

Speaking of his late friends and teammates, Batson added: “At times like this, it was only a couple of days ago it was the first anniversary of Cyrille’s passing. It’s still a shock to us, and Cyrille’s loved – I mean we love Cyrille. Not just as a teammate, but as a friend.

“Laurie was killed 30 years ago this year in a car crash in Madrid, so I do look back on it and I think, ‘Wouldn’t it have been great if we were all together?’

“Life’s not like that, we know that. But, I’m a better person for having met them and when I played with them as teammates we were good friends off the pitch as well. I miss them both. They are part of my journey, so I share this with them because they are part of my journey.”

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