Birmingham & Black Country

Cyrille Regis: Funeral and celebration event for 'pioneering' footballer

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Media captionFans and players salute Cyrille Regis ahead of a celebration of his life at The Hawthorns

A celebration of the life of footballer Cyrille Regis has been held at the ground where he started his "pioneering" career.

The former West Bromwich Albion striker, who is widely credited with inspiring a generation of black players, died on 14 January, aged 59.

Regis's funeral cortege left The Hawthorns stadium at about 08:30 GMT for a private family funeral service.

The public celebration at the ground was packed with people paying tribute.

Almost 2,000 tickets were available for the celebration of the former England international's life at The Hawthorns, where Regis began his professional career in 1977..

His family emerged inside the ground to Chris Love singing Bring Him Home from the musical Les Miserables.

Cyrille Regis remembered: Live coverage

Family friend Karl George said relatives had been "overwhelmed" by the support since he died and that "it's not goodbye but it is 'until we meet again'."

Reading his eulogy, Regis's widow, Julia Regis, told the crowd: "Cyrille treated everyone like they were the most important person he ever met."

She received a standing ovation after paying tribute to her "lovely, caring amazing husband".

Image copyright Rex Features
Image caption Cyrille Regis was the third black player to be capped by England
Image copyright Mike Egerton
Image caption Hundreds of fans gathered at The Hawthorns to see the funeral cortege depart

The celebration featured "songs, a lively atmosphere and personal tributes", his former club said.

Brendon Batson, who played alongside Regis and Laurie Cunningham at West Brom, said: "He had a calm presence and a ready smile.

"We played at a time when many black players suffered vile abuse. But Cyrille never lost his cool. You could not intimidate Cyrille Regis.

"We will never forget Cyrille. Nice one Cyrille, nice one son."

Regis, who lived in Edgbaston, Birmingham, was capped five times by England and played for several clubs including West Brom, Coventry and Aston Villa.

He was the third black player to play for England and was appointed an MBE in 2008.

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Media caption'Privileged to have spent part of his journey with him'
Image copyright Mike Egerton
Image caption Regis is regarded as a legend at the Black Country club

Regis, Cunningham and Batson were dubbed by their then manager Ron Atkinson as "The Three Degrees".

The trio were all subject to racist abuse during the late 1970s.

They are due to be honoured with a 10ft statue, called The Celebration, in West Bromwich. It is set to be unveiled this season, following a delay and Atkinson has called on fans to make donations towards the £38,000 still needed to complete the project.

Daughter Michelle Regis said: "A legend, a gentleman, The Three Degrees, big C, the many different names you had.

"But I couldn't be more proud to just call you my dad. But I too one day will leave this place and return into my father's open arms."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Regis was honoured with an MBE in 2008 for his voluntary work and football career
Image copyright PA
Image caption Among those speaking at the celebration event were former team-mate and fellow member of the "Three degrees" Brendon Batson, John Sillett, who managed Regis to 1987 FA Cup final glory, John Homer, chairman of West Brom's supporters' club and football agent Jonathan Barnett
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Dozens of fans' mementoes have been left at The Hawthorns
Image copyright Mike Egerton
Image caption West Brom fans held tributes as the funeral procession went past the ground
Image caption Regis's family say they have been 'overwhelmed' by support since his death

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