Campaign to build statue for footballer Jack Leslie dropped from 1925 England squad because he was black

A CAMPAIGN has launched to build a statue for a footballer dropped from the 1925 England squad because he was black.

Jack Leslie was kicked out of the team after selectors learnt of the colour of his skin.


The former Plymouth Argyle footballer would have been the first ever black player to wear an England shirt.

But days after the selection, when the newspapers published the team, Billy Walker, of Aston Villa, was in the starting line-up and Leslie was named as a travelling reserve.

And now campaigners aim to raise at least £100,000 to have a bronze statue put up outside his old club's Home Park stadium.

After he was dropped from the side, it took another 53 years for a black player to represent England in the sport.

Leslie's grand-daughter Lyn Davies said: "My sisters, Lesley and Jill, and I remember Jack as a wonderful grandad who looked after us and told us funny stories.

"We and the wider family are absolutely delighted that he is now being recognised for the sporting achievements he was so modest about."

It comes after Black Lives Matter protesters pulled down and daubed graffiti on a number of "racist" statues around the country.

They began with the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol's city centre and dragged to the harbour where it was plunged into the water.

The movement has grown in support since George Floyd was killed while being arrested in the US, with worldwide marches and protests against racism since.

FOOTBALL LEGEND

Leslie was born in London in 1900 to an English mother and Jamaican father and played for Plymouth Argyle from 1921 to 1934, scoring 137 goals in 401 appearances.

Leslie was the only professional black footballer playing in England for much of his career and was a popular figure in Devon where he helped Plymouth Argyle win a championship and promotion, toured South America and became club captain.

After retiring from playing, Leslie returned to London and resumed his trade as a boilermaker.

He later worked in the boot room at West Ham United, under future England manager Ron Greenwood.

Last year Plymouth Argyle owner Simon Hallett named the boardroom in the new Mayflower Grandstand at Home Park after Leslie.

The Football Association have also supported the Jack Leslie Campaign by becoming an official sponsor.

FA chairman Greg Clarke said: "Stories like this are incredibly sad. Discrimination in the game, in any form or from any time period, is unacceptable.

"We must always remember pioneers like Jack Leslie and be thankful that football is in a very different place today.

"We are very pleased to support this campaign which will hopefully ensure that Jack's career is appropriately recognised."

Plymouth-born lawyer Greg Foxsmith, who is the co-founder of the Jack Leslie Campaign, said: "At a time when people are recognising that black lives matter and statues of slave traders are coming down, we believe that putting up a statue is a more positive way to celebrate black achievement and challenge racial stereotypes.

"Let's build a statue we can be proud of."

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