Read all about it – Laurie Cunningham
MANY years ago, when the world was young and frivolous, I co-wrote a book about the Albion, called “Samba in the Smethwick End”, about Albion’s holy trinity of black footballers Laurie Cunningham, Cyrille Regis and Brendon Batson.
Since then, in the course of writing around another six million words about the Albion in those doorstops that we call a match programme, I’ve had cause to write plenty about the three of them, Laurie in particular.
That’s because, in his way, Laurie became the James Dean, the Marilyn Monroe of the Albion, the tragic hero, the glorious comet that flamed through the sky for all too short a period before disappearing out of view and burning out on its own high octane brilliance. Laurie was here at the Albion but a short time, a mere 114 games, before he headed or Real Madrid and the spiral that ended, heartbreakingly, with his savagely premature death in a car crash at the age of just 33.
Cunningham’s is an endlessly, beautifully, gracefully, shatteringly appealing story, one that has so many facets it is always worth the re-telling, which is just what’s happening now, courtesy of Dermot Kavanagh.
Kavanagh is taking a look at a different angle of the Cunningham legacy, one not just defined by his football, but by the man’s extraordinary presence, his sense of style, his grace. As the book’s exhaustive title tells you – “Different Class: Fashion, Football & Funk: The Story of Laurie Cunningham” – it’s a take on him that places Laurie in his time, his location, his milieu.
Cunningham the footballer was a quite extraordinary Act of God about whom I could, and have, waxed endlessly lyrical. He embodied a rare grace under extreme pressure – physical, verbal, psychological – such that he transcended the football field. When the muse was with him, there was nothing like him, nor has there been in the English game since. He honestly was that good.
But he was also a style icon and, fittingly for an author who is also Sports Picture Editor at the Sunday Times, Kavanagh looks set to play up the visual aspect of Laurie’s career too, delving into his musical roots as much as his footballing ones.
The cast of interviewees is interesting and intriguing, ranging from family, friends and playing colleagues to musical notables too such as Don Letts, Jazzie B and the mighty Jah Wobble.
Dermot says of the project, “Different Class” is not a typical football biography, it’s also about a time of fashion, music, dance and race. Laurie Cunningham is an important but overlooked figure. He helped change the perceptions not only of football fans but of society too. He won crowds over with his style and swagger and brought glamour to the game at a particularly dark time in its history. His is a very British story of defining yourself through your creativity and imagination regardless of what people think. He is a pioneer whose performances on the pitch meant that black players had to be taken seriously and proved they could succeed at the highest level”
Of course, when you do something that is not “typical”, getting people to buy into it is never easy, which is why Dermot is heading down the crowd funding route for the book, via Unbound.
There are a variety of pledging options, but if you’re as intrigued to read this book as I am, it might be worth your while to take one of them up.
You can find the details here: https://unbound.co.uk/books/laurie-cunningham
Tell them the Albion sent you…