Regis: The Albion years
WELCOME back to Albion 8.
Today we toast one of our finest-ever No9s, Cyrille Regis - who celebrated his 58th birthday this week.
1. Cyrille arrived in England from Maripasoula, French Guiana in 1963. Young Cyrille was a Tottenham Hotspur fan: 'I just loved the name...they had a great team too....I went to watch them a couple of times when they had the likes of Greaves, Chivers, Gilzean playing for them...'
2. He comes from a sporting family. Brother Dave played as a striker for Notts County, Plymouth and Stoke, while nephew Jason Roberts spent four years with Albion in the early 2000s. Cousin John was an Olympic medalist, specialising in 200m and sprint relays. There's more - Cyrille's nephew's son Jordan Murrell is a soccer player in the US, while his granddaughter is an athlete for the Birchfield Harriers. His sister's son is an up-and-coming footballer on the London junior circuit.
3. Regis joined Albion in 1977 under John Giles' reign. But it was Ronnie Allen, then chief scout, who was credited with discovering the 19-year-old Hayes striker - offering to gamble £5k of his own cash, such was his confidence that the trained electrician could make the grade as a footballer. Things could have been so different had a hamstring injury, some years earlier, not scuppered a trial at Chelsea.
4. Regis has the distinction of scoring on four debuts for Albion: Middlesbrough (League), Blackpool (FA Cup), Rotherham (League Cup) Sheffield Wednesday (Reserves). Actually, make it five. He even netted in his first Tennant-Caledonian Cup game, against Southampton.
5. Big C came very close to leaving Albion for Saint-Étienne, the dominant force of French football during the mid-to-late 1970s. A French delegation pitched up at a West Bromwich hotel in summer 1978. Their brief was for Regis to develop his game at 'Les Verts', integrate into French society, with a view to him eventually becoming a full France international. This was no publicity stunt - the Fédération Française de Football were trying to exploit a means of fast-tracking young talent into their system. As it happens, Regis opted to stay at Albion and eventually became an England international.
6. Success. Regis was voted as the PFA player of the year in 1978. In 1982 his strike against Norwich City won goal of the season.
7. 1982: A mixed year for Regis. He scored his most goals in a single season, 25 in all competitions, with Albion reaching semi-finals in both domestic cup competitions. But the Baggies struggled against relegation. A hamstring injury, initially sustained against Leeds, flared up once more in a game for England against Iceland - resulting in him missing the 1982 World Cup. He did, however, get to join international team-mates when they recorded the England World Cup, "This time (We’ll get it right)" at Abbey Road studios. It got to No.2 in the charts.
8. Career highlights? That 5-3 win at Manchester United - 'that game epitomised everything that side stood for'; the 1978 trip to China - 'a wonderful, cultural experience'. He cites the entire 1978/79 side (including Willie Johnston) as his best Albion team. In 1993/94 he became possibly the only-ever Wolves player to be applauded by Albion fans, when he came on as substitute to replace Steve Bull - 'that was a very emotional moment for me...not sure it's ever happened before'.
It hasn't. And probably never will.
On that note, see you soon...