I was born in Hackney, to parents who had settled in East London as part of the Windrush Generation. 


My mother and father both contributed to Britain’s rebuild post-World War 2, working tirelessly for the NHS and on public transport.

I don’t really know where my love for football came from.

I vaguely remember the 1970 World Cup. I used to sneak downstairs to try and catch some of the games. Brazil stood out, and with a certain Pele wearing the number 10 shirt why wouldn’t they? 

My first taste of success playing football was leading my school team South Grove Primary to win the league. I even convinced our PE teacher to buy a version of the famous Brazilian kit. 

Pele was my hero and winning something meant I had emulated him. I believed the medal on a ribbon we received was worth just as much as any World Cup winning medal. 

The growth of black players through the years meant I had so many more black role models to look up to.

I will always remember watching Laurie Cunningham. His style, grace and swagger made my own footballing dreams seem like they could be made reality. 

And when I played at Beaumont Football Club I was introduced to Vince Hilaire, a Beaumont legend who had signed for Crystal Palace and was one of the first established black players in English football.

Black history means so much to me. 

I have never been a true believer of Black History Month. It has been too easily used as a cop out, a way of ticking the box and not having to revisit it again until the following October.

But in the current period of time that we are living in, where Black Lives Matter has been prominent in sport and particularly in football, this has been the most important month for me. 

People are now learning about the history of racial injustices and are prepared to celebrate the influence of black people and our contributions to society. 

We will always have issues, particularly in football, but all we are asking is to listen to our experiences, celebrate our achievements, and help us create solutions. 

A final thought to young Jeremy Wisten, a young footballer who had a dream. A dream to emulate his hero Vincent Kompany. He will be remembered,  but the game will need to look at mental health in the youth setup and what more it can do.  

I salute you, Jeremy, as I salute all my black heroes and more. Thank you.