On the screen, 22 men ran around the field, kicking the ball. Moore’s father said to him, “This is a soccer match.” From that moment on, Moore knew what he wanted to do in life.
“I looked at the football match as a stadium, where 22 players were playing,” Moore told CNN sports. Since that age, between the ages of eight and nine, I turned to my father and said: “This is what I want to do; I play football “.
It was the man who stole the show for the West Bromwich Albion team that day, as he did most of the time when he entered the soccer field, it was Laurie Cunningham.
Racism was pervasive on the stands in English football during the 1970s, with players regularly exposed to racist chants and banana throwing from some fans.
During that decade, Cunningham was at the forefront of a generation of black soccer players who had truly become prominent in the English game for the first time.
“Laurie Cunningham was a prominent character at the time for me who grew up in Birmingham,” said Moore, who played and directed with West Brom. “Because it was clear that his relationship was in West Bromwich Albion, one of the local teams in my area.
“I remember at the time that it made me enter football for the first time because Cyril Regis and Brendon Batson and then Lori Cunningham were playing,” added Moore, one of the few black managers currently working in English football.
It was this unique style of play that made him stand out from the rest. After three successful seasons in Orient, he moved to West Broome.
He will be here in the Midlands where Cunningham was taken to true stardom.
Under the management of Ron Atkinson, West Brom became one of the most exciting teams in England in the late 1970s. Cunningham, of course, was at the heart of that.
Playing alongside other black players in the 1978-79 season, Cyrille Regis and Brendon Batson, helped Cunningham West Brom reach the UEFA Cup quarter-finals.
It was only the second time in the history of English football that three black players played in the same team. Atkinson dubbed Cunningham, Batson, and Regis “The Three Degrees”, as they named it the American Spiritual Singing Group.
After becoming the first black player to ever represent England under the age of 21 in 1977, Cunningham’s offerings finally earned him the full England hat due in 1979.
He continued to play six games in total for his country, despite his painful loss of a place in the England squad for Euro 1980.
Moore recalls: “Laurie was a great player and elegant and gentleman on the soccer field.” “He had the ability to marvel, [in the same way] Now look at the likes of Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo.
“He was someone with a lot of grace, speed and dexterity on the soccer field and was looking forward to the goal. He was one of the best talented players of any time and generation.”
Cunningham was undoubtedly a star in his last year at West Broome, and that was his vast appeal, and the original three grades came to Birmingham from the United States to meet Atkinson’s “Three Degrees”.
Glory to the tragedy
Cunningham’s exploits at his two seasons in West Broome, particularly a match against Valencia in the UEFA Cup, convinced Real Madrid to pay a club registration fee of 110 million pesetas – about $ 1.2 million – to bring the talented youngster to Spain.
At just 23 years old, he became the most expensive British football export and the first English soccer player to play for Real Madrid.
Cunningham’s time in the Spanish capital got off to a strong start. He scored two goals in his first appearance – once again Valencia fell victim to another unstoppable performance – and this season helped the club win the Spanish League and Copa del Rey.
He went on to score for his first appearance on El Clasico two weeks later, although Real eventually lost to a 3-1 defeat against Barcelona.
Perhaps the climax of his career with Real Madrid came later that season in the reverse game against Barcelona at Camp Nou. Cunningham made an impressive showing – tearing Barcelona’s defense over and over again – and showed exactly why Real Madrid made him his record at the club.
“On February 10, 1980, something unprecedented happened. In fact, after 40 years it didn’t happen again,” the article read. Camp Nou surrendered to the Real Madrid player during the El Clásico held that afternoon on Barcelona.
“It was the privilege, because it never happened again with any other Real Madrid player, it was Cunningham. He left the Colosseum in Barcelona for a standing ovation.”
Unfortunately, the rest of Cunningham’s time in Madrid was interrupted by injuries and the Englishman did not fully fulfill the lofty expectations of the club and the fans.
The following season, Cunningham suffered a broken toe, a knee injury and several failed surgeries, but somehow managed to start against Liverpool in the 1981 European Cup Final.
Unsurprisingly, Cunningham was a shadow of his previous life, and despite short glimpses of the ability he once had, Real Madrid finally lost 1-0.
In the next few years, Cunningham bounced from one club to another, spending no more than a season with the same team. His wide appeal still meant that the likes of Manchester United and Marseille thought he deserved to be signed, although he was not able to repeat his shows with West Brom.
Despite his ongoing battle against injuries, Cunningham would later find more glory in a short period in England with Wimbledon, briefly becoming part of the famous “Crazy Gang” of the club that shocked Liverpool to win the 1988 FA Cup Final.
He returned to Madrid the following season, this time with Rayo Vallecano and scored the goal that secured promotion to La Liga. This will be the last club Cunningham has played.
On the morning of July 15, 1989, Cunningham was involved in a fatal car accident at the age of only 33.
Although he may not have reached the heights many expected after these glittering seasons at West Broome, Cunningham’s true legacy came off the field with his inspiration and led a generation of black soccer players.
“I had the great honor of being a personal friend of Cyril Regis and Cyril explained to me what Lori was talking about and how he had a very effective role regarding who Cyril was and eventually became,” Moore says. “To get this echo through Cyril, I felt I personally know Lori.
“I can tell from an early age to a more mature age, after I saw it on TV with Cyril and Brendon and then the connection that I have with Cyril and Brendon, to hear him speak very eloquently about Lori is an absolute joy.
“It is a life that we unfortunately miss, but a life that should have been enjoyed and celebrated.”