First Black Footballers To Play For Premier League Clubs


Incredibly, it wasn’t until 1980 that a black player debuted for Liverpool FC. Howard Gayle, the silky winger, come on as a second half substitute for David Fairclough against Manchester City.

While Liverpool was late to the game, the history of the other clubs in the top flight of the English football is pretty varied in terms of when a black player made his debut for the club. For many clubs, history was made in the 1970’s to 1980’s, while Tottenham Hotspur gave a debut to its first black player, Walter Tull, as early as 1909.

Here are the first black players to make a first-team appearance for each of the current 20 Premier League clubs. The date of their debut is included too:

  • Arsenal Brendan Batson – 1971
  • Aston Villa – Stan Horne, early 1960s
  • Blackburn – Unknown
  • Bolton – Unknown, but first black Bolton player to get an England cap was Michael Ricketts in 2002
  • Chelsea – Paul Canoville – April 12 1982
  • Everton – Mike Trebilcock – January, 1966
  • Fulham – Possibly Howard Gayle, who made his first appearance for Fulham in 1980 after being loaned out by Liverpool. First black Fulham player to get an England cap was Zat Knight in 2005
  • Hull – Unknown
  • Liverpool – Howard Gayle – October 4, 1980
  • Man City – Stan Horne – September 25, 1965
  • Manchester United – Tony Whelan – 1960s
  • Middlesbrough – Lindy Lindbergh – 1950
  • Newcastle – Possibly Howard Gayle, 1982
  • Portsmouth – Lindy Lindbergh – 1948
  • Stoke City – R.H. Brown – 1946
  • Sunderland – Roly Gregoire – January 2, 1978
  • Tottenham – Walter Tull – September 1909
  • West Brom – Unknown, but Laurie Cunningham was the first black West Brom player to get a cap for England in 1979
  • West Ham United – John Charles – May 4 1963
  • Wigan – Unknown.

21 thoughts on “First Black Footballers To Play For Premier League Clubs”

  1. Gaffer, this is an interesting idea for an article but I wish you'd given a little more background. Was there a known discrimination problem at certain clubs?

    Why did you focus on Liverpool and not Chelsea or Newcastle? According to your numbers, those clubs were last to field someone.

  2. West Brom is known for being the first club to extensively recruit and play black players in the 1980s, so while some of these other clubs preceded them in having a single afro-caribe player in the squad, West Brom were the real pioneers of what today's Premier League have become.

  3. West Ham were the first English club to field 3 black players in the same game: Ade Coker, Clyde Best and Clive Charles, vs Tottenham, April 1973.

  4. Tull played few games for us and was dropped and eventually sold because of the uproar over a black player. So we did the right thing and then chickened out. He is a very interesting person and I believe there is a movie being made about his life.

  5. Thanks Lancs Blue. I wasn’t aware of Stan Horne, so I’ve updated the article to reflect Horne’s debut at Manchester City and his early career at Aston Villa.

    The Gaffer

  6. Here’s an interesting point some may or may not know, Q. Who the first THREE BLACK BROTHERS to play TOGETHER in the same (at the time ) top flight team?

    A. The Wallace Brothers. Team. Southampton.

  7. Roly Gregoire was not the first black footballer to play for Sunderland AFC. Not by a million miles. The first was a Canadian, whose name I forget, but I believe it was in the early 1900’s.
    Perhaps someone will know.

  8. Bill, several South Africans have played for Liverpool but none were black. I believe the first black South African to play in England was Albert Johanneson for Leeds and he became the first black to play in an FA Cup final in 1965.

  9. Its interesting that Liverpool had such an issue with Black Players because The City of Liverpool has one of the oldest Black communities in the UK, due to slavery connections, Liverpool was built on Slavery money and there has been a black presence there for hundreds of years.

    Everton too had serious issues.

  10. For any liverpool supporters, there’s an excellent documentary on lfc tv about black lfc players. Goes into alot of detail about john barnes especially. The sentiment of liverpool being built on slavery was also mentioned.

      1. Liverpool and Merseyside have historically been problematic when it comes to issues of race. The fact that it has one of the oldest black communities in the Uk also means it has one of the longest histories of discrimination. The treatment of black players on merseyside until the arrival of John Barnes is well known. It was also one of the places that as a black fan you avoided along with Newcastle and of course Millwall.

  11. There was a guy called Cliff Marshall who played for Everton earlier than Trebilcoch, altho perhaps trebilcoch being the first black player to score in an FA Cup Final (Everton 3 – 2 Sheff Wed, 1966) may be worth a mention?

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