Different Class: Football, Fashion and Funk – The Story

Different Class: Football, Fashion and Funk – The Story of Laurie Cunningham Finally a biography on one of the most influencial footballers in the English game.Laurie Cunningham was one of the main reasons I became a lifelong fan of West Brom as a kid back in the late 70 s West Brom were a phenomenally good side at the time not least because of the flamboyant playing of Cunningham and his powerful partnership with striker Cyrille Regis Different Class tells the story of how the young Cunningham was initially released by Arsenal only to find his feet as a footballe Finally a biography on one of the most influencial footballers in the English game.Laurie Cunningham was one of the main reasons I became a lifelong fan of West Brom as a kid back in the late 70 s West Brom were a phenomenally good side at the time not least because of the flamboyant playing of Cunningham and his powerful partnership with striker Cyrille Regis Different Class tells the story of how the young Cunningham was initially released by Arsenal only to find his feet as a footballer at Orient before moving to West Brom, where he played his best football, before an injury ridden spell at Real Madrid left him a shadow of the player he used to be and his life came to a tragic end in a traffic accident at the age of 33.It tells the story of a time in football, where black players had a hard time making it in the top flight and racism in football was a major issue Cunningham was the first black player to represent England at any level, when he played in an under 21 international, thus paving the way for future generations of talented black players.I was fortunate enough to see Cunningham in his final Albion game before joining Real Madrid a post season friendly against a Danish side from my home town The Baggies won 7 0 with Cunningham and Regis both scoring twice Different Class is a must read for any Albion fan and I would recommend it to every fan of English football of the 70 s and 80 s The best part of the internet is that you can pretty much find footage of anything So go to Youtube a type in Laurie Cunningham so that you can view his footwork and passing skills I ll wait.Now that you have a bit of an idea of who Laurie Cunningham was on the pitch, it is a smart move to delve into Dermot Kavanagh s fast paced biography of Cunningham The fact that he was the first footballer of color to play for England makes his story important, not just because of his skills but because o The best part of the internet is that you can pretty much find footage of anything So go to Youtube a type in Laurie Cunningham so that you can view his footwork and passing skills I ll wait.Now that you have a bit of an idea of who Laurie Cunningham was on the pitch, it is a smart move to delve into Dermot Kavanagh s fast paced biography of Cunningham The fact that he was the first footballer of color to play for England makes his story important, not just because of his skills but because of the barriers that he broke This book focuses on the way he was received, the struggles he had to go through, and brings up the questions of if he hadinjuries because he was black and was fouled harder andfrequently because the referees did not always catch the foul that was perpetrated I was afraid that the story of Laurie Cunningham was going to be overshadowed by the story of him breaking color barriers, or vice versa, but Kavanagh does a very good job balancing the two aspects His biography is tight paced, fast, and telling the story of Cunningham and of the racial climates of the places he played in a very good way As a sidenote, I watched England win the U17 World Cup this past week, and their striker and the winner of the Golden Boot of the tournament with eight goals was Rhian Brewster, a black kid playing for Liverpool I had a feeling that somewhere Laurie Cunningham was watching as the team piled onto the pitch after they won, smiling with the knowledge that the hardships he had to carry were not carried in vain I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review It s a book of two halves Brian.Whilst music fans might remember The Three Degrees as Prince Charles favourite singers, football fans will recall the Ron Atkinson version applied to Cunningham, Brendan Batson and Cyrille Regis, West Bromwich Albion s three black players.Newsworthy at the time the late 70 s this was only the second time an English professional team had fielded 3 black guys note for pub quizzers West Ham did it first in 1972 , this book puts into context just how remarkabl It s a book of two halves Brian.Whilst music fans might remember The Three Degrees as Prince Charles favourite singers, football fans will recall the Ron Atkinson version applied to Cunningham, Brendan Batson and Cyrille Regis, West Bromwich Albion s three black players.Newsworthy at the time the late 70 s this was only the second time an English professional team had fielded 3 black guys note for pub quizzers West Ham did it first in 1972 , this book puts into context just how remarkable Cunningham s achievements were at the time.Of the 3, Cunningham was the player I knew least about Regis was still playing top flight football until 1993 whilst Batson spent 18 years as the deputy chief executive of the PFA Kavanagh provides a thoughtful and detailed account of Cunningham s career and the social context that it took place within.The book follows the chronology of Cunningham s progress as a player, from his release as a youth at Arsenal, into hisstellar years at WBA and Real Madrid The book does a good job of explaining just how unusual Cunningham s transfer to Madrid was, and how short sighted his exclusion from the 1980 England Euro squad turned out to be There s plenty of political and social detail imagine holding a testimonial game today where a team of white players take on a team of blacks Cunningham played for Real at the same time Kevin Keegan was at FC Hamburg, and whilst I clearly recalled the latter, I had no memory of the former.Cunningham the man is a less well documented in the book Despite the depth of research it all feels a little distant and it s possible that his introverted, loner nature contributed to this Cunningham s love of clothes and dance are explored at length Yet his split from long term partner Nikki Hare Brown something that must have had a huge impact on him comes and goes in just a couple of paragraphs It signalled Cunningham s loss of anyone he trusted to manage his financial and personal affairs, and the passing references to the chaos of his personal life get little further exploration Younger brother Keith s girlfriend and 2 daughters are tragically murdered whilst Keith is in Spain with Laurie, something that must have been devastating for the whole family but other than mentioning that the culprit was not caught until 25 years later there s no further insight as to the circumstances or the impact on the Cunninghams.Despite this, Cunningham s prowess on the ball comes alive and it s clear what an inspiration he has been to a variety of black players and the naked racism he endured both on and off the pitch A life sadly cut short at just age 33 White players attack the ball Black players caress it Laurie Cunningham Really good book History of post war London is brought vividly to life The description of football in the 60s and 70s was fascinating Fashion, music and culture from a completely different lens Length was just right, did justice to the subject I have recommended this book to those who might not be interested in football. Shortlisted for Biography of the Year at theSports Book Awards highly commendedIn , Laurie Cunningham became the first black footballer to play professionally for England and, two years later, went on to become the first Englishman to play for Real Madrid In a time when race relations were a divisive social issue, and when racist chants and bananas would be thrown from the stands, Cunningham s success changed the way black players were perceived and paved the way for a new generation of black footballersBut Cunningham was than the greatest natural talent this country had produced since George Best He wanted to be different He wanted to talk about fashion, dance and cinema, not just hang around footballers He was a man of swagger with a love of funk music and bespoke suitsAnd he was an exceptional footballer who could play like a dream Different Class is not your typical football biography It tells the story of the son of Jamaican immigrants, who grew up poor in North London to become an important but unsung figure in the tapestry of late th century England He brought glamour to the game of football at a particularly dark time in its history and won over hostile crowds with his style and swaggerThis is the biography of Laurie Cunningham Many know his name but not his story now they will know both

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