Football’s Black Pioneers – subscriber copies for pre-order


FOOTBALL’S BLACK PIONEERS – The Stories of the First Black Players to Represent the 92 League Clubs

By Bill Hern & David Gleave
Illustrated colour paperback: 228 pages
Pub date: 31 August 2020
ISBN: 978-1999900854    

Size: 148 x 210mm     RRP: £16.00

Pre-order Football’s Black Pioneers now, and
– you will receive your copy before publication date
– your name will appear in the back of the book (or give us the name of a loved one, for a special Christmas gift)
– and your copy will be signed and dedicated as you choose by the authors, Bill Hern and David Gleave
– plus comes complete with free limited-edition Pioneers print!

A new perspective on the lives, careers and experiences of groundbreaking black footballers in England.

Ninety-two chapters tell the unique stories of the first black footballers to play for each of the English Football League clubs. Four years of original research have not only identified each of these history makers for the first time in a definitive and permanent record. They have also uncovered a wealth of fascinating, often eye-opening personal tales, which now comprise a collection of rich and hugely varied short stories.

The stories span the period from Arthur Wharton’s debut for Sheffield United in 1885 to Forest Green fielding six black players in their first league game in 2017, covering over 130 years of social history.

Includes personal interviews with many first black players – Chris Kamara, Viv Anderson, Tony Ford, Neville Chamberlain, Roland Butcher, Tony Cunningham and Carl Valentine, to name but a few – along with countless family members of players from the more distant past.

Football’s Black Pioneers features an incredible variety of emotive human stories and forgotten characters, together with a powerful theme of struggle against now-unthinkable attitudes, and the revelation of many unexpected historical facts.

The Authors

Bill Hern and David Gleave are two of the historians behind the Historycal Roots project, centring on black British history. Bill and David are lifelong followers of Sunderland and Crystal Palace, respectively. They remember the 1960s when Albert Johanneson was the only black player most people had heard of. Some even thought Albert was the first ever black footballer. In fact he wasn’t even Leeds United’s first black player. But who was? Who was the first black player at other League clubs? The authors found that most clubs, and indeed their fans, had no idea who their very first black player was.

So, inspired by the words of Tony Suze, a prisoner with Nelson Mandela in the notorious Robben Island jail – “Unless you sing your own song, the hymn sheet will be buried away, your history will disappear, no matter how noble it is” – they set off on a four-year journey to identify those first black players and tell their stories.

This book comes just in time, before their names were lost to history forever. It spans a period of great social change starting with Arthur Wharton in 1895 right through to modern-day Britain. Most of all it is a fitting tribute and celebration of the courage of those young men whose suffering and ritual humiliation played a part in eventually changing attitudes, paving the way for those black players that would follow.


By default, the name of the person who makes the purchase will be added to the subscribers’ roll of honour in the back of the book.

If you’d like someone else’s name to appear, or a special message for the author dedication (‘To Grandad at Christmas, love from Pam’) please let us know using the ‘Notes’ field provided at checkout!



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