Family and former club back campaign for statue of pioneering black footballer

Jack Leslie, pictured seated behind a trophy, with fellow Barking FC players from the 1921-22 season

Jack Leslie, pictured seated behind a trophy, with fellow Barking FC players from the 1921-22 season. Picture: Barking FC - Credit: Barking FC

The family and former club of a footballer denied the chance to play for England because of the colour of his skin have welcomed plans to erect a statue in his honour.

Jack Leslie, who was born in Canning Town and began his career at Barking FC before signing a professional contract at Plymouth Argyle, should have been England’s first black player when he received a call-up in 1925.

He scored 137 goals in 401 appearances at Plymouth Argyle, spending much of his career as the only black professional footballer in England, and later in life became a boot boy at West Ham United.

A crowdfunding campaign to remember him with a statue outsde Plymouth’s Home Park stadium started last week and has already raised more than £47,000 - almost half the £100,000 target.

Jack’s great-great-niece, Lucy Letitia Connett said: “It’s very heartwarming that fans are paying tribute to Jack and his story.

“I just hope that given recent events such as George Floyd, it struck me that racism is still alive today, and our family throughout generations had experienced this.

“I hope Jack’s story can be remembered now to teach our future generations about prejudice and racism.”

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She added: “Sadly, I never got to meet Jack. He passed away in the 80s before I was born.

“Growing up, I was told of the story of Jack being turned down for playing for England because of our Jamaican heritage. Our family were hardworking, humble people and were resilient in such times.”

Barking FC - where Jack began his career as a teenage amateur - has joined his family in backing the the campaign.

The club said: “We are proud that Jack Leslie was our first black player and that he went on to have a long and successful career with Plymouth Argyle. We are disappointed that Jack never received the international recognition he deserved and we wholeheartedly support the campaign to honour him.”

The club’s president, Dave Blewitt, added: “My late father Fred Blewitt, who was born in 1906 and passed away in 1986, told me Jack was the greatest player he had ever seen play for Barking in his 60-plus years of watching the Blues.”

To donate to the statue fund, visit