WE'VE BUILT THE STATUE, NOW WE'RE TELLING THE STORY
JACK LESLIE’S FAMILY PRESENT HIS HONORARY ENGLAND CAP TO ARGYLE!
One year ago, Jack Leslie’s bronze statue was unveiled at Home Park, and this incredible occasion was marked by a historic pledge. Debbie Hewitt, FA chair, announced that Jack was to be awarded a posthumous honorary cap in recognition of the adversity he faced due to the colour of his skin. Jack was the first black footballer to be selected for England back in 1925, but due to prejudice he then never got the chance to represent his country (read “Jack’s story” here) The honorary cap was presented as promised to Jack’s family in March this year ahead of England’s 2-0 victory over Ukraine (see here)
On the morning of the Swansea City match on 7th October, the anniversary of the unveiling, Jack’s family, the campaign team and Argyle legend, Ronnie Mauge, met at the statue to show off the cap and talk to fans. Appropriately, the game was Argyle’s designated Kick it Out fixture and the charity’s CEO Sanjay Bhandari joined us and the club for the day. The cap was also shown to fans in a packed Green Taverners, before finally being presented to Ronnie (in his role as club ambassador) by Jack’s granddaughters on the pitch at half-time.
The cap means a huge amount to Jack’s family, and they have loved having it. But they too had made a pledge. To bring the cap home… to Home Park. It was here that Jack made his name, was told he’d been picked for England and bounced back after his cruel deselection. He went on to score 137 goals in 400 appearances for Plymouth Argyle between 1921 and 1934 and captained the club to its highest league position, something that has only been equalled once in the decades that followed.
Jack’s granddaughters, Lesley, Lyn and Gill feel this the right place for the cap, ‘The campaign to recognise our grandad has meant so much to the whole family and to have the support of so many people after so long is mind-blowing. When granddad returned to Plymouth Argyle as a guest of honour in 1965, he got a standing ovation from the thousands of fans who remembered and loved him. He welled-up when he shared those special memories. So, the three of us knew that the cap had to come here. Jack Leslie embraced Plymouth just as it embraced him. We are proud to present his cap to be displayed at Home Park where our grandad became a hero.‘
When Jack’s name was in the papers 98 years ago as part of the England team to travel to Ireland there was a huge buzz in Plymouth. ‘Everyone in the town was full of it,’ said Jack. Then everything went quiet, and this young talent was cruelly dropped before the game due to the colour of his skin. He was frequently tipped as an England player in the years that followed but the FA had already made its decision.
Jack Leslie Campaign co-founders Greg Foxsmith and Matt Tiller said, ‘For the FA to accept that Jack was the first black player to be selected for England and to recognise that it was the colour of his skin that put an end to his chances was a massive step. And for Jack’s family who have carried that injustice with them all these years to now bring the cap here to Plymouth is a wonderful gesture. We are proud of them, the club, the Green Army and Jack.‘
The cap is now displayed in the Jack Leslie Boardroom alongside a unique maquette. It can be seen by fans doing one of Argyle’s stadium tours. It has been donated on permanent loan to the club with a view to making it available to fans as much as possible through events and exhibitions.
The Jack Leslie Campaign co-founders Matt Tiller and Greg Foxsmith continue to tell the story in schools and organisations including football clubs. Read more about the campaign at jackleslie.co.uk, and the other presentations and events for October (Black History Month) here.
Matt’s biography of Jack Leslie, The Lion Who Never Roared: The Star Robbed of England Glory is out on 23 October and will be available in the Argyle Store (or pre-order here)
Jack Leslie Inducted into National Football Museum Hall of Fame!
● Jack Leslie was inducted into National Football Museum Hall of Fame pitch side at West Ham United’s London Stadium ahead of their No Room for Racism fixture against Chelsea FC on 11 February 2023.
● This induction continues the great work of the Jack Leslie Campaign, which has shone light on a true pioneer for ethnic minorities in football, with Jack now cast in bronze outside Home Park, and with confirmation of an Honorary England cap from the FA.
The Jack Leslie story
Born in Canning Town in 1901 to a Jamaican father and English mother, Leslie started his career playing for non-league Barking Town winning the London League title, before going on to become a goalscoring great and captain during 14 seasons at Plymouth Argyle between 1921-35.
Thanks to the Campaign, his story is now better known – and you can read more here.
The Jack Leslie Campaign was founded in 2020 by Plymouth fans Matt Tiller and Greg Foxsmith to celebrate, shine a light, and serve justice to his career and legacy. The pair contacted Leslie’s three granddaughters, Plymouth Argyle, Barking FC and West Ham United and, with the club’s support, Leslie has been eternalised in a bronze statue at Argyle’s Home Park stadium (unveiling story here)
Induction into the Football Museum Hall of Fame
Jack Leslie was inducted into the National Football Museum’s Hall of Fame in a pitch side ceremony at London Stadium on 11/02/23, where CEO Tim Desmond (pictured below) presented the award to Jack’s three granddaughters, alongside West Ham legends and the Campaign team.
Celebrating the news, Greg Foxsmith said on behalf of the Campaign: “We are delighted that fans from across the football community have responded positively to Jack’s story, and his induction into the NFM Hall of Fame is a great honour, welcomed by the Campaign and Jack’s family.”
Presentation of maquette to West Ham
West Ham United, who are proud to recognise Leslie as an important part of their Club’s history, commissioned a bronze maquette of the statue created by sculptor Andy Edwards, which was presented by Argyle legend and club ambassador Ronnie Mauge to Sir Trevor Brooking (representing West Ham)
National Football Museum
The National Football Museum Hall of Fame aims to celebrate and highlight the achievements of those who have made an outstanding contribution to football. Judges voted unanimously to induct Leslie in recognition of his stellar career and important story, laying foundations for the ethnically diverse sporting community of the future.
The Hall of Fame, supported by the Professional Footballers’ Association, celebrates the achievements of those who have made an outstanding contribution to the game, either on or off the pitch.
The England and West Ham star remembers Jack Leslie as a lovely man who quietly got on with the job of looking after his boots.
Jack Leslie was picked to play for England back in 1925, then denied his England cap when the selection committee realised he was black. The Jack Leslie Campaign wants to right this past wrong and build a statue of Jack at the ground where he was a club legend, Home Park in Plymouth.
Jack Leslie was a prolific goal scorer who was born in East London and played for Plymouth Argyle from 1921-1934, scoring 137 goals in 401 appearances. He was the only professional black footballer playing in England for much of his career and was a popular figure at Argyle where he helped the team win a championship and promotion, toured South America and became club captain, probably the first black player to do so in the professional game. In his later years he returned to East London and after retiring from his trade as a boilermaker, he was offered a job by West Ham manager Ron Greenwood. He worked in the club’s “boot room” for fifteen years shining the leathers of World Cup winners like Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters. And it’s where he met the young Sir Trevor Brooking.
Sir Trevor said, “I remember Jack very well. He was a lovely guy who would do anything for you. In those days we only had two pairs of boots for the whole season, one with long studs and one with rubber studs for hard grounds. Jack looked after all of us brilliantly in a quiet, unassuming manner. The incredible thing though was that none of us – me, Geoff Hurst or Bobby Moore included – knew he was a player! Jack never mentioned it; that was how humble he was. I was amazed when I read about the campaign and heard about Jack’s history in the game. I just wish he’d told us at the time, but that was Jack and I’m only too delighted to support the campaign for a statue to be erected at Home Park in his honour.”
Trevor Brooking played 647 games for The Irons, winning two FA Cups including in 1980 when he scored the only goal. He also won 47 England Caps. Playing alongside him from 1968 to 1976 was Clyde Best, one of the first black footballers of the modern age, who scored 58 goals in 221 outings in a West Ham shirt. Like Sir Trevor, he didn’t know Jack had been a professional player, but remembers him fondly.
Clyde said, “It tells you what he was like. He never boasted or shouted out. He just did what he had to do and he did a great job, not only for myself but all the other guys at West Ham. We would call him Uncle Jack and go and pick up our boots from him when we had away trips or brought him in after a home game and he would look after everything for us. At the time I played it was tough, but finding out what Jack had to go through, I’m sure it was a lot harder. He would have been by himself, just like I was by myself and it makes you a different individual when you have to face that. I’m just glad that people have joined together to get something that he richly deserves, a statue.”
The Jack Leslie Campaign is keen to see Jack recognised in East London as well as in Plymouth and urges West Ham fans to support the campaign. In nearby Essex, Barking FC has committed to raising a significant sum to create a memorial to Jack at the club where he began his career in non-league football as a teenager. Now we hope there could be recognition at West Ham United too.
Campaign Co-Founder Matt Tiller said, ‘We are delighted to see legends of the game support the statue and it’s even more amazing to hear those memories of Jack from the likes of Sir Trevor Brooking and Clyde Best. It just makes it even more meaningful; the fact that he never boasted about his man achievements or showed bitterness at the England rejection. A memorial to Jack at West Ham and Barking as well as Plymouth Argyle, of course, would tell the full story of his life in football.”
Jack’s family are West Ham fans and had a close connection with the club during the time he worked there.
Jack Leslie’s granddaughter Lyn Davies said, “I remember going to Trevor Brooking’s testimonial, he was a real hero of ours and Jack loved working with him too, they got on really well. I can’t believe he didn’t tell him about his football career, but that was granddad. He didn’t make a big thing of his achievements but he clearly made an impression on the people he worked with at West Ham. It’s wonderful to hear such lovely memories from legends like Sir Trevor and Clyde Best.’
Campaign Co-Founder, Greg Foxsmith said, “We hope that Sir Trevor’s support will raise awareness and gain support from West Ham FC and their fans, as well as other Premier League clubs, who should unite to support this campaign and kick out racism.”
At this extraordinary, and sometimes polarising, time in our history with such a focus on monuments, it is great to be campaigning to build something positive with an anti-racist message at its heart.
We not only want to build a statue as a memorial to Jack Leslie, but also use his story to celebrate diversity and combat racism. We’ve updated our home page with our Aims & Objectives to say just that.
We’ve also just published some FAQs in case you have any… and do get in touch if you have any other questions, suggestions or offers of help.
And, of course, we welcome donations and we’ve had a flurry in the last few days. We are still very mindful of the current situation and won’t be launching in earnest until football returns to normal. But to all those who have so far, thank you. It really is appreciated and will help us get off to a flyer when the Crowdfunder finally goes live.
TO DONATE CLICK HERE – We need to raise at least £100,000. Sounds daunting, but we know we can do it with your help.
Please do VISIT THE WEBSITE for updated information on the campaign, the team and see our growing list of key supporters. What else have we been up to?
Had very fruitful discussions with the team at Plymouth Argyle who are supportive and will be crucial in helping us fundraise.
Welcomed Amanda Jacks from the Football Supporters Association on to our committee. The FSA will help us get our message out there and may also provide additional funding to help us spread Jack’s story.
We are always keen to add to our list of high profile supporters so if you know of anyone who might be interested then put us in touch!
If you know any businesses who may want to help and get involved in some way then do put them in touch.
We are keen to expand our network. We need people with time and energy, particularly with skills in marketing, promotion, fundraising and social media campaigns. Do get in touch if you are interested.
If you are a Plymouth Argyle fan (as many of you are!) then you will be celebrating promotion! It’s been a very odd time in football and commiserations if it hasn’t worked out for your team. We’ve been enjoying Rob Bullen’s Argyle ‘Fat Lady Sings’ cartoon updates through the EFL decision making process and Rob has also drawn these brilliant pictures of Jack. Find him @robbybullen on Twitter.
So, as we continue to prepare the ground for our launch, we wanted to thank you for getting on board and following our progress. Do encourage others to sign up, donate if you can and spread the word on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.