Plymouth unveil statue of footballer dropped by England squad because of his race

Plymouth Argyle are set to unveil a statue of pioneering Black footballer Jack Leslie.

Leslie, born in Canning Town, spent 14 seasons at the Devon club, scoring 137 times in 401 appearances.

The inside left was called up to the England squad in 1925, but was subsquently withdrawn, allegedly after selectors learned of the colour of his skin.

“I believe that the manager sent in his request, saying: ‘I’ve got a brilliant player here, he should play for England,’” his granddaughter, Lesley Hiscott, told the BBC in 2020.

“So then someone came down to watch him. They weren’t watching his football. They were looking at the colour of his skin.

“And because of that, he was denied the chance of playing for his country.”

The statue will stand at 12 foot (3.7 metres) tall and follows a fan-led campaign that began in 2019. The campaign has raised £140,000 to commemorate Leslie in a statue sculpted by Andy Edwards.

While the unveiling will be attended by members of Leslie’s family, campaign leaders and senior representatives from Plymouth Argyle, there will also be a celebration of Leslie’s life and legacy before the club, who are currently top of League One, face Accrington Stanley on Saturday.

“It’s a great thing as an Argyle fan to have a statue of a legend outside the club, but this statue is more than that,” Matt Tiller, one of the fans involved in the campaign for the statue, said.

“Jack Leslie was a true Argyle legend but the story of what happened to him with the England call up and that being denied because of the colour is his skin, is an important story to be told.

“It is not just a lump of bronze. It is not just a representation of a footballer. It is there to tell the story of his career, and what he had to deal with.”

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