Cyrille Regis' widow Julia reveals former West Brom striker continues to make his mark
It takes a lot to bring all six leading Birmingham and Black Country football clubs together but Cyrille Regis has managed to achieve the rare feat.
Regis starred for four of the region's clubs upfront when he represented West Brom, Coventry, Aston Villa and Wolves with distinction from 1977-1994.
And though he is no longer with us following his shock, early death aged 59 in January 2018, the former frontman's legacy lives on.
He was a pioneer on the pitch when he was among the first generation of black players to represent England and thrive in the First Division despite some appalling racism.
Later on after hanging up his boots , Regis continued to inspire players' lives and careers as a successful football agent.
Now he is still making a big impact posthumously after members of his family set-up the Cyrille Regis Legacy Trust.
This month its 'Strike A Change' mentoring programme is about to start its third year.
It will see 72 young boys and girls selected from schools working alongside the football foundations of Cyrille's old clubs , plus those of Birmingham and Walsall too.
The chosen individuals are all from challenging backgrounds but many have made huge progress on the programme despite lockdown forcing some of the learning online.
Cyrille's widow and chair of the charity Julia Regis told Mirror Sport: “He was a big believer in trying to influence the next generation positively.
“The part of his job he loved the most as an agent was mentoring.
“When he passed away I felt quite strongly I wanted to do something to continue the work he was doing.
“He was so committed to community work so we set-up the charity and trust with his DNA.
“He always tried to give people a leg up if he could.
“I really wanted the charity to reflect how I saw him living his life.
“Our intention is not to replicate but to come alongside those organisations that are already having an impact.
“And we have set-up our own programme 'Strike A Change' about mentoring which is the part of his job he loved the most and he was brilliant at it.
“These clubs and their foundations have never worked together before like this but we hoped they would be open to a collaboration.
“They all said: 'for Cyrille – yes'.
“The participants are recruited from the schools who propose them.
“The only criteria is that they are passionate about football and disengaged in their life in some way.
“What has since been powerful is the testimonials from the schools.
“They have spoken about raised aspiration and motivations levels.
“People have stepped into leadership roles and think about their peers more.
“We have been contacted by schools wanting to be part of the programme because they see the impact.
“We have developed a curriculum based on the Cyrille standard and initials of his name.
“It covers Character, the Y is believing in yourself which transcends all the themes including Resilience, Integrity, Learning, Leadership and Endurance.
“All these traits are recognised in Cyrille and it has been important in my journey of grief to be busy and active doing something I saw him do.
“I feel so proud of the work we are doing in his name.”
Among the staff working with the youngsters is Alex Jane of Coventry City who draws his crop from a ward in the top 10% for crime activity in the country.
Jane said: “These young people are either no shows in terms of attendance rate, been excluded regularly or contacted by the police.
“The school recommends the people who will get the most benefit from it.
“Most of these young people, the only thing they behave in is PE and football.
“They also either know about Cyrille or are willing to learn about him because a lot on our project are from the BAME community.”
Graduates of the course are then invited to volunteer to help as ambassadors with the next in-take and progress towards other roles either with the charity or elsewhere.
Jarro Scott ,20, who has volunteered since being on the programme, said: “I have experience which could help me be a referee or a coach if I don't manage to play professionally.”
More exciting opportunities are on the horizon too as the charity aims to expand after achieving recognition from the organising committee for next year's Commonwealth Games to be an official partner of 'United By Birmingham 2022'.
For more information visit https://www.cyrilleregis.com