On the opening day of this year’s season, I went to see Chelsea play Crystal Palace. The match programme featured an article on Paul Canoville, Chelsea’s first black player. I remember watching him in the 1980s when he was racially abused by his own fans. Large sections of the crowd taunted him with monkey chants and racist slurs. Outside on the Fulham Road, bigots sold National Front News and urged fans to ‘Keep Britain White’.
This grotesque spectacle wasn’t confined to Chelsea. At every ground, black players faced abuse from supporters. We’ve come a long way since then. A few years ago, Paul Canoville returned to Stamford Bridge and did a lap of honour before the match. The crowd gave him a standing ovation.