. Paul Canoville .
Paul Canoville played football as he wanted to live. Tall, proud, young, gifted and black.
If you were lucky enough to see any of the 103 appearances Paul made for his No.1 club, Chelsea FC you would have been left with an overwhelming picture of fitness and enthusiasm as he ran heads-up through defences or down the wing as a sprinter might run the 100 metres or as a hurdler dodging tackles with surprising agility and great ball-control. In his less impressive performances he could look a little like Bambi-on-ice but his skill and agility on the ball were never in question.
Paul scored 15 goals for ‘the blues’ in a Chelsea career that lasted just shy of 4 1/2 years before a private, training day bust-up with a team-mate made life awkward for the gentle giant and he cites that a move was arranged for him.
He played in the 2nd Division Championship team of 83/84 making 2o appearances with 6 goals and went on to make 37 starts in the 1st Division before his move to Reading.
During Season 84/85 Paul starred in a man-of-the-match performance in a remarkable quarter-final Milk Cup match at Sheffield coming on as substitute at half-time with the team down by 0-3. He scored within 11 seconds and was the man to put Chelsea 4-3 up during extra-time although Wednesday took the game to a replay with a late equaliser.
It was the beginning of the 80’s !
Different factions make varying
claims as to where the Chelsea
‘revolution’ all started.
The more cynical and green-eyed
like to claim it was purely down
to Roman Abramovich’s money.
The more purist among
Stamford Bridge’s faithful
will point back to Ted Drake
and his 1955 Champions
~ Ted Drake’s ‘Ducklings’ that
soon became Tommy Docherty’s
‘wee Diamonds’ and eventually
managed to shake off the
music-hall ‘ Pensioners’ tag and
start to challenge for real honours.
For me, as a Chelsea fan
through it all, the current
Chelsea renaissance began
somewhere between those two
notable landmarks, under the
inspired tutelage of the quiet man
John Neal and the ownership of that
real football ‘dictator’ – Ken Bates.
John Neal was appointed by Bates
in 1981. Later in the 82/83 season
John Neal helped to stave
off the threat of relegation to
the third tier of English football.
During the summer of 1983
Bates made the cash available to
Neal to re-build the team and in two
months he managed to build a
Championship winning team with
names as famous as Kerry Dixon,
Pat Nevin, Nigel Spackman
and Joey Jones.
One of Neal’s first signings had
been a striker from non-league
Hillingdon Borough. He introduced
the young man in a league match
at Crystal Palace in April, 1981.
As chance would have it I was
there on the terracing and
witnessed the terrible racist
taunts and booing that greeted
the young Paul Canoville as he
entered the pitch to make
his debut at half-time.
I left the ground that day and walked home
disappointed, disillusioned and
determined never to return.
A ONE-WAY TICKET FOR SS WINDRUSH FROM JAMAICA
After the terrors and hardships
of WWII began to subside
across the western world
and during the 1950’s,
Britain’s stock and standing had
risen in the ‘free’ world creating
an ‘Eldorado’ aura around
the British Isles.
Loss of life and manpower and
the need to rebuild the nation, meant
there were now many job opportunities
and members of the commonwealth
were not only free to, but encouraged
to exploit the situation.
Irish, Indians and thousands of
Caribbean emigrants chose to
take the ‘big step’ and move to UK
shores in search of a better and
more prosperous life in Great Britain
– the United Kingdom
(much like many Eastern Europeans
have attempted in recent years
since changes to European Law).
What they actually found was quite
different as it became clear old colonial
attitudes and prejudices were still
deeply entrenched in British culture.
Post-war society was not quite ready
to embrace or accept other colours,
races or religions.
Government legislation introduced
in 1962 and designed to alleviate
racial tensions by vastly curbing
the ease of immigration access only
served to exacerbate negative social
attitudes toward those who were
In the same year that the British
Government drew up the drawbridge
to our Caribbean cousins the young
Paul Canoville let out his first cries.
Little did he know the part he
would soon play as a British
person, a footballer and a black man.
The story of footballer Paul Canoville is sadly
not a long one as his career was cut
tragically short through injury
but his tale is intrinsically tied up
with the events and circumstances
that surround his life
and for this reason he makes
an appearance at No.7 in eb’s list of play-erzz.
Paul, more than many retiring footballershad good reason to experience difficulty in adapting to life without the thrill of the game he loved and played at the highest level.
Born at a key moment of Britain’s changing society and history and experiencing 1st hand racial prejudice while growing up and then surprising crowd hostility from his own teams fans on arriving at his debut performance. Paul then had to make his mark as CHELSEA FC’s 1st black player, a daunting task in view of a certain minority of right-wing extremists that have historically attached themselves to the club and made more difficult by the Club’s insensitivity and failure to back him when he needed it most.
These factors alone were challenging enough but to experience a career ending injury by the time he was just 24 and 2 subsequent bouts of cancer it is unsurprising perhaps that Paul suffered bouts of depression and wandered into alcohol and drug abuse problems. One of his eleven children also died in his arms due to illness.
Gladly the story of Paul Canoville does not stop there and he is now able to look back on a life fraught with trouble and recognise the positives as well as the negatives.
He has been rehabilitated from both drug and alcohol abuse and re-trained to bring the benefit of his experience into teaching and training others while he now is pleased to enjoy much better relations with Chelsea FC, ‘his’ club.