George Berry: Cyrille Regis was my rival on the pitch, but a friend off it
Former Wolves defender George Berry described Cyrille Regis as “a colossus both on and off the pitch”.
The two men were rivals on the pitch but friends off it, both credited with breaking down barriers for black players at a time when racism remained rife in the game.
Berry believes Regis was an inspiration for a generation of young black players who might otherwise not been able to make their way in the sport.
“Cyrille was a colossus in every way,” said Berry.
“He was a colossus as a footballer. He was a colossus as a human being. He was just a great person.
“The likes of Andy Cole – who I heard on the radio this morning – and so many others can thank Cyrille for clearing the way for them.
“So many looked up to him and thought ‘I want to be like Cyrille Regis’.
“When we began our careers there were so few black players. Me, Cyrille, Laurie Cunnginham and Brendon Batson. It felt like we were brothers-in-arms. I can’t tell you how horrible it is to lose someone like that.
“There are so many people who will be affected by it. Anyone thinking of going to his funeral will have to go down the day before, otherwise you won’t be able to get in.”
Berry, who made 160 appearances for Wolves between 1974 and 1982, regularly tussled with Regis during derbies with Albion, gaining first-hand experience of why he was considered one of the era’s most feared centre-forwards.
“Playing against Cyrille, you always knew you were in for a tough game,” he said.
“Cyrille was so strong, it was always a battle.
“He was a great role model and such a big personality. He was Cyrille Regis.
“I knew him well off the pitch. We would see each other out and about and I am very close with his brother, Dave.
“Cyrille was just a great bloke. Nothing was too much trouble.
“His passing has left me gobsmacked. To be totally honest, it is hard to comprehend. I don’t think I quite believe it.
“It is going to affect so many people, from so many different walks of life.
“You have all those Albion supporters who watched him play. Then there are the many friends he made, former team-mates.
“Then there are the most important people of all – I cannot imagine how they are feeling. It’s just devastating news.”