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'We want to keep his memory alight': Cyrille Regis's family reflect one year on from death

By Matt Wilson | West Bromwich Albion | Published:

Cyrille Regis was not only a pioneer and a footballing icon, he was also a loving husband and a doting father.

One year on from his sudden death, his absence is still keenly felt in the footballing world, but the biggest void he has left has been to his family.

Julia Regis, his widow, is still finding it difficult to come to terms with the loss, but she is in the process of starting a charity in his name.

Cyrille's children, Robert and Michelle, went on the Hawthorns pitch on Saturday to collect his Albion cap on his behalf.

All three are determined to keep his memory shining bright, and all three thanked Albion fans for helping them cope over the past 12 months.

"It's been a really tough year is the truth," Julia told the Express & Star. "A year down the road I still feel numb at times.

"There are still times you hear a sound in the house and for a split second you forget, and then you realise he's not here, he's not walking through the door.

"It's hard to come to terms with. I go between two extremes of really heartbroken and being grateful for the good times we had and the memories we shared.

"I spend a lot of times looking at videos, happy moments that make me laugh and feeling really grateful we had a lot of fun, a lot of love."

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As well as being a pioneer to all black footballers, Regis was a Midlands football legend who played for Aston Villa, Wolves and Coventry.

But it is at Albion where he holds the deepest ties and, on Saturday, his children joined the rest of the iconic 1978/79 Baggies side on the pitch at half-time during the match with Norwich.

Stars from Albion's iconic 1978/79 team with their caps on Saturday, including Robert and Michelle Regis, who collected Cyrille's on his behalf. Photo courtesy of West Bromwich Albion Former Players' Association.

"It was a great honour," Robert told the Express & Star. "I've flown in from America to be here, it brings back a lot of memories.

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"It feels like home! I'm around people I grew up with, I'm hearing stories, I remember these people.

"There's a great sense of family and I'm very grateful.

"It's been a bit of a rollercoaster year, up and down, good days, bad days. We're just keeping his memory alight."

"It's bittersweet," added daughter Michelle. "We're here because Dad's gone, but Albion have always put on something very special."

The 1978-79 Albion line-up, with Cyrille, Regis, extreme left, middle row

Julia is planning to start a charity in Cyrille's name and, last summer, she walked the Great Wall of China in memory of her late husband to help raise funds for the Albion Foundation.

"The charity is very much under construction," she said. "We're working on a couple of projects that hopefully we'll be able to talk about in the next two weeks.

"I feel I want to keep carrying the torch, I was always his biggest fan and that won't stop."

When Cyrille suddenly died 12 months ago at the age of 59, the number of tributes that flooded in from all corners of the globe were staggering.

And his family have confirmed those kind words from friends and strangers alike have provided solace over the past year.

"It's definitely helped," said Michelle. "I still can't believe the amount of love that's been shown.

"It's been comforting, and always puts a smile on my face. It's definitely got us through the year."

Cyrille Regis in his playing days for Albion

Julia added: "The camaraderie and the support from the Albion family and beyond from those who have lost has been amazing."

On Saturday, Cyrille's old team-mates travelled from far and wide to mark the first anniversary of his death.

"They're like a bunch of schoolboys!" laughed Brendon Batson, the last remaining member of Albion's famous Three Degrees, who helped break down barriers for black footballers.

"It's great to see so many people here.

"We don't see (former goalkeeper) Tony Godden often and (former full-back) Derek Statham lives in Spain so it's great to have them here.

"(Ex-assistant manager) Colin Addison is here as well so it's a nice little get together.

"We all have our different memories when it comes to Cyrille and it still feels slightly unbelievable.

"We'll never forget him. It will be emotional, but we'll think fondly of him."

One year on from a death that shocked the footballing world, it's clear that those closest to him are still getting to grips with the loss.

"We did everything together, so the void is massive," added Julia. "I feel quite lost at times.

"But in all of that, I am looking to celebrate the life that he lived.

"I'm glad I could be a part of his life and he was a part of my life. But I'm still trying to navigate the emotions of losing him."

Matt Wilson

By Matt Wilson
Football MMPJ - @mattwilson_star

Sports reporter at the Express & Star, who primarily covers West Bromwich Albion.

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