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Barking FC to partner with Jack Leslie Campaign

PUBLISHED: 10:01 09 July 2020 | UPDATED: 12:33 09 July 2020

Barking face the camera in 1921-22, with Jack Leslie seen sitting with the ball at his feet next to the club president T Jackson

Barking face the camera in 1921-22, with Jack Leslie seen sitting with the ball at his feet next to the club president T Jackson

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Barking Football Club have announced they are to partner with the Jack Leslie Campaign to raise funds.

The Jack Leslie Campaign is raising funds to build a statue of the former Barking and Plymouth Argyle footballer, who was the first black player to be selected by England in 1925The Jack Leslie Campaign is raising funds to build a statue of the former Barking and Plymouth Argyle footballer, who was the first black player to be selected by England in 1925

A campaign was launched last week to build a statue to celebrate Leslie, who was picked to play for England back in 1925 but then denied his cap when the selection committee realised he was black.

Leslie was born in Canning Town and started his footballing career at Barking and is regarded as a legendary figure by supporters of the club and in the community.

Barking won the Essex Senior Cup and West Ham Charity Cup with Leslie in their side and current club chairman Rob O’Brien said: “Jack Leslie played here at Barking 100 years ago as part of a diverse side, before going on to Plymouth Argyle.

“Our club in the east end of London has always celebrated diversity, on the pitch and in our fan base. Racism and prejudice have never been tolerated here and we were upset to hear that Jack was denied his England place due to the colour of his skin.”

Greg Foxsmith and Barking FC's Rob O'Brien. Picture: Greg FoxsmithGreg Foxsmith and Barking FC's Rob O'Brien. Picture: Greg Foxsmith

First-team manager Justin Gardner, who has suffered racism himself in the past while at other clubs, added: “We are proud of our legacy and the players at the club from first team to youth team are really diverse, we look at ability not colour.”

Since last week’s launch, several high-profile players and ex-players have shown support, including the likes of Viv Anderson, England’s first black senior team international, and West Ham legends Carlton Cole and Clyde Best.

A crowdfunding target of at least £100,000 has been set to build a statue of Leslie and campaign co-founder Greg Foxmith said: “We have achieved a huge amount in such a short time, but that is all down to Jack Leslie’s story and the positive way that the people of Barking and beyond have responded.

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“We need everyone to keep telling the story and asking people and local companies and businesses to donate and we’re delighted that Barking FC are partnering with us in reaching the aims and objectives.”

Jack Leslie was born in London and played for Barking until 1921, moving to Plymouth and scoring 137 goals in 401 appearances.

He was the only professional black footballer playing in England for much of his career and became club captain, probably the first black player to do so in the professional game.

In later years, he worked in the boot room at West Ham, shining the leathers of World Cup winners.

A team photograph taken in about 1920. Picture: Barking FCA team photograph taken in about 1920. Picture: Barking FC

The campaign aims to raise funds to build a statue of Jack Leslie at Plymouth Argyle’s Home Park ground and a statuette at Barking FC, while also promoting and sharing his story as the first black footballer to be selected for England in 1925 and to celebrate diversity and combat racism.

Barking MP Dame Margaret Hodge is also backing the campaign.

Dame Margaret said: “Jack Leslie is a former Barking Town FC player and a real trailblazer. Jack was one of the first black players in the professional game and he should have been the first to play for England.

“So it is only right that we remember his contribution to football and to this country. Jack should be remembered as an icon of English football.

“That’s why I’m throwing my support behind the campaign. A brilliant campaign that is fundraising for a statue of Jack Leslie to be built and for greater recognition of his story.”

To donate, go to crowdfunder.co.uk/jack-leslie-campaign.


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