. Paul Canoville .
Paul Canoville played football as he wanted to live. Tall and 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 ground 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 Chelsea’s 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 that arranged move to Reading.
During Season 84/85 Paul starred with 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.
the wing, as a sprinter might run the 100 metres’
. . .
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, I reckon the current
Chelsea renaissance began
somewhere between those two
notable landmarks and 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 for
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 had more reason than most retiring footballers to experience difficulties in adapting to life without the thrill of the game he loved and had played at the highest level.
Born at a key moment of Britain’s changing society and history, he experienced 1st hand racial prejudice like many black kids growing up in the 50’s and the 60’s and then some shameful crowd hostility from a section of 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 particularly daunting task in view of a certain minority of right-wing extremists that historically attached themselves to the club and made even 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 after leaving the club and by the time he was just 24 with 2 subsequent bouts of cancer. It is perhaps unsurprising 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 drug and alcohol abuse and re-trained to enable him to bring the full benefit of his experience into teaching and training others. Further, he is now pleased to enjoy much better relations with Chelsea FC, ‘his’ club.
. . .
That day in 1981 I happened to attend my first Chelsea game for 9 years had been a sad one for me as I listened to the booing that greeted Paul Canoville, making his debut for Chelsea at Selhurst Park. I strode out of the ground determined that would be the last time I watched my boyhood favourites but before I reached home, less than 2 miles away in Norbury SW16 that day, I realised that was letting the boo boys win the day. Paul Canoville and subsequent black players at Chelsea needed the support of ‘fair’ and ‘ordinary’ people and of course I returned to support the ‘blues’ through one of the most successful periods of their history. Now we have a new history at the club where black players, staff and fans hopefully feel loved and welcome. We also set a new milestone as a club when we appointed the Premier League’s 1st black manager ~ Ruud Gullit.
edenbray says; IN VIEW OF THE MEDIA FRENZY OVER THE TREATMENT OF A YOUNG BLACK FRENCHMAN THIS PAST WEEK I DECIDED TO WRITE AN ARTICLE CELEBRATING THE LIFE AND PLAYING CAREER FOR A LARGELY UNRECOGNISED CHELSEA LEGEND & PERSONAL HERO WHO RECEIVED FAR WORSE TREATMENT FROM SO-CALLED CHELSEA FANS.