Everton will pay tribute to footballing pioneer Cyrille Regis when they face his former club West Brom on Saturday.
The ex-England frontman sadly passed away on 14 January, aged 59, and there will be a period of appreciation at Goodison Park ahead of the game against the Baggies.
We spoke to former Blues Graham Stuart, Ian Snodin, Peter Reid and Kevin Ratcliffe about their experiences of facing Regis in their playing days and coming across him after hanging up their boots.
Ian Snodin faced Regis on a handful of occasions when the striker had moved to Coventry City, and recalls the qualities he had on and off the pitch.
“I played against him more when he was at Coventry. He was a big, powerful presence – a big powerful man. And such a good player. But not only was he a great footballer, he was a great person.
“You were guaranteed a tough time against him. I played centre-half against him a few times and it would be a hard 90 minutes. But the first person to come and shake your hand in the players’ lounge after the match would be Cyrille Regis.
“I like that in footballers. When you are competing against them for 90 minutes – and we were kicking and elbowing each other, whatever it took to get a result for your team – then go in the players’ lounge afterwards and everything is forgotten. You could shake hands and have a drink together.
“He was a fantastic man. You would never hear anybody in football or outside of football say a bad word about Cyrille Regis.”
Regis netted 81 goals in 241 appearances for the Baggies but Graham Stuart recollects one particular strike that caught his – and everybody else’s - eye against Norwich during the 1981/2 campaign.
“There is one goal that always sticks in my mind and was just typical Cyrille Regis. The ball was played up to him, he brought it down on his chest and turned in one motion, then carried it a couple of yards and smashed it in the top corner.
“Everybody who is a similar age to me remembers that iconic goal he scored.
“He was a terrific player, a proper old school centre-forward. He gave defenders an extremely hard time.
“It is desperately sad. He was a gentleman, a really, really good man off the pitch. I was very, very fortunate to meet him a good few times. He carried himself so well and was a genuinely nice guy and I have never heard anybody say a bad word about him.”
Peter Reid remembers some wise words from former Everton manager Howard Kendall ahead of facing Regis.
“When we used to play against him, one of the big parts of Howard Kendall’s team talk was “Don’t upset Cyrille.” He would tell us, “Don’t kick him, don’t wind him up, just ask him how he is doing, how his missus is, has he had a good night out recently”. Simply put, if you upset him, he was unplayable.
“When I was playing at Bolton, one of our games was postponed so a few of us went to Old Trafford to watch West Brom play Manchester United. They won 5-3 and Cyrille (below) and Laurie Cunningham were magnificent. That was the first time I saw him live and it just took your breath away. He was a terrific footballer.
“I got to know him well off the pitch, too. Not only was he a brilliant player but he was a real good guy. After he retired he moved into agency work so I spoke to him a few times in that capacity now and again when I was managing. He was a gentleman.”
Soon after he took charge of Chester back in 1995, Kevin Ratcliffe was on the phone to then Wycombe manager Martin O’Neill asking after the availability of his veteran striker…
“I was in for him at the end of the 1994/95 season but Martin wouldn’t let him go. But when I phoned him, he said, “Kev, he would suit you - I’ve seen the way you play and he would suit you down to the ground. If I do let him go, I’ll let you know.”
“Well, Martin called me back at the end of the season, saying he was letting Cyrille go and half an hour later, I phoned Cyrille and he was shocked! It wasn’t a great deal of money he was on, but he did a fantastic job.
“He was my first ever signing and he was absolutely fantastic for us. Cyrille only played 29 games and even the Chester fans now remember him. I’ve never seen a player get applauded off the pitch away from home, but at Leyton Orient he got a standing ovation simply because of the way he played and who he was and what he had done for the game.
“The era that he had come through was very difficult but he stood for everything and he was a great person.
“He was a nightmare to play against – I remember going up for a challenge with him and he dislodged part of my tooth. I never got it back because I threw it at him!
"Cyrille was a great man and he will always be remembered as a pioneer."