Carlton Cole Jack Leslie tribute

Jack Leslie honoured with posthumous England cap

The family of Jack Leslie, the first Black player to receive an England call-up, have been presented with a posthumous honorary cap by the Football Association.

They received the posthumous honorary cap ahead of England's Euro 2024 qualifier against Ukraine at Wembley on Sunday, where West Ham United Ambassador Carlton Cole was in attendance as a representative of the Club. 

Leslie, who worked at West Ham United in the 1960s and 1970s, was immortalised by a statue that was unveiled outside Argyle's Home Park stadium in October 2022, while he was inducted into was posthumously inducted into the National Football Museum's Hall of Fame at London Stadium last month ahead of the Club’s No Room for Racism Premier League fixture against Chelsea.

Born in Canning Town in 1901 to a Jamaican father and English mother, Leslie started his career playing for non-league Barking Town, scoring over 250 goals and winning the London League title, before going on to become a goalscoring great and captain during 14 seasons at Plymouth Argyle between 1921-35.

It was during his time at Home Park, in 1925, that the inside-left received a callup for England’s Home Nations Championship international with Ireland, only for the invitation to be a reserve to be withdrawn because of the colour of his skin. He was Black.

Jack Leslie in the boot room

Despite the huge disappointment, Leslie continued to play superbly for Plymouth for another decade, scoring 137 goals in 401 games, but he was never selected by England again.

A serious eye injury forced him to retire as a professional in 1935 and, after returning to east London and his original trade as a boilermaker in the East India Docks, he worked in the Hammers’ boot room in the 1960s and 1970s after being approached by manager Ron Greenwood. He worked with the likes of Bobby Moore, Sir Geoff Hurst, Martin Peters, Sir Trevor Brooking and Billy Bonds before retiring at the age of 82. He died in 1988, aged 87.

Carlton Cole said: “For all Black footballers, Jack is a true pioneer. His story is incredible, moving from Barking Town to Plymouth Argyle in an outstanding playing career, before returning to East London and working at West Ham United, a club that has always had diversity embedded throughout - something that makes me extremely proud.

Granddaughters Lesley Hiscott, Lyn Davies and Gill Carter said the award meant so much to the whole family.

They said: "When the FA told us they were giving our grandad this posthumous honour it took our breath away.

"This is our family's history and now it is part of the nation's history, a recognition that things can and must change."

FA Chair Debbie Hewitt and former England international Viv Anderson were part of the presentation.

Anderson was the first black footballer to receive a full England international cap against Czechoslovakia in 1978.

Co-founders of the Jack Leslie Campaign, Greg Foxsmith and Matt Tiller, said they were "delighted he has now been given this honour".