Blues' First Black Player Stacey Publishes Autobiography
Tuesday, 8th Oct 2019 12:49
Steve Stacey, Town’s first black player, has published his life story, The Colour of Football.
Stacey, now 75, was signed by Bill McGarry from Wrexham in September 1968 and made his debut against Liverpool two days after joining the club.
However, he suffered an injury which forced him off during that game and went on to make only two more appearances for the Blues during a period of flux at Portman Road before moving back to hometown club Bristol City a year later.
“I had some hamstring problems at Wrexham and Bristol City for a couple of years and unfortunately after about half an hour of my debut against Liverpool I snapped the hamstring and was out for about three months,” Stacey recalled on Saturday’s Life’s a Pitch on BBC Radio Suffolk (1hr 9mins 54secs).
“I guess it’s everybody’s ambition to play in the First Division and of course I was delighted. I was a bit awestruck about trying to make that step from the Fourth Division to the First Division, that was a huge step in terms of where you’re going, what you’re doing, technical issues and all that kind of stuff, but once you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go.
“Not the best experience at Ipswich but at least I got there and I’m proud to say I played First Division football.”
A few months after Stacey signed McGarry moved on to Wolves and Bobby Robson began his long reign at Town, however, the new man didn’t go down well with all the existing squad and famously came to blows with Bill Baxter and Tommy Carroll.
“There was a bit of a crew, I think we called them the McGarry Crew, and when Bobby came in he had a totally different idea about tactics and what to do and how to perform on the field and, of course, some people took exception to that and it wasn’t a very pleasant time, to be honest,” the former full-back recalled.
“For myself, I stood back and watched all the mayhem but unfortunately I got carried into it as well. I do regret that but it was a difficult time and, of course, Bobby turned out to be the manager of the period, going on to manage England as we all know.”
Stacey, whose American GI father wasn't allowed to marry his white English mother and returned to the US, says he never had any problems with racism from his team-mates: “You walk into a dressing room, believe you me, if you’re black, white or blue and white stripes it doesn’t really matter, the only thing that matters in the dressing room is whether you can play football or not.
“That is the only criteria and I must say that all my time in the football world I was never abused, taken advantage of or any of those issues [that happened] outside the football world.”
Regarding crowds, he added: “The fans, luckily you couldn’t hear most of them, you could just hear a big roar.
“But I do recall once at Queens Park Rangers, I wasn’t playing for Ipswich then. I was out on the left-hand side and I backed onto the rails taking an in-swinging corner and this guy collared me round the neck and said something that I won’t repeat. I took the corner and walked away.
“And when five minutes later the skipper said ‘Steve, can you take that corner over there?’. I said ‘No, I’d prefer someone else to take it.’”
Despite his time at Portman Road being relatively short, Stacey was responsible for dubbing Robson ‘Marty’, a nickname which stuck among the players throughout his time at Portman Road.
“I refuse to answer on the grounds I may incriminate myself!” Stacey laughed when asked if that was the case.
The sobriquet came from Robson’s apparent resemblance to bulging-eyed comedian Marty Feldman when berating his players.
“Something like that,” he confirmed. “Bobby and I we had our differences and didn’t get on, it’s well-documented I know. He was all business, Bob. He became England manager and a great England manager too, so what else is there to say?”
Stacey, who has lived in Australia for many years, says he wrote the book over the course of a decade.
“It brought back many memories, I was quite happy sitting down to write it. It took me about 10 years,” he said.
“I’d start a chapter, finish it, put it away, go back again, think about it, redo the chapter to mix it up with today’s world.
“But in the end I think it’s a kind of catharsis, you get out and write out your life story in football, get it over with and get it out there.”
The Colour of Football is published by Bristol Books CIC and is available here.
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