Cyrille Regis will go down as one of the greatest players to pull on a Chester shirt and, although he is best remembered as an England international and centre forward with the likes of West Bromwich Albion and Coventry City, he will always be held with great affection by Blues fans after making 29 league appearances for the club in the 1995/96 season.
A pioneer amongst black players, his playing career was drawing to a close when he signed for Chester and – although he had lost a yard of pace and rarely completed 90 minutes – his impact on the club was immense. In the first half of that season, with Cyrille in the side, City produced arguably some of the best football ever seen at the ground. At the turn of the year Kevin Ratcliffe’s side were top of the table and it was no coincidence that the promotion challenge faded away as Cyrille’s injury problems got the better of him.
A true gentleman, Cyrille started his career in non-league football with Hayes before joining West Bromwich Albion where he also won five England caps. He went on to play for Coventry City – where he won an FA Cup winners medal – Aston Villa, Wolves and Wycombe Wanderers before signing for City in summer 1995.
Chester fans had their first brush with Cyrille as a Coventry player in the 1985/86 season. Harry McNally’s side were drawn against the Sky Blues in a Milk Cup tie and Cyrille missed the first leg at Sealand Road through injury as the Blues were unfortunate to go down 2-1. It was a different story in the second leg however as Cyrille gave stand-in centre half Ricky Greenhough the runaround and scored five goals in a 7-2 victory.
The news that Cyrille might sign for Chester broke in July 1995 and there was great excitement amongst supporters when he was spotted on the bench watching a pre-season friendly at Caldicot Town. Although he brushed off questions about whether he would sign for the club it was a great coup when he eventually signed and the big man made his debut in the first game of the season against Hartlepool in August. His first goal arrived two weeks later, a typical thumping header against Plymouth Argyle, and he went on to score seven goals for the club. At the start of January, Cyrille made his 600th Football League appearance in a 1-1 draw at Cambridge.
A persistent thigh injury saw him necessarily susbstituted in more than half of his games for the club but this didn’t stop him regularly picking up the Man of the Match award and, such was his standing in the game, that he regularly received a standing ovation from opposition fans when he left the field of play. Cyrille always had time for the supporters and it was a great honour to see him playing in the blue and white of Chester.
His final appearance came at the end of March 1996 in a 2-1 win at Doncaster Rovers although he made a fleeting appearance in a friendly game at Holywell Town the following season.
Everyone at Chester FC send out their deepest condolences to Cyrille’s family and friends.
Words: Chas Sumner