In 1977, Laurie Cunningham became the first black footballer to play professionally for England and, two years later, went on to become the first Englishman to play for Real Madrid. In a time when race relations were a divisive social issue, and when racist chants and bananas would be thrown from the stands, Cunningham’s success changed the way black players were perceived and paved the way for a new generation of black footballers.
But Cunningham was more than ‘the greatest natural talent this country [had] produced since George Best’. He wanted to be different. He wanted to talk about fashion, dance and cinema, not just hang around footballers. He was a man of swagger with a love of funk music and bespoke suits.
And he was an exceptional footballer who could play like a dream.
Different Class is not your typical football biography. It tells the story of the son of Jamaican immigrants, who grew up poor in North London to become an important but unsung figure in the tapestry of late-20th-century England. He brought glamour to the game of football at a particularly dark time in its history and won over hostile crowds with his style and swagger.
This is the biography of Laurie Cunningham. Many know his name but not his story; now they will know both.