Plymouth Argyle’s Jack Leslie was selected to play for the England football team against Northern Ireland on October 25, 1925, then he was inexplicably dropped. The reason: he was black.

The story of Leslie is one of the many fascinating accounts contained in the book Football’s Black Pioneers by Bill Hern and David Gleave.

The writers track down the first black player to turn out for all of the 92 league clubs.

There are accounts of players, like Orient's Laurie Cunningham (first black player for England Under -21s), Viv Anderson (first black player for Nottingham Forest and England) and Brendon Batson (first black player at Arsenal, though later as part of the famous West Brom trio together with Cunningham and Cyrille Regis).

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Leyton Orient legend, Laurie Cunningham, to be honoured with a blue plaque on SaturdayLaurie Cunningham

A particularly interesting chapter for West Ham supporters is the one featuring Clyde Best, who was not the first black player to play for the club but a real pioneer.

The year was 1968, when Clyde came over at the age of 17 from Bermuda to play for West Ham. Clyde was playing for the first team a year later. I remember seeing Clyde, who played for the club until the mid-1970s, scoring lots of goals and becoming a firm fans’ favourite.

He did also have to endure some horrendous racism.

There was one occasion when Clyde received a letter with a threat that acid would be thrown at him as he came out of the tunnel onto the pitch. The police took the threat seriously, creating a cordon between players and fans as they emerged.

Other black players turning out for West Ham over those years included John and Clive Charles plus Ade Coker.

West Ham were the first team to field three black players, when Clyde Best, Ade Coker and Clive Charles played against Spurs in 1972.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Waltham Forest Council leader Clare Coghill and Cyrille Regis

Waltham Forest Council leader Cllr Claire Coghill with Cyrille Regis at the unveiling of a statue of his friend Laurie Cunningham

The litany of racism chronicled in the book is sickening, from Chelsea’s Paul Canoville receiving racist abuse from his own fans to the experiences of Chris Kamara (now football pundit), who was abused as both a player and manager.

The black players, though, have been defiant in the face of adversity. There was Orient’s Bobby Fisher and Laurie Cunningham, giving the black power salute to baying Millwall fans and Howard Gayle (Liverpool, Newcastle and Blackburn) turning down the MBE in 2016. Gayle did not feel he could accept the honour after what the empire did to his family and ancestors.

Among other highlights are Roland Butcher, who played for Stevenage before making his name as the first black cricketer to represent England in a test match in 1981.

The authors provide a real insight into the struggle of so many black players over the years to make their way in the game.

Racism is still of course rife in football, though not as bad as in the days of the likes of Clyde Best, Laurie Cunningham and Paul Canoville. This is testimony to the bravery and resilience of so many players down the years. There is though still much to be done if racism is to be truly expunged from football.

Football's Black Pioneers by Bill Hern and David Gleave is published by Conker Editions, price £16.