Jack F. Leslie was a former black football player in Britain. He signed for Plymouth Argyle from Barking Town in 1921.Jack F. Leslie is a former football player. He signed for Plymouth Argyle from Barking Town in 1921. Leslie scored over 400 goals in his career, 134 of those for Plymouth in 400 appearances. He retired in 1935. A call-up to the national team was cancelled when officials realized he was a “a man of colour.
Despite an impressive 15-year run which saw him playing to crowds of over 40,000 people and notching up an impressive 400 match appearances with over 130 goals, Leslie suff ered catcalls from the crowd, who discriminated against him because he was black.
“I used to get a lot of abuse in matches. ‘Here darkie, I’m gonna break your leg,’ they’d shout.
“There was nothing wicked about it – they were just trying to get under my skin.”
Argyle co-ordinator Peter Hall reminisces about the times he saw Leslie play.
“On August 26, 1933 – I was six years old – we played Manchester Utd and won 4-1. “I always remember that Jack Leslie played a huge part in that win – it was a real treat to watch him play. He was everywhere, his passing was first class, and his shooting power was enormous. If there ever was an Argyle legend, it was Jack Leslie.”
No Black Footballers for England
Leslie proved himself as a top goal-scorer, holding the record for the most league goals scored (35) between 1927 and 1929, but this still wasn’t enough for officials who believed he wasn’t fit to join the esteemed national side.
“They found out I was a darkie and I suppose that was like finding out I was foreign.”
This shattered Leslie’s dreams of an international career.
He famously commented to Pilgrims teammate and later journalist Brian Woolnough,
“They must have forgotten I was a coloured boy.”
Jack Leslie retired in 1934, later he went to work for his local club West Ham United as part of their back room team.