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Sat, 08.17.1901

Jack Leslie, UK Soccer Player born

Jack Leslie

*Jack Leslie was born on this date in 1901.  He was a Black English professional soccer footballer.  

John Francis Leslie was born in Canning Town, London, to a Jamaican father also called John Francis Leslie, a gas fitter laborer in London, and a white-English mother, Annie Leslie, a seamstress.  He played for local team, Barking Town scoring more than 250 goals and helping them win the Essex Senior Cup in 1920 and London League Premier Division title in 1921.  Also, in 1921 he joined Plymouth Argyle. Predominantly a center-forward or an inside-left, Leslie was described as being versatile and able to provide cover wherever needed.

Leslie was the only Black professional player in England during his time with Plymouth Argyle. Leslie enjoyed a 14-season career with Argyle, having joined the club from Barking Town in 1921.  Leslie was called up to the national team in 1925; his manager, Bob Jack, told him he had been selected to play for England against Ireland. However, the invitation to play for his country was withdrawn because of racism to his color by members of the FA who had been unaware of his ethnicity.  Later in life, Leslie told the journalist Brian Woolnough: "They must have forgot I was a colored boy."  

Leslie was never picked for England again. As a consequence, it was not until 1978 that Viv Anderson became the first Black player to appear in an England shirt.  It took until his eleventh appearance for Argyle for him to get his first goal, in a 2–0 win against Gillingham in 1923.  A creator and scorer of goals, his partnership with outside left Sammy Black was one of the very best left football lines.  Leslie played alongside Black 327 times, with the duo scoring 319 goals between them in all competitions, with Leslie contributing 137 of them. In 1930, The Football Herald described him as "known throughout England for his skill and complexion."  Across a total of fourteen seasons at Argyle he scored 133 league goals in 384 games, making him Argyle's ninth record highest appearance maker, and fourth highest goal scorer.  

He retired from professional football in 1935, playing his last game, and scoring his last goal, on December 29, 1934 in a 3–1 win against Fulham.  He later worked as a member of the backroom staff of his local club, West Ham United, as the boot-boy.  He was offered the job by West Ham manager, Ron Greenwood who recognized Leslie as a great player.

Jack Leslie died on November 25, 1988.  In December 2019, the boardroom at the Mayflower Grandstand at Home Park was named in Leslie's honor. In early 2020 The Jack Leslie Campaign was set up, with the aim of building a statue of Leslie outside Home Park.  Crowdfunding for the project began in July 2020.  The target amount of £100,000 was reached in August 2020. On June 18, 2020, following the George Floyd protests in the United Kingdom and a petition signed by over 500 people, it was reported that Plymouth City Council had proposed to rename Sir John Hawkins Square in the City Centre to the 'Jack Leslie Square'. 

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