It’s funny, as when I was asked to contribute to this it was very easy to decide who I was going to explore. He has been a huge influence in my life, my development and progression as a professional but more importantly as a black man.
I have known him since I was a precocious young footballer who shocked him by refusing to accept the ‘banter’ he gave me, I went for him, surprising him with the full range of my banter repertoire!! Immediately a friendship was born that has endured over thirty plus years and is still going strong.
Leroy Rosenior is for me a fantastic example of all I want to be as a man, kind, caring, intelligent, loyal and for me incredibly supportive.
He had a good career as a centre forward of note, for the likes of Fulham, West Ham, Bristol City, Charlton Athletic and Queens Park Rangers, and in management with the likes of Torquay and Bristol City, although deserved a crack at big time management that mysteriously never appeared for him.
We always kept in touch, in fact are close family friends who shared the same philosophy regarding how football should be played, and I for one looked forward to the time we would work together.
That came in 2006-07 season where he asked me to assist him with the coaching & management at Brentford FC. It was a magical moment for me, he gave me the chance to live & achieve another dream, the first achievement being a professional footballer.
Did it go well, well not as we would have liked; I still believe had we been supported, we may have achieved what we desired, but I gained real confidence in my abilities and Leroy’s support inspired me to believe I had what it took to manage in my own right.
Together we coached in the international arena with the Sierra Leone national side, although our experiences are too numerous to detail here, definitely for another time!!
But for me it’s what he has achieved since retiring that has had an impact on me. His work in combatting all forms of discrimination with Show Racism the Red Card, where he is their vice Chairman, delivering education in schools, colleges, political events and conferences nationwide over the two decades, is what I consider to be the inspiration to me. He has this ability to draw people in to listen to him, a fabulous storyteller, his passion, and commitment to the anti-discrimination cause has always left me wanting to learn more. In fact it was Leroy and another hero of mine, Luther Blissett, who I met in a coffee bar in Shepherds Bush who encouraged me to join Show Racism the Red Card over 15 years ago, and I have enjoyed the honour of representing this wonderful organisation, and still do. He is a fantastic orator, his use of personal experiences from his playing and management career, as well as his personal life had held a room captivated, attendees coming from all areas of life fascinated by the impressive and inspirational man in front of them, who constantly challenges all to be better and do more to assist in fighting all aspects of discrimination.
I for one was delighted when he was awarded a well-deserved MBE for his services to football and combatting discrimination, no better recipient in my opinion. And as the landscape regarding Inclusion, Diversity and Equality changes, you can have no doubt that front and centre in the fight for change, you will find Leroy Rosenior MBE doing what comes naturally, encouraging, empowering, educating and leading from the front, as I have always known him to do.
And that is why Leroy Rosenior MBE will always be an inspiration and a role model for me.