Brendon Batson landscape

A prominent member of West Bromwich Albion’s pioneering “Three Degrees”, full-back Brendon Batson played an important role in the Baggies’ successes in the late seventies and early eighties.

Born in Grenada, Batson and his family moved to the West Indies at the age of six, before migrating to England aged nine in 1962. Brendon started his career on schoolboy terms at Arsenal, winning the FA Youth Cup during his time in the academy, before signing his first professional contract at the North London club one month before his eighteenth birthday.

Batson became the first Black player to wear the famous red and white when he made his debut at Newcastle United in March 1972, coming on as a substitute for Charlie George. Over the next three years, Brendon made another nine appearances for the Highbury outfit, but could not supplant Double-winning full-back Pat Rice from the starting eleven.

In 1974, he was snapped up by Cambridge United manager Bill Leivers as part of the U’s rebuild. The club had recently been relegated back to the Fourth Division, and Leivers was relieved of his duties by October. Under his replacement Ron Atkinson, Batson would flourish, earning the captain’s armband and becoming almost ever-present in a team that won the title, then promotion to the Second Division in consecutive seasons.

A maquette of Brendon Batson, Cyrille Regis and Laurie Cunningham, previously on display at the museum.

After five successful years at the Abbey Stadium, Batson left to join up with Atkinson at West Bromwich Albion, with Cambridge securing a £28,000 fee for the right-back. In doing so, he teamed up with winger Laurie Cunningham and forward Cyrille Regis, at a time when Black footballers were considerably less commonplace in English football. The trio were affectionately dubbed “The Three Degrees” by their manager, named after the pop trio of the same name.

After enduring a difficult start to life at the Hawthorns, Batson soon made that full-back position his own. The Baggies finished third in his first season at the club, securing UEFA Cup qualification for the first time in the club’s history. He featured in all but one of West Bromwich Albion’s league games en route to a lofty third-place finish, and played in every minute of their run to the UEFA Cup quarter-finals.

Batson would remain a key part of the Albion squad until 1982, making three England B appearances during this time, before a knee injury ultimately curtailed his playing career at the age of just 29. Throughout his career, Brendon endured various forms of racial abuse and discrimination from supporters during a particularly tumultuous period of terrace hooliganism and violence.

Brendon Batson presented with his award by Deputy Chair Jane Bateman (left) and museum CEO Tim Desmond (right).

These experiences would shape Brendon’s post-playing career: first with the Professional Footballers’ Association, then later in the development of the Kick It Out campaign. He served as Deputy Chief Executive of the PFA for almost twenty years, and remains a trustee of the union. He was awarded an OBE for services to football in 2015.

Principal clubs: Arsenal, Cambridge United, West Bromwich Albion

Inducted: 2024

Jack Greenwell

From a mining town in County Durham to Barcelona’s longest-serving manager.

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