"It is never too late to be what you might have been." - George Eliot

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Paul Canoville - Ex Chelsea FC Player

Paul Canoville

Paul Canoville (born 4 March 1962 in Hillingdon) is an English former professional footballer, most notable for being the first ever black player to play for Chelsea.

Due to injuries, he played fewer than 100 matches in The Football League during his career, but was a member of the Chelsea side which won the Second Division title in 1983-84.

Early career

Canoville started out playing for non-league Hillingdon Borough. He signed for Chelsea from them in December 1981.


At the time, Chelsea had among their support a number of hardcore members of far-right and neo-Nazi political groups, as did many English football clubs at the time. Canoville became an immediate and regular target for their racist abuse.

He was a talented, though inconsistent, left-sided player who joined Chelsea at a time when the club seemed to be imploding, both on and off the pitch. He made his debut on 12 April 1982 against Crystal Palace. Canoville claimed in his biography that during the warm-up, he was subject to racist abuse from Chelsea fans. His first full season with the club was one of the worst in its history, as the team avoided relegation to the Third Division on the final day of the season. Canoville nevertheless made an invaluable contribution to the cause with an equaliser against Fulham and a brace in a 4-2 win over Carlisle United.

The following year at Chelsea proved more successful, as a side rejuvenated by a series of John Neal signings were promoted as Second Division champions. He again played an important part by scoring seven goals, including a hat-trick against Swansea City - his only treble for the club. However, the high point in his Chelsea career was his role in a Milk Cup quarter-final win over Sheffield Wednesday in 1985. Chelsea trailed 3-0, and Canoville came on as a half-time substitute; he scored within 11 seconds of the restart, sparking a Chelsea comeback, which he capped by putting Chelsea 4-3 ahead, though a late penalty conceded by Doug Rougvie denied the side a win. But his performances continued to be inconsistent (he missed an open goal in the return game against Wednesday) and thereafter lost his place in the side to Nevin and Mickey Thomas, and was mainly used as a substitute. Canoville was sold to Reading in August 1986 for £50,000.


He had a bright start to his time at Reading, scoring and creating several goals, but suffered a dislocated knee, a torn cartilage and a rupture to his cruciate ligament in a tackle by Sunderland'sDave Swindlehurst on 21 October 1986, three months into his debut season. This effectively ended his professional career at the age of 24. After a failed comeback, he moved down to non-league football, making appearances for Enfield, Maidenhead United and Burnham, before retiring.


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