- Born: March 8, 1956, London, UK
- Died: July 15, 1989, Madrid, Spain
Laurie Cunningham will probably always be best remembered as being one of West Bromwich Albion’s so called Three Degrees, along with Brendon Batson and Cyrille Regis, in the late 1970’s. With the arrival of Batson from Cambridge and the emergence of Cyrille Regis out of non league football the following season, Albion became extremely newsworthy as a high profile club fielding three black players.
Laurie Cunningham began his career at Orient in the second division and immediately made an impression thanks mainly to his blistering pace, he really was a flyer.
During his second season in the first team, however, Cunningham’s all round game developed remarkably quickly and marked him out as a star of the future. Albion signed the exciting winger March 1977 and made his debut against Tottenham Hotspur 12th March 1977 along with Tony Godden helping out in a 2-0 victory at White Hart Lane.
Laurie was valued at £110,000 in his move to the Hawthorns which also saw Joe Mayo move in the opposite direction (sorry Orient!). Laurie only made the subs bench for the semi final against Ipswich in 1978 and was powerless to prevent a 3-1 defeat, emerging only when centre half and captain John Wile finally submitted to a gaping head wound sustained in a nasty clash which saw Brian Talbot open the scoring and leave the field bloody and concussed.
Laurie scored in both legs against Galatasaray and was at his very best in both legs of the tie with Valencia, scoring in the 1-1 draw in Spain before torturing the Spanish defence at the Hawthorns (see film clip )
It was doubtless these two performances, and perhaps his part in the clubs’ famous 5-3 win at Old Trafford against Manchester United (see film clip in 1970s) , which did most to convince Real Madrid to spend £995,000 in the summer of 1979 to take Cunningham to the Bernebeu.
His final game for the Albion 14th May 1979 against ironically Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane this time in a 1-0 defeat. Laurie Cunningham unfortunately lost his life in a car crash in Spain in 1989.
He played 86 league games for Albion 5 as a substitute scoring 21 times 10 games in the FA including 3 as a substitute scoring 3 goals 6 games in the League cup, plus 12 0ther games including UEFA Cup matches.