After a tough start to life, Paul Canoville became the first black player to join Chelsea back in December 1981 when he was signed from non-league Hillingdon Borough for just £5k. The pacer winger made his debut for the Blues four months later coming on as a substitute for Clive Walker away at Crystal Palace. He notched his first goal the following season scoring a volley against West London rivals Fulham.
In 1983/84, King Canners helped Chelsea secure promotion back to the top flight as 2nd Division Champions with the wing wizard contributing seven goals in 25 appearances. The return to the 1st Division was a successful one for the club and the Stamford Bridge side finished in a respectable sixth place position with Canners netting four goals in 35 games.
The arrival of John Hollins, new signings, off the pitch incidents and injuries limited his appearances to just 19 games in his final season at Chelsea. The following season, King Canners was heading to Elm Park to sign for Reading for £60k but his time in Berkshire was hampered by serious injuries and in November 1987 sadly announced his retirement from professional football aged just 24.
In March 2015 Sky Sports aired a documentary film chronicling his life story entitled Black & Blue: The Paul Canoville Story based on his award winning autobiography ‘Black and Blue’.
90 seconds, 11 Q&A with Paul Canoville:-
1) Childhood team growing up? Apologies in advance, Leeds United.
2) First pair of football boots owned? A pair of Winfield classics from Woolworths.
3) Did you have a nickname in the dressing room and how did you get it? King Canners – used to have my hair in cornrow when training which my teammates thought looked like a crown – hence the name ‘King Canners’.
4) Favourite teammate? Chelsea pair Micky Fillery & Pat Nevin.
5) Toughest opponent? Myself.
6) Which player do you wish you’d had the chance to play with? Chelsea legend Didier Drogba.
7) Favourite football shirt you’ve played in? The Chelsea home shirt from the 1984/85 season.
8) Best stadium for atmosphere? The Kop, Anfield.
9) Biggest influence on your career? My sister June & my aunty Stephanie.
10) Most prized possessions from your playing days? My hat-trick ball from Chelsea against Swansea City back in 1983.
11) What keeps you busy these days? I have spent time concentrating on getting my t-shirts out in the public domain for ‘Love Football Hate Racism‘ which has been a great success. So many people have been showing their support and purchasing. The aim is to raise enough funds to go towards my charity to create workshops for young people. I have also been keeping my campaign alive by continuing to do speaking engagements. Although the pandemic stopped face to face talks, I did plenty of zooms which was very effective. I have a number of projects in the pipeline which I am hoping will drive an interest to my charity as well as investors who will add to what I feel will enable the young people to beat racism and become positive role models in our society.
King Canners @kingcanners
Help support our friends at the Paul Canoville Foundation by ordering one of their new shirts here! @_PCFoundation #ImagineNotBeingChelsea