On this day in auto history - July 15th

Thu 15th Jul 2021

It was on this day in 1989 that the world of football was left reeling from the news that pioneering English winger Laurie Cunningham had been tragically killed in a car crash at the age of just 33.

Cunningham - who was playing for Spanish La Liga side Rayo Vallecano at the time - was declared dead in the early hours, having failed to recover from head injuries sustained in a late-night smash at a notorious accident blackspot on the outskirts of Madrid.

It later emerged that, unlike his business partner Mark Latty who survived the crash, Cunningham wasn’t wearing a seatbelt.

Having made his name initially with Leyton Orient and then West Brom, Cunningham carved his name into history when becoming the first black player to represent England at under 21 level in 1977 before making the first of six full England appearances two years later.

In 1980 he became the first ever English player - and black player - to represent Spanish giants Real Madrid following a high-profile £950,000 move and, such was his impact, his untimely death was front-page news in Spain.

Cunningham's death surprisingly received minimal publicity in Britain at the time but his trailblazing legacy has been celebrated more in recent years, culminating in the unveiling of a bronze statue outside of Leyton Orient’s Brisbane Road ground in 2017.