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Lindy, A Pioneer From 60 Years Ago

20 October 2022

The Stags have so many reasons to be proud of their history - we have always been a proud club with devoted fans and the Lindy Delapenha factor is another 64-carat gold reason to be proud to wear the amber and blue.

Lindy left north Nottinghamshire as long ago as July 1961 and his name will mean nothing to latter day generations of fans. 
 
Sixty years later, it's easy to forget just how class-ridden and riddled with racism parts of British society were. 
 
Delapenha was one of the first professional footballers to bridge that racial divide, and he did it in the colours of Mansfield Town for three years. 
 
Born in the West Indies, Lloyd Lindbergh Delapenha was the first Jamaican to play professional football in England, and the first player of colour to turn out for the Stags. 
 
Nobody would think twice today about the skin colour of any Stags’ player, but the 1960s were a different proposition entirely. 
 
The world was a different place - a full four years later in 1965 black players boycotted the American Football League All-Star Game in New Orleans in protest at blatant discrimination. They were not allowed to eat at the same restaurants as the white players, locals in the French Quarter jeered at them, and cab drivers took the black players outside the city instead of to their hotel. 
 
New Orleans 1965 was not Mansfield 1958, when Lindy first came to Field Mill (now called One Call Stadium), but the comparison is valid because it illustrates the severe prejudices in some parts of the so-called civilised Western World against black sportsmen all those years ago, and highlights just how brave Delapenha was to confront those prejudices head-on and forge a highly successful career as an English professional footballer. 
 
Lindy, a winger/inside forward, joined Mansfield in June 1958 following a remarkable eight-year career with Middlesbrough, where he scored 93 League and FA Cup goals in 270 appearances.

Originally spotted by an English football scout while playing for the British Army, he signed for Portsmouth in April 1948 as the first Jamaican to play in England. He won a league championship medal with Pompey in 1948 and left for Middlesbrough in April 1950. 
 
After eight years at Ayresome Park, he arrived at Field Mill, where he scored 27 goals in 115 appearances over three seasons from 1958 to 1961. 
 
A retrospective feature on Lindy in the Jamaica Observer in November 2004 recalled his time with the Stags. "He left Middlesbrough after a string of severe injuries, to join Third Division team Mansfield Town. Mansfield would come to worship Delapenha. He spent three years there in which he delighted the crowds with something they had rarely seen." 
 

Lindy's legacy played an invaluable part in helping deliver the home of the world's most popular sport from the evils of racism.

 
Lindy retired from league football in 1960, played non-league football for Hereford United, Burton Albion and Heanor Town, and eventually returned to the Caribbean, where he enjoyed a long and distinguished career with the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation. Those fortunate enough to see him play at Field Mill, men and women who will now be in their late 60s, 70s, 80s and older, are unlikely ever to forget him, and not merely for his wonderful ball skills. 
 
For Lindy was a pioneer who helped change the face of English football, helping rid it of the hateful racism which destroyed others. It's fair to say that without the likes of Lindy, and other black players such as the late Charlie Williams at Doncaster Rovers, who fought off the bigots by becoming a stand-up comic after hanging up his boots, the careers of men such as Viv Anderson, the first black player to represent England, may have been stillborn. 



Because not everybody was as strong as the Jamaican who won over the Field Mill faithful..... 

Lindy returned to his homeland of Jamaica a celebrity, but a hugely talented black South African by the name of Albert Johanneson, who played for Don Revie's all-star Leeds United side for nine years up to 1970, scoring 68 goals in 200 games, was not so fortunate. Albert was the first black player to play in the FA Cup Final, against Liverpool in 1965, and was a marvellously gifted talent. 
 
But the South African was apparently a gentle, shy soul, who found life increasingly difficult after his playing days ended. By the early 1970s, Albert was alone in Leeds, his wife and children gone, and his drinking out of control. He was found dead in a rundown tower block flat, a penniless alcoholic, a once proud athlete reduced to squalor and doomed to an early demise. 
 
Racism may, or may not, have accelerated his decline, but it's worth recalling that black players often had to run a gauntlet of bananas thrown from the terraces in that era. A full 20 years later, Liverpool and England star John Barnes was to complain of the same lunatic behaviour.  The tragically early death of Albert Johanneson may not have been entirely due to racism but the climate of the day would not have helped such a sensitive soul. 
 
As the also now deceased George Best said of the ex-Leeds winger: "Albert was quite a brave man to actually go on the pitch in the first place...and he went out and did it. He had a lot of skill... a nice man, as well, which is, more important, more important than anything." 
 
The sad death of Albert Johanneson contrasts starkly with the successful life and career of Lindy Delapenha. But without those early pioneers such as Lindy, Albert, Charlie Williams at Doncaster and others, racists would have continued to hold an ugly sway over English football. 
 
And this football club, Mansfield Town, played a key role in helping confront the racists at a time when the US civil rights movement was beginning to change the consciousness of the whole world. 
 
Lindy's Football League playing days eventually came to an end at Field Mill, but his legacy played an invaluable part in helping deliver the home of the world's most popular sport from the evils of racism. 
 
For that, Lindy Delapenha and Mansfield Town should be forever proud, 60 years after the Jamaican's last game on the Field Mill turf.
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Lindy sadly passed away in January 2017, aged 89, at his daughter’s home in Kingston, Jamaica, having suffered a series of strokes in the previous week and lost his speech, it was reported.  
 
In remembrance of Lindy’s service to the club, a minute's applause was held before the Stags' 2-0 win at home to Leyton Orient on 28 January 2017.

The above article was originally written by lifelong Stags' fan and journalist Jon Griffin for the matchday programme 'The Stag' in September 2011 and some dates have therefore been updated in the above feature from the original version.



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