ON Monday night I have been invited to a film premiere in London’s West End, but I won’t be walking the red carpet with A-list celebrities.

Instead I am one of a chosen few have been invited to an intimate venue for the exclusive showing of the documentary Black and Blue: A Paul Canoville Story.

It profiles the former professional footballer, who was most notable for being Chelsea’s first black player.

He played in an era where racial discrimination, bigotry and violence were customary in sport and Britain in general.

Canoville endured countless incidents of abuse from his own fans.

It wasn’t all Chelsea fans, but there were enough for him to hear.

That’s right, the Chelsea fans. But he didn’t hide or run away – he stood firm and played on.

The difference in how we were treated by the Chelsea fans is worlds apart.

While he was abused and treated like an outcast, I was loved and treated like a member of the family.

There was only just over a decade between our debuts, but without him enduring his nightmare journey I wouldn’t have been able to live my dream.

He went through hell and in doing so broke down racial and social barriers so that players like myself, Frank Sinclair, Ken Monkou, Paul Elliott and more recently Didier Drogba could play at Stamford Bridge and only had to worry about the opposition.

Ithink his role in the modern-day Chelsea is undervalued and definitely not heard enough.

I am writing about him is to pay respect for what he went through rather than to stir up anything, but let’s keep it real, racism in football used to exist and was very bad.

When we talk of more recent racial issues, the reaction is usually the ostrich ‘head in the sand’ type.

I was interviewed as part of the documentary and was asked what I thought about what what Paul had to go through.

I have heard many stories of the struggle black players had in the 1970s had and have tried to imagine playing back then.

What made it so hard was trying to picture the very same fans that have always loved and supported as fans that abused me and hated me.

I like to feel I am mentally tough, but I know I would have found it hard to survive what Paul Canoville went through.

Some players crumble when being called rubbish by fans, so imagine trying to block out racial abuse.

Paul and I are good friends and I’m glad this film is coming out, because his story needs to be seen.

Football is different now and at Chelsea the only colour that matters is the blue on the shirt and not the colour of the skin.

It is a shame that it happened in the first place, but as much as people want to forget the dark past, let’s not bury Paul Canoville’s heroic story with it.

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