It’s Black History Month – and we are here to celebrate! We will be marking this month in different ways with the aim of learning and celebrating so much that the Black community have contributed to the Tees area.
We are starting off with the first Black player to play for the Boro, Lloyd Lindbergh Delapenha who scored 93 goals in 270 appearances from 1950 to 1958.
Lloyd Lindbergh Delapenha was born in Jamaica in 1927. His parents chose his middle name because they were impressed by the achievements of Charles Lindbergh, an American pilot who flew solo across the Atlantic that year. The young Delapenha excelled in many different sports as a teenager. He once astonished the organisers of a top level athletics competition by taking part in sixteen events over a one and a half day period, finishing in the top three in every one! At the age of 19, just after the end of WWII, he travelled to England. Although he’d signed up as an Army recruit, his ambition was to play top level football.
Delapenha’s first trial was with Arsenal. That trial was unsuccessful, but his sporting talents became more widely known while he was serving in the army in Egypt. There was talk of him competing for England in the 1948 Olympics and that may well have happened had he stayed in the Army. Instead he was signed by Portsmouth, becoming the first Jamaican to play professional football in England.
Lindy, as he became known, transferred to Middlesbrough in 1950. He stayed with the Boro until 1958 and scored 93 league and FA Cup goals in 270 appearances. He was popular with fans and with team mates. Brian Clough described him as a “marvellous player” and “one of the best I have ever played with.”
As a leading goalscorer in the top division, Delapenha would have been a familiar figure to fans all over the country and featured on one of D C Thompson’s Football Stars cards. https://pin.it/3uuewsa
Delapenha had a powerful shot, and scored many of his goals with long range strikes. He was also the Boro’s designated penalty taker for a few seasons. In one famous incident, he smashed a spot kick so hard it burst through the back of the net. The officials saw the ball bouncing around behind the goal and assumed it had missed!
There was a time when Lindy Delapenha was the only Boro player to own a car, and he famously gave Brian Clough a lift to H Samuel Jewellers in Stockton to buy an engagement ring for his future wife.
Although he’d found fame as a footballer, Lindy Delapenha played local league cricket during the summers in Middlesbrough, often hitting centuries. He married Middlesbrough school teacher Joan Crawford in 1953 and they had three children.
After leaving Middlesbrough, Delapenha played for Mansfield Town, scoring 27 goals in 115 appearances over two years. He finished his professional career in England with a few seasons of non-league football, before moving back to Jamaica.
In Jamaica, Lindy Delapenha continued to play both cricket and football, whilst earning a living in sports coaching and administration until he became a commentator and Director of Sports at the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation. He died in 2017 age 89 and there is an affectionate tribute to him on the Boro website https://www.mfc.co.uk/news/middlesbrough-fc-legend-lindy-delapenha-passes-away-aged-89 as well as a more in-depth article https://www.mfc.co.uk/Delapenha
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