This month marks 51 years since Reading FC’s first black player made their first team debut.
Andrew (Andy) Macarthur Alleyne was born in Barbados in 1951. His family moved to the UK and settled in Reading where he attended Alfred Sutton Secondary School. Whilst at school, his sporting talent soon became evident.
The school magazines record him playing regularly for the cricket, rugby and football teams. He played as a forward for the under-13 football team that won the league in 1962/3. In the rugby team, he played at half back for the under 13s where his speed was an advantage. One report described “Alleyne with his speed and snake-like body swerves” as “the most elusive character on the field” (D/EX2938/1/3).
Alleyne was responsible for writing the report for the Under 16 cricket XI in 1966. The cricket team had mixed fortunes that year with a loss against Battle school and draw against Ashmead’s School, but victories against Grove school and E. P. Collier. The victory against E. P. Collier appears to have been very exciting with the Sutton team being left 70 minutes to score 98 runs. This resulted in “some very entertaining cricket…and this score was passed for the loss of only 4 wickets” (D/EX2938/1/4). A certain Greenidge was top scorer with 32 runs. This was one Gordon Greenidge, fellow Barbadian who would go on to have a successful career playing cricket for Hampshire and the West Indies. He is regarded as one of the most destructive opening batsmen to play the game and it seems E. P. Collier may have got a glimpse of this.
Alleyne was clearly talented at various sports, but football appears to have been his passion. Whilst playing as an amateur, he became a regular in the Reading Youth team in the late 1960s, but was released by Reading at the end of the 1969 season. He continued to play in lower leagues for Newbury Town and Reading Argyle, but also got a job as a technician in the Reading Post Office telephone exchange.
He gained a call up to the reserves by Reading’s caretaker manager, Jimmy Wallbanks, in 1971. He then got his opportunity to make his first team debut on 21 October 1972 in place of the injured Dennis Butler. The Liverpool Echo described this as “a surprise choice at right-back” but Alleyne told the Reading Evening Post that Charlie Hurley, the Reading manager, had suggested he would “get a chance” soon.
The game against Stockport ended in a 1-1 draw, but Alleyne’s performance appears to have been one of the bright spots of the match and was described by the Reading Evening Post as “Andy Alleyne’s match”. He scored the only goal for Reading from almost 50m.
The Reading Evening Post reported on the goal:
“Seven minutes into the second half, the West India-born amateur, out on the touchline only a few yards into the Southport half, hit over a long, high cross, which bombed down directly out of the sun. With a couple of Reading forwards racing in, Southport’s goalkeeper got both hands to the ball as it came down just under the crossbar, but allowed it to slip through into the corner of the net.”
Just three weeks after this game, Alleyne was handing in his notice to the Post Office telephone exchange as Reading agreed to sign him as a pro. On Friday 17 November 1972, Alleyne visited Elm Park during his lunch break in order to sign on as a professional player. His younger brother, Ian, who was also a football player, was there to witness the moment. Reading FC described that it was “his bombshell performances” that earned him the contract (D/EX2148/7/22).
Alleyne would go on to appear for Reading 53 times in league and cup games from 1972-1975. He was a regular starter in 1972-73 where he helped the back four gain Reading the tag of “having the best defensive record in the league” (Reading Chronicle, Friday December 22, 1972, p.10). However, the signing of Stewart Henderson in June 1973 meant his chances decreased. In May 1976 Reading released him. However, he continued playing football and played for local teams including Wokingham Town and South Reading.
Andy Alleyne married fellow Barbadian Maureen Braithwaite and together they had 4 children. Alleyne passed away in 2012 after a battle with cancer.
We would love to collect more material relating to Reading Football Club or Andy Alleyne. Please get in touch with us if you have something to donate or memories to share.