Leroy Rosenior is a familiar presence onscreen to many of us who watched the BBC’s Football League Show up to 2015 and all over the world due to his work with Premier League Productions. To supporters of clubs including Fulham, QPR, West Ham, Bristol City and Torquay United he is fondly remembered for his work on the pitch, having been a striker and latterly manager.
To those of us working in the anti-racism field, Leroy has also been a brilliant supporter and educator. He has worked with SRtRC over many years to educate young people about racism in society and sport and is now the campaign’s Vice-President.
“It’s Only Banter”, the new book he has written with Leo Moynihan (Four-Four-Two, The Times), is an excellent autobiography that shines a light on all aspects of Leroy’s career, from beginnings as an England school boy, to player, manager, work in the media and as an educator.
Part one of the book tells the story of Leroy’s parents Willie and Gladys, how they met in London, having both made their way here from Sierra Leone and their experiences beginning a family in the capital. Leroy describes his father as a “raconteur” who could be “charming, funny, serious...and people were drawn to him”.
In my experience of working with Leroy over the years, this is a description that could also apply to him. The way his stories and experiences are related in this book are as Leroy would tell them if you were sat talking to him, which makes it very engaging.
The book also shows how well liked Leroy is by those he has met over the years. Leo Moynihan has done a great job getting enlightening quotes from former players, friends, family members and colleagues. This approach adds extra dimensions to the stories and makes the tone conversational, as Leroy quite often responds to the quotes.
After the foreword by Andrew Cole, who played with Leroy at Bristol City, the story of the first-time Leroy experienced racism from fellow pros during a game and the effect it had on him, is recounted and is a powerful way to begin.
Experiences of racism and the effect it has had on Leroy and those around him is a thread that runs through the book. This includes racism endured by his father in the form of a physical attack, from friends as a child, the abusive words of supporters and players. Some of the incidents are truly shocking. Towards the end of the book, Leroy also explores that sometimes racism can be unspoken, in detailing an encounter with security staff when he was a manager.
This leads on to a discussion about the possible use of the ‘Rooney Rule’ with other contributors to the book and the lack of representation across football for BAME coaches, managers and directors. Leroy reflects on how his son, Liam Rosenior, also a professional footballer, may fare when he moves in to management.
“It’s Only Banter” is a great read. It has been put together thoughtfully and captures Leroy’s personality and experiences very well. His respect and depth of feeling for the clubs he played for and managed comes through, so there is much for the fan and neutral to take away from this book.