Chelsea’s first black player Paul Canoville is critically ill in hospital after emergency surgery.
The 58-year-old graced the Blues with distinction between 1981 and 1986, battling severe racism and bigotry while acting as a trailblazer for his community.
The Southall-born winger has battled drug addiction and cancer, but later founded the successful Paul Canoville Foundation, working to build better lives for London’s youngsters.
“We are sad to advise that our founder Paul Canoville is critically ill in hospital after complications set in following emergency surgery,” read a statement from Canoville’s foundation.
“We are aware that his many followers and fans on his social media accounts have been missing his regular posts for two weeks now.
“We know how loved Paul is, and will post updates as we get them, but ask that his family’s wish for privacy is respected.
“The PFA are in contact with Paul’s family and being very supportive.
“Please keep Paul in your thoughts and prayers. Thank you.”
Chelsea threw their support behind Canoville, joining the many voices wishing the well-liked and highly-respected former Blues star a speedy recovery.
“All at Chelsea Football Club wish Paul Canoville, our former player, a rapid recovery following the statement today from his own trust that he is critically ill in hospital,” read a Chelsea statement.
“Paul has a major place in Chelsea history. He made his debut in 1982 and was the first black player in our men’s first team.
“He faced considerable prejudice but stayed strong and went on to make 100 appearances, including during the glorious promotion of 1983-84 and a memorable season in the top-flight that followed.
“In more recent times Paul has been back involved in the club, working on Chelsea Foundation projects and as a host in the hospitality areas at Stamford Bridge.
“He recently discussed racism in football in a special video with Callum Hudson-Odoi. Get well soon Canners!”