Ricky Hill: New book reveals Luton legend was first British South Asian to play for England

Ricky Hill made three England appearances between 1982 and 1986; new book about Hill's life details how family on his father's side are Indian, making him the first British South Asian to play for England; Hill's family originate from Lucknow in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh

PA NEWS PHOTO 24/11/83 LONDON BORN MIDFIELDER RICKY HILL OF LUTON TWON F.C. IN ACTION
Image: Ricky Hill spent 14 years at Luton and made three England appearances

Ricky Hill became the first British South Asian to represent England at senior level when he turned out for the Three Lions in the Eighties, according to a new book just released.

'Love of the Game: The Man who Brought the Rooney Rule to the UK' is written by Hill and co-authored by Adrian Durham. The autobiography focuses on Hill's role as a pioneer who devised an equivalent of the NFL's Rooney Rule for English football.

The book also outlines how Hill is the first player of Indian origin to have represented England and how that would make him the first South Asian player in England's history.

The former central midfielder made three international appearances during the Eighties, with his debut coming as a substitute in a European Qualifier against Denmark on September 22, 1982.

His only England start came three weeks later against Germany at Wembley Stadium where Hill had sold matchday programmes as a child. Hill's third and final international appearance came in a friendly against Egypt in Cairo in 1986.

Hill's mother is Jamaican but his family on his father's side are from the city of Lucknow in India. Coincidentally, the father of the first British South Asian to play in the Premier League, Jimmy Carter, was also brought up in Lucknow, capital of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

preview image 5:28
The Premier League's first British South Asian player Jimmy Carter features in our British South Asians in Football special

Hill's great-grandparents are both Indian and moved to Jamaica from India shortly after the turn of the 20th century. Hill's grandparents are also Indian, and his grandfather John Hill was originally named Gurcharan. Loosely translated from Hindi or Punjabi, Gurcharan means 'at the feet of the teacher'.

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Hill's father Joseph, who was one of 11 children, eventually moved to London where he married Ricky's mother Doris, a Jamaican woman who Joseph had previously been at school alongside in Jamaica. The book says Joseph was the only sibling of the 11 to marry someone from outside of Indian ancestry.

A talented footballer in his early years, Ricky Hill grew up in the London Borough of Brent, not far from Wembley Stadium. He was spotted playing for Neasden's John Kelly Boys Technology College by then-Luton reserve team boss David Pleat during a Schools' cup tie in Hitchin in 1975.

Given his Hatters first-team debut by Harry Haslam a year later, Hill would become a mainstay in Luton's midfield, playing a pivotal role in the title-winning 1981-82 campaign, as they clinched promotion to the top-flight as champions of the old Second Division.

Hill was also part of one of English football's biggest domestic cup shocks when his close friend Brian Stein scored in the last minute to seal a 3-2 win against Arsenal in the 1988 League Cup final. The game is often described as the greatest in Luton's history by Hatters fans.

The former midfielder amassed over 500 appearances across 14 years for Luton and he also played English league football for Leicester. Hill went on to play for French team Le Havre before turning out for US sides Cocoa Expos and Tampa Bay Rowdies.

Former football player Emile Heskey attends the Premier League Asia Trophy Skills Session at Macpherson Stadium on July 18, 2017 in Hong Kong, Hong Kong 1:15
Former striker Emile Heskey talks about the love of football among the South Asian community in his hometown of Leicester, and how players like Hamza Choudhury can inspire the next generation

Hill has had two spells as Rowdies manager and also had stints as a youth coach at both Sheffield Wednesday and Tottenham. He returned to Kenilworth Road as manager a little over 20 years ago, during a period of financial upheaval for Luton.

Speaking last year about that four-month spell in charge of the Hatters, Hill told Sky Sports News: "I went back as the manager in 2000, took over a club that was in decline at that stage, had been in administration for three-and-a-half years.

"The soul had been ripped out of the club, but I was given just four months in that post. So that's the sad part of my journey in that respect."

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Norway midfielder Ghayas Zahid hopes his goalscoring heroics can inspire South Asian heritage players from across the world to push on and make it at the highest level

There has been no second chance in the English game. Hill has been forced to watch from the sidelines while former team-mates forged lasting managerial careers.

"Someone like Danny Wilson that's had a 1,000 games as a manager, I take my hat off to him," said Hill who won league titles with both the Rowdies and Trinidadian side San Juan Jabloteh.

"Iain Dowie has had a number of opportunities and the list goes on and on. And obviously, one of my great friends Brian Horton has done great in 2000 games, which is wonderful.

Ricky Hill 1:14
Hill told Sky Sports News in February 2021 that he feels 'invisible' in the UK, despite his success as a coach abroad

"For me, personally as an individual, I would have liked to have thought in my own self that I could emulate what they have done and what they have achieved."

Hill, who celebrated his 62nd birthday earlier this month, said: "I dreamt of having a similar career as a manager that I had as a player. It hasn't happened to date, but my dream hasn't stopped."

'This is a game-changing moment'

England fans group Apna England have reacted with delight to the news that Hill is the first British South Asian ever to play for an England team at senior international level.

Apna England spokesperson, Jaideep Mann, told Sky Sports News: "This is a momentous occasion and fabulous news for England fans and indeed all football fans from every single background.

"But for British South Asians who love the Beautiful Game, make no mistake, this is a game-changing moment.

"Who knew that when Ricky Hill - one of the best midfielders of his generation - donned the Three Lions shirt in the 80s he made history!

"This is time to celebrate and we hope Ricky's achievements in the game give encouragement to the current and future crop of elite South Asian talent, giving them the belief that they too can one day proudly wear the Three Lions across their chest."

British South Asians in Football

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