Former Chelsea winger Paul Canoville, the club’s first black player, is critically ill in hospital following emergency surgery.
The 58-year-old joined Chelsea in 1981 from Hillingdon Borough and went on to make more than 100 appearances for the club while facing considerable racist abuse and prejudice from supporters.
He was also part of the side that won the second division title during the 1983/84 season.
Canoville, who has recovered from cancer on three occasions, continues to be involved with the Blues, working with the Chelsea Foundation on projects and as a host in the hospitality areas on match-days.
In 2009, he founded the Paul Canoville Foundation, an educational charity aimed at transforming the lives of disadvantaged children, and continues to front campaigns tackling racism and discrimination.
“We are sad to advise that our founder Paul Canoville is critically ill in hospital after complications set in after emergency surgery,” his foundation confirmed in a short statement this morning.
“We are aware that his many fans and followers on his social media accounts have been missing his regular posts for over 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 and that they are not contacted by the media. The PFA are in contact with Paul’s family and being very supportive.
“Please keep Paul in your thoughts and prayers. Thank you.”
Chelsea have issued their own statement wishing their former player a swift 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,” it read.
“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.
Paul Canoville of Chelsea celebrates after the 4-4 draw in the Milk Cup against Sheffield Wednesday
(Image: Hugh Hastings/Chelsea…