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Trailblazer: Paul Canoville beats Arsenal's Brian Talbot in 1984It added another layer to Chelsea’s awkward relationship with the issue of race after the club and fans so readily remained loyal to captain John Terry when he infamously shouted the words ‘black ****’ towards Anton Ferdinand last season.

It also inevitably raised the question of whether Chelsea have acted hypocritically this week in so swiftly alleging that referee Mark Clattenburg called John Mikel Obi a ‘monkey’.

Chelsea have come a long way since they first had a black player, Paul Canoville, 30 years ago. Warming up for his debut as a substitute at Crystal Palace, he was met by the chant from his own fans of: ‘Sit down you black ****. You f****** w**, f*** off.’

Winning smiles: Chelsea show off the Champions League trophyWhen he scored he was met with: ‘Nah, it’s still 0-0. The n*****’s scored, it doesn’t count.’ Bananas were thrown at him.

His Chelsea career ended when he was hit by a drunken team-mate who called him by a racist epithet.

Trailblazer: Paul Canoville (front right) beats Arsenal's Brian Talbot in 1984

That was in the Eighties, at a time when right-wing extremism attached itself to football and often expressed itself as hooliganism.

Ken Bates, who sold Chelsea to Roman Abramovich, said this week: ‘The National Front sold their magazines in the Fulham Road and used to wait in the pub opposite to learn the team selection. If they (the Chelsea players) were all white, the National Fronters used to walk across and buy their tickets.

Unacceptable: Chelsea 'supporter' Gavin Kirkham appears to make a 'monkey' gesture toward Manchester United's England striker Danny Welbeck‘It is a lot different today, though it has been a long, tortuous journey. Slowly, things started to change. Thirty years on, it is a different world. Today the furore is over verbal abuse — not to be condoned or tolerated in the least — but meanwhile let us appreciate the progress that has been made.’

A Chelsea fan of nearly 40 years agreed with Bates’s interpretation of progress. Certainly, he thought Stamford Bridge had ‘become less overtly racist’. He said the black players who followed Canoville — Keith Jones, Keith Dublin in the early days — helped change attitudes.

Yet he still felt that an elderly fan who claimed not to rate former striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink might have been conditioned by old, if unspoken, racial prejudice.

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