BLACK History Month gives us the opportunity to delve into the archives and highlight a true pioneer who lit up Prenton Park in his short stay at Tranmere Rovers.

Elkanah Onyeali was born in 1938 in Port Harcourt, Nigeria and was soon impressing for a number of local sides thanks to his dazzling pace and skill.

In 1959, Onyeali was was picked to play for Nigeria, scoring two goals on his debut in a 3-1 against Ghana. The striker would famously score four goals in a fixture against Benin - a record that would stand for over 30 years.

Despite his obvious talent, Onyeali was determined to pursue his education and in 1961 he travelled to England to study electrical engineering at the Birkenhead Technical College.

So confident was the centre forward in his abilities that he wrote to both Liverpool and Everton requesting a trial but after his overtures were rejected he came to the attention of Rovers boss Peter Farell who selected the Nigerian to play in three reserve games.

Onyeali was an instant success and was picked for his debut in a thrilling 4-3 win over Bournemouth in which he scored twice.

Nicknamed ‘Ali’ by the fans, Onyeali, who became the first professional black footballer on Merseyside, went on to score nine goals in 16 games while trying his best to continue his studies.

Eventually the pressure told and when Farell was replaced by new manager, Walter Galbraith, ‘Ali’ was released and joined Welsh side Holyhead Town.

Between September 1961 and October 1962, Oneyali played for Prescot Cables whilst studying at Liverpool University and was the club’s top scorer during the 1961–62 season. He returned to Nigeria at the end of his studies.

He later studied in the United States before returning to Nigeria, where he coached teams including the Trojans and the Spartan.

Sadly Onyeali died in August 2008, aged 69. The Elkanah Onyeali Care Foundation was set up in his memory and aims to help young footballers from Nigeria follow in Onyeali’s footsteps.