Clyde Best gets MBE
Monday 2 Jan 2006
Clyde Best, who has been made an MBE in the Overseas New Year's Honours List, blazed a trail for black footballers in the English leagues.
He played at a time when racism was rife on the terraces, and the West Indian centre-forward, who came through the youth team ranks to make over 200 appearances for West Ham, had to endure the sort of bigotry which happily the game is now largely rid of.
Best said: "It wasn't easy. But I couldn't just think of myself. There were plenty of people behind me. You can't look back in life, you have to keep looking forward, and I had a job to do."
Best had to put up with 'monkey' chants, hate mail and mindless vitriol, all because of the colour of his skin.
But he rode out the hatred and remains thankful for his experience in English football, in which he became admired as a powerhouse striker.
England, and Britain, was in the early stages of change when Best arrived in 1968, but it was far from multi-cultural society of today.
Yet in the East End of London the teenager found a spiritual home.
He played alongside the likes of Bobby Moore, who was fresh from lifting the World Cup, and Moore's fellow England heroes Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters. Namesake George Best also became a close friend.
Harry Redknapp was another team-mate, while Ron Greenwood, the Hammers manager who went on to boss England, rated Best "the best 17-year-old I've ever seen" on his arrival from Bermuda.
Almost four decades later, Best is recognised for his contribution and explained: "It's fantastic to be in the same company as Bobby Moore, Sir Bobby Charlton and Geoff Hurst in being honoured by the Queen.
"When you start off your career you never expect it. I'll never forget those memories of England. To come to a country so far away from Bermuda and to play with these guys stays with you for the rest of your life.
"Now I'm looking forward to coming back to visit Buckingham Palace and I'm sure my wife and daughter will want to come over too. It'll be nice to meet up with some old friends and have a good knees-up.
"I thank West Ham for giving me the opportunity to go over there and make people happy."
Although he has been reluctant to admit it, Best was one of the pioneering players of the past 50 years.
By scoring 23 goals in the 1971/72 season he also proved his great talent, and towards the end of that campaign West Ham became the first English club to field three black players in the same match - Best, Clive Charles and Ade Coker.
Frustrated at missing out on the 1975 FA Cup final team, Best left for the United States.
Having helped break down barriers in England, he went on to achieve a memorable feat while at the Tampa Bay Rowdies, scoring a hat-trick against the New York Cosmos while Pele replied with two.
Kick It Out on Twitter
"Football should be easily available to everyone, whether it’s playing, coaching or supporting."
Danny Wallace, former Manchester United midfielder and Level Playing Field ambassador