Best backs Pellegrini to succeed at West Ham
Clyde Best is encouraged by Manuel Pellegrini’s arrival as manager of West Ham United as he celebrates his 50th anniversary since signing for the East London club this summer.
It has been an eventful close season for West Ham, with Pellegrini replacing David Moyes in the hot seat and the club signing players such as Felipe Anderson, the Brazil midfielder, from Lazio for a club-record 36 million pounds (about $48 million), and England midfielder Jack Wilshire, from Arsenal.
And Best, who signed for West Ham in August 1968 and stayed at Upton Park for eight years, is hopeful that the fans enjoy a successful season at the London Stadium.
Chilean Pellegrini joins from Chinese club Hebel China Fortune, whom he joined in 2016 after a three-year spell with Manchester City, during which he won the Premier League title in 2013-14.
“I just hope that the players we’ve bought are able to go and produce and make the fans happy because we deserve more,” Best said. “The fans are loyal and passionate.
“A lot of them say they don’t mind if we win or lose as long as we play attractive football and what I like about this coach that’s coming in is they like his attitude because he’s coming to win. I think it’s right that you come to win and I’m just glad that he’s been given the opportunity to go there and hopefully he can turn us around.”
Best was guest of honour at a banquet at Divots Bar & Grill at Belmont Hills Golf Club in Warwick on Saturday night, marking his anniversary. The event was organised by the group Friends of Clyde, which includes former local players, family and friends.
“A few of Clyde’s friends realised this year is the 50th anniversary of him leaving Bermuda to go over to West Ham, so they got together and came up with this idea of having something to mark this wonderful and memorable occasion,” said Josef Gooden, the former Somerset Trojans defender who was speaking on the group’s behalf.
Indeed, Harry Redknapp, a former team-mate of Best’s at West Ham and the club’s manager from 1994 to 2001, was due to attend, but was still on media duty at the World Cup because England were involved in the third-place play-off game on Saturday.
It is clear how much West Ham means to Best and the memories of him signing are still fresh in his mind.
“It seems like it was just yesterday,” he said of the day he signed. “Really — I wish it was, compared to what they make today!
“I have to thank my friend Josef. He was the one who said about this. I realised it was 50 years, but not realising that it was just coming next month, so hopefully I can go to England in August and that will really top it off.
“The club means more than anything. When you’ve been blessed to play at a club like West Ham that produces the players that they produce, you feel privileged to have been a part of that. People like Bobby Moore, Martin Peters, Billy Bonds, Trevor Brooking, Frank Lampard; the list goes on and on. You look at the new breed; people like Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard Jr, Joe Cole; it goes on and on. It was a great club for me; a perfect fit and I’m glad I had the opportunity to do it.”
Best has also been encouraged by England at the World Cup, comparing the side to those he played for under the late Ron Greenwood — who would go on to manage England from 1977 to 1982 — at Upton Park.
“They don’t call it The Football Academy for nothing,” Best said of West Ham. “We were brought up playing the game the right way.
“Even though you have teams like City who play attractive football, under Ron Greenwood West Ham would always play attractive football. It’s a shame that he’s not here to see what’s going on today because this is something that he envisioned was everybody in England trying to play.
“You look at the England team now and you look at the way they’re playing, you can tell that the kids are grasping and learning and picking up good habits, so that’s a good thing.”
Nevertheless, Best has not been totally impressed with the World Cup. He is not enamoured with video assistant referees, but has been enthused by Croatia, who lost to France 4-2 in the final in Moscow on Sunday.
“I’m not such a believer in a lot of the rule changes that they’re trying to implement,” Best said. “My thing is that football is a game played by humans; humans make mistakes. And the referee is human; he is going to make mistakes. When I get in front of goal and I miss a chance, nobody says anything, but if the referee does it, they want to take his head off.
“It is different; it’s not like it used to be, but it’s something that we have to live with because they’re going to make the changes that they want to make any way, without us or with us, so you’ve just got to learn to put up with it.
“I wouldn’t say it’s the best World Cup ever. When you look at the 1970 World Cup, the game’s different. What I try and tell people is that you need to take it in its period. You look at Ronaldo, you look at Messi, you look at Neymar, would you say there were sensations in this World Cup? So, to me, if you’re going to be a big superstar like that, you’ve got to play on the big stage and show people what you can do.
“I was glad for a country like Croatia because when you look and see what they’ve been through and to be where they are today — it’s fantastic. The old Yugoslavia has always produced good players. I always call them the Brazilians of Europe because they’ve had tons and tons of players like that.”
Finally, with Cup Match coming up, Best agrees with Vashun Blanchette, the new president of his beloved Somerset, that the trophy will still reside in the West End after the event.
“I’m like him!” Best said of Blanchette. “When you look at the talent that we have, we have bags of talent in Somerset. The people that play for Somerset are not only intelligent cricketers, they’re intelligent human beings, who are going off to college and have degrees and stuff like that, they should be able to carry them on the field.
“If we lose we just have to regroup and start again, but it’s something that I don’t think is going to happen!”
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