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Best was a trailblazer for black footballers in the UK

Without doubt, Clyde Cyril ‘Bunny' Best stands in the forefront of Bermuda's most outstanding soccer players. His prodigious footballing talent was initially spotted when he was playing for Somerset Cricket Club. He was a graceful, yet powerful and astonishingly fast striker. He was a prolific goal scorer, one whose dazzing skills left both players and spectators gasping in awe.

Whilst playing for SCC Trojans he destroyed many opposing teams with his deadly strikes. Rapidly gaing a reputation as a strong player with two good feet and as great header of the ball, he possessed an abundance of the skills of the traditional English centre forward —tough to dispossess when he had the ball and extremely effective in the air.

It was no surprise, therefore, when only fifteen years old, Graham Adams, Bermuda's National Coach at the time, knew Ron Greenwood, manager of West Ham United of the English First Division. Adams spoke to Greenwood about a brilliant young Bermudian who do might well at the top level of English soccer. The rest is history.

Upon his arrival at Upton Park, the iconic ground of First Division West Ham United in 1968 Clyde found himself playing alongside a galaxy of superstars of English soccer. Bobby Moore who captained England to its glorious 4-2 World Cup triumph over West Germany at Wembley in 1966, Geoff Hurst who scored a hat-trick in the World Cup Final, Martin Peters who scored England's second goal in the World Cup Final, Trevor Brooking who was destined to have a successful career on England's national team and Harry Redknapp who currently manages Queen's Park Rangers, newly promoted to the English Premier League, amongst others.

Clyde had an immediate impact upon joining West Ham's first team. His brave, bold striking style enabled him to stand tall among those West Ham superstars. He made his first team debut for West Ham in a 1-1 home draw against London neighbours Arsenal on 25 August, 1969 before a capacity crowd of 39,590 at Upton Park He scored his first goal for West Ham in a 4-2 win over Halifax Town, on 3 September, 1969. Clyde played a total of 218 games for West Ham and scored 58 goals during a little more than seven seasons at the club. Clyde was one of the post-Second World War black players in British football. At a time when racism regularly reared its ugly head in the United Kingdom and as the only black player for West Ham, Clyde was on occasion subjected to racist chanting whilst on the field; monkey chanting and the hurling of bananas and peanuts on the pitch. Yet he responded stoicly and with admirable dignity. He did not allow these racist behaviours to have a negative impact upon his playing ability or his dedication to West Ham. Recognising that those who perpetrated racism were the victims of ignorance and bigotry, he always held his head high.

He had a huge impact on the club fans who salute and revere him to this day. He is fondly referred to as “The Legend”; and West Ham salutes him as an important catalyst in the professional careers of many black footballers in the English game. Increased international television coverage of the game meant that Clyde's magnificent skill and strengths were seen by a new audience of black fans who had not witnessed anything like him before. He was truly a trainblazer; one who paved the way for many black foreign players currently playing in the Barclays Premier League. He was a beacon of excellence and hope for blacks worldwide, particularly those from the United Kingdom, Caribbean, Africa and South America.

Clyde may therefore feel justly proud as a result of the brave and powerful steps that he took at West Ham over forty years ago. Ensuing generations of black players owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude. Bernie Flood of the West Ham Echo wrote: When accolades for the great black sportsmen of the 20th Century are handed out, Clyde Best deserves to be somewhere near the top of the list. — Written by Diane Hunt in the Football Booklet, Nov 20, 2009, Updated Nov 12, 2012.

Clyde Cyril ‘Bunny' Best

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Published June 21, 2014 at 9:00 am (Updated June 21, 2014 at 9:18 am)

Best was a trailblazer for black footballers in the UK

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