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Best still remembered as football pioneer

Decades after his barrier-breaking exploits at West Ham United, the significance of Clyde Best’s achievements in the English game are still being observed and appreciated.

Best, one of the first black footballers in the English game, scored 47 goals in 186 appearances for the Hammers between 1968 and 1976.

His pioneering achievements inspired many black youths in the UK, including North Londoner Alex Jefferson who recalls watching the Bermudian striker in action during his heyday.

He said: “I have very early memories of Clyde Best. When I was a youngster growing up he was quite an inspiration to me because he played for a big team, West Ham, that had basically just won the World Cup for England in 1966.

“He played for them as the main black representative in English football so he was a major, major superstar at a time when there wasn’t a lot of black people in the public eye. So he was kind of an inspirational figure and someone to look up to.

“My father was a West Ham fan and he pushed me on to be a West Ham fan when I was younger . Because of Clyde I followed that way till I was about 11 and now I’m just an Arsenal supporter.”

Jefferson, 53, admires the way Best overcame the abuse he was confronted with to become a respected player in his own right.

“He had to put up with so much verbal abuse and people throwing bananas at him that he really is a ground breaker and pioneer who eventually won over all the people and was a massive cult favourite with the fans,” he said. “He is a good example to people to not let others put you down with their words and believe in yourself and carry on.”

Best, 62, was inducted into the Bermuda Sports Hall of Fame in 2004 and awarded an MBE two years later for his services to football and the local community.

In more recent times there have been calls for Best, the Jackie Robinson of English football, to be granted knighthood — something which has sparked much debate in the local community.

Jefferson reckons Best is worthy of such recognition.

“I think he’s very deserving because he would’ve put your Island on the map to so many people who wouldn’t have known about him or come to know about him,” he said. “And plus as a human he’s worked hard to equal things up for black people, so he definitely deserves it. He’s someone your country should be proud of.”

Following his move away from Upton Park, Best went on to play for Feyenoord in the Netherlands as well as for North American teams Portland Timbers, Tampa Bay Rowdies and Toronto Blizzard.

Clyde Best pictured during his West Ham heyday.

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Published May 21, 2013 at 2:11 pm (Updated May 21, 2013 at 2:11 pm)

Best still remembered as football pioneer

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