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Best’s life story was a decade in the making

From humble beginnings at Somerset Trojans to one of English football's first black heroes, Clyde Best has shared his inspirational story in his long-awaited autobiography.

Best's book The Acid Test charts his groundbreaking journey and tackles the discrimination he overcame because of the colour of his skin in an era when racism was rife on the terraces.

The Acid Test has been more than a decade in the making, with the former West Ham United favourite now set to travel to London to promote its release by publishers deCourbertin Books.

Best hopes the book will not only be a trip down memory lane for those who remember his exploits, but also enthrall a younger generation of supporters unaware of the intolerance he encountered.

“It's been good getting down on paper some of the things you had to go through that people may not know about,” said the 65-year-old.

“Some of it wasn't easy and it's nice for people to hear first-hand from me because a lot of people have done the talking over the years.

“I've always thought, ‘Let them go ahead and say what they want', but I feel as though it's my turn now.”

Best was a trailblazer for black players in England during the 1960s and Seventies and helped smash the glass ceiling which for so long had hindered players from minority backgrounds.

His 58 goals in 218 games for West Ham etched his name in the club's folklore, but the forward suffered some extreme abuse from fans, mirroring the strong resistance to immigrants landing on Britain's shores back then.

“I talk all about [the racism] and I talk about everything,” Best said.

“If me putting up with that kind of stuff helped the guys of colour playing today then that's what life's all about.

“We're always looking for improvement and if I'm able to do that then, hey, all power to it.

“There are a lot of players appreciative, like Micah Richards, Ian Wright, Cyrille Regis and Viv Anderson, tons of them, and I'm glad if I was able to be an inspiration.”

Best particularly enjoyed recounting his days at West Ham where he shared a special bond with the fans over an eight-year love affair, and played alongside England World Cup winners Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters.

He also described the culture shock of swapping island life for West London and how Ron Greenwood, who later managed England, took him under his wing.

“That's where it all started for me and without West Ham, where would I be,” Best said.

“I owe them a lot for giving me an opportunity and they were great people who I will never forget.

“Hopefully the fans enjoy it and as many people as possible read it; I hope it can go around the world.

“I'm sure there's a lot of people who don't know my story who may take something from it.”

The Acid Test also chronicles Best's time in Holland with Dutch giants Feyenoord, as well as his spell in the United States where he joined the likes of Pelé, Franz Beckenbauer and Johan Cruyff in helping grow the game.

The idea for the book was first broached by Jonathan Kent, the Assistant Editor of The Royal Gazette, while Derek Tully, a former deputy principle at Clearwater Middle School, was also involved in its research.

Best was later put in touch with sports journalist Andrew Warshaw, the book's ghostwriter, by Harry Redknapp, the former Tottenham Hotspur manager who played alongside the Bermudian at West Ham.

“Jonathan and then Derek were the ones who first put me up to it,” Best said. “It was on and off for a while, but then Andrew went with it and has done a great job, and I'm happy with it. It's funny because he's a Spurs fan, but we got on great!

“The book's just come off the press and we're hoping to get a bundle in Bermuda where people can buy it. I'll also be setting up something in London to do a book signing at the new stadium.

“Hopefully that will be soon, though, before it gets too cold!”

• The Acid Test is available online from www.decoubertin.co.uk and costs £20.

Blazing a trail: Best in action for West Ham in the early 1970s, doing battle with Arsenal's Frank McClintock, left, and Pat Rice.

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Published August 26, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated August 26, 2016 at 5:31 pm)

Best’s life story was a decade in the making

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