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Banquet for Best 50 years on

One of a kind: Clyde Best in action for West Ham United in the early 1970s, doing battle with Arsenal’s Frank McClintock, left, and Pat Rice

Clyde Best will reflect upon his distinguished career at a banquet marking the 50th anniversary of the start of his barrier-breaking stint as a striker at West Ham United

The event is being organised by the group, Friends of Clyde, which includes former local players, family and friends and will be held at Divots Bar & Grill at Belmont Hills Golf Club on July 14.

“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 former Somerset Trojans defender Josef Gooden, speaking on the group’s behalf.

“As you know he was one of the first black stars over in England. There were a few black players that played before Clyde but none had his quality. We want people to understand what he achieved and so we are trying to give him a celebration recognising this.”

Best joined West Ham in 1968 at the tender age of 17 and made his debut a year later in a 1-1 draw at home to Arsenal. He opened his scoring account a month later in West Ham’s 4-2 win over Halifax Town in the League Cup. However, his time in the English game was not without its lows as he was often subjected to racist chanting from the terraces.

“When you look at the racism in today’s football compared to when Clyde went over, it’s like night and day,” Gooden said. “I can’t, in my mind, think of the stuff he had to go through.”

Despite being subjected to racist abuse during his seven years at West Ham, Best stuck it out and became a fans’ favourite at the East London club where he netted 58 goals in 218 appearances. Bests’s ground-breaking exploits inspired future stars such as the late West Bromwich Albion striker Cyrille Regis and Arsenal forward Ian Wright.

“Ian Wright told me personally that one of the main reasons he played football is because of Clyde,” Gooden said. “He even wore the No 8 like Clyde to emulate him. Clyde was not only a good footballer but he was also a trailblazer. He didn’t do it for himself, he did it for the people who followed him, which thousands have.

“I’ve had the pleasure of going to England with Clyde for the last ten years or so and different people that we have met have said he’s the reason why I watch football and are truly glad to have known him.”

All proceeds from next banquet will to towards the Clyde Best Scholarship Fund which was set up to help cover education costs for youngsters in the Somerset community.

“The Clyde Best Scholarship Fund is doing quite well,” Gooden said. “We have given out quite a few scholarships. Each year we try to give out more so this year we are trying to give youngsters from Somerset more money to help supplement their education.”

Anyone interested in attending the banquet can call 703-0012 for ticket information.