Producer Dan Egan underlines value of Clyde Best film project
The turnout of players from the 1960s and 70s to Tuesday’s launch of the documentary Transforming the Beautiful Game: The Clyde Best Story, speaks to the impact of the footballer but also the character of the man.
Best was overcome with emotion as he thanked those in attendance at the BFA’s facility named in his honour as he recalled his days as a young Somerset Trojans striker and one of the youngest members of the Bermuda team prior to flying to London in August 1968 at the age of 17 for trials at West Ham United.
He grew into a popular footballer with the London club in the early 1970s after making his debut against Arsenal early in the 1969-70 season. Best was also a hero to many Bermudians, including those he played with and against, many of whom turned out to show their support this week when the film concept was unveiled.
Best’s impact in the face of racial abuse and other challenges, was a key element for Dan Egan, the film’s producer and director, who spoke of the fulfilment experienced while conducting research for the project and his relationship with the legendary player.
“One of the things I love about football is the generational pull of the sport,” Egan said. “The generational pull you can see right here before our eyes and the importance of how we pass it on to others.
“My connection to the Best family goes all the way back to a small school in Maine, Bridgton Academy, where I attended and played soccer with Jerry Best, who is Clyde’s nephew and the best football player I have ever seen.
“Every time I came back to the island I would keep in touch with Jerry. During my time here with the Americas Cup, I got to really spend a lot of time with Clyde. His book had just come out and we would sit and talk about that and the potential of a film,” said Egan in relation to Best’s autobiography, The Acid Test, which was published in 2016.
Egan went on to point to the experience of Julie Anderson, who will be producing the documentary and shared that they will be targeting distribution in Best’s former stamping grounds, the UK and US.
“Julie Anderson is an amazing film producer and an Academy Award-nominated producer who has done a lot of race-relation stories over the years,” said Egan.
“Julie brings a lot of expertise and a really interesting perspective to what we are doing, which is telling a beautiful story that transcends multiple cultures, here in Bermuda, the UK, and of course Clyde’s time in the US.
“That’s the realm in which we are going to distribute and promote the film and every time I have meetings with the Tampa Bay Rowdies, the Portland Timbers and of course West Ham, there is so much support for the film,” Egan said.
Many players from Bermuda’s Pan American Games team that won silver in Winnipeg, Canada in 1967 were also in attendance at Tuesday’s function as well as players from other local clubs including younger players, inspired by Best’s accomplishments in England.
A grateful Best thanked his former team-mates for their influence on his development and paid homage to his mentors over the years.
“Me coming from Bermuda and going to England and making it was because of all of you guys,” Best said. “You have been fantastic role models.
“Randy Horton, in school at West End, helped us and made sure we did the right thing. Vic Ball, David Frost, Mel Lewis, ‘Pinks’ [Lewis], Alfie [Eve], I can’t say enough about you all.
“If everybody was to have had the tutelage I had from you guys, they would be in my position as well. You’ve got to understand how much you all mean to me and I thank you from the bottom of my heart,” Best said.
Meanwhile, Vashun Blanchette, the president of Somerset Cricket Club, is one of the many younger Bermudians who knows and appreciates Best’s contribution to football, though too young to have seen him play in his prime.
“It is truly a story that deserves to be told and once it is told it cannot be banished from history and that’s very important,” Blanchette said.
“To Mr Best, what a great man! You have been a mentor for me, but beyond that you have been a mentor and icon for many across the pond.
“I recall when I was 13 or 14 you took me over to the UK and as an Arsenal fan my childhood hero was Ian Wright. He wore No 8 so I wore No 8.
“That season, coincidentally, Ian Wright was at West Ham and when he saw Mr Best he freaked out and told Mr Best that he wore No 8 because Clyde Best wore No 8. Essentially I wore No 8 because of Clyde Best, indirectly!”
Blanchette hailed Best for his effort with young players all across the country.
“I’m so grateful to be here on behalf of the club, because beyond what you do on the pitch, you continue to offer yourself with such humility off the pitch,” said Blanchette.
“All these young men in front of you can attest to you showing up at training unannounced and asking them if you can have a word with them. No just talking about football but talking about life and the importance of education and things that are going to carry them forth as they grow into young adults.
“I’m eternally grateful for that, and I know beyond Somerset you share that island-wide.
“I would like to thank you, on behalf of the club and Bermuda, for what you’ve not only done for Somerset and the country but also for the global game of football.”
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