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The Mercernary 2:34 Wed Feb 24
Happy 70th Birthday Clyde Best
Excellent read (long!) from the official site:

As he celebrates his 70th birthday on Wednesday, West Ham United great Clyde Best, who blazed a trail for black footballers, looks back on his favourite moments in a Claret and Blue shirt...

District line dilemma

Everyone knew that West Ham played at Upton Park but, over in Bermuda – a tiny Atlantic island measuring 20 square miles – we certainly weren’t familiar with the finer details of London’s Underground!

I’d been playing for Bermuda in the Pan American Games and the Olympic qualifiers, when our national coach, Graham Adams – a friend of Ron Greenwood – organised a trial for me at West Ham United.

I was just 17 when I flew to Europe in August 1968 for the first-ever time but after waiting at Heathrow for an hour, it finally dawned that nobody was coming to meet me.

I thought I’d head to the stadium before it got dark and finding my way onto the District Line, got off at ‘West Ham’, assuming I’d find the Boleyn Ground there.

Seeing me wandering around with my suitcase, a helpful gentleman explained that Upton Park was two stops away and, noting it was Sunday night, reckoned the stadium would be locked, anyway. Welcome to England!

Thankfully, he pointed along the road, saying: ‘One of the players’ mothers lives there.’ He walked me to 23 Ronald Avenue - home of Jessie Charles, mother of fellow black Hammers, John and Clive.

Jessie went on to help me tremendously. She gave me a family life away from my home and proved the key to my happiness in England. Jessie treated me like a son, gave us all equal attention and made sure we ate well. She was an amazing lady and I'm truly indebted to her for everything I went on to achieve in the game.

From Bermuda to the Boleyn

As a football-mad kid back in my home town of Somerset, Bermuda, I’d listen to the BBC World Service commentaries crackling over the trans-Atlantic airwaves as Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters starred for West Ham United.

Now, on 25 August 1969, I was given the unbelievable chance to make my Hammers debut against Arsenal alongside those three World Cup winners.

I was fortunate enough to play with some fantastic people during my career and while people will always talk about Bobby, Geoff and Martin as three great players, I also remember them as three wonderful people, too.

It was a pleasure and quite some honour to know those three great human beings alongside the likes of Frank Lampard, Billy Bonds, Ronnie Boyce and Patsy Holland, too.

A crowd of 39,590 was packed into the Boleyn Ground that Monday night as Roger Cross put us ahead and, although we also hit the woodwork twice, an own goal gave the Gunners a 1-1 draw in a physical game.

I was so grateful to Ron Greenwood for putting his faith in an 18-year-old and, just two games later, I netted my first goal during our 4-2 victory over Halifax Town in the League Cup.

I went on to make 26 appearances during the 1969/70 season, scoring six goals. In Bermuda, we’d only ever heard games on the radio so now it was amazing to find myself over in England facing some truly great players and teams.

Pelé 2 Clyde Best 2

Nine games into the 1970/71 campaign, I found myself flying back across the Atlantic to play a midweek exhibition match against Santos of Brazil.

After losing to Newcastle United on the Saturday, we now found ourselves battling against New York’s 80-degree heat on 22 September 1970.

Pelé against Moore was a game that 22,143 people flocked to see at the Downing Stadium on Randall’s Island.

Pelé had been my childhood hero and it was fantastic to be out there on the same pitch with him. Typically, he opened the scoring with a wonder goal on 19 minutes but finding the ball at my feet, I soon equalised with a 30-yarder which I battered goalwards past a ruck of Santos defenders and their goalie, who saw it too late.

And netting two goals in two minutes, I then put us ahead before Pelé levelled on the half-hour mark. It was incredible to be on the same pitch matching him goal-for-goal and the fans were loving it!

I always found it was a case of the bigger the crowd and the bigger the game, then the more I wanted to entertain. I guess that's what professional athletes like to do.

After our 2-2 draw, Pelé autographed a picture for me and I’ve still got it over here in Bermuda. I’ll never part with that photograph.

The Acid Test

Back home, I'd never been exposed to racism and while I never had problems on the pitch in England, it was the older people on the opposition terraces, who were mostly guilty of shouting the abuse.

Personally, I got on brilliantly with everyone at West Ham, both on and off the field. Nobody’s born racist - put two babies in a crib and they'll just hug - that comes over time.

The 1970s were hostile times, when racism was endemic in English football. I was never giving up and going home, though, because I’d been given a big opportunity in England and wasn’t turning my back on that.

If you're going to make it, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. But as I wrote in my 2016 autobiography 'The Acid Test', it still sends a shiver down my spine when I recall the anonymous letter that I received on the eve of a game, warning that I’d have acid thrown in my eyes when I emerged from the tunnel the following day.

My blood ran cold. I can’t remember our opposition but it’s irrelevant.

I showed the letter to Ron Greenwood. ‘Don’t worry,’ he said, putting it in his drawer. A security cordon was formed on both sides of the tunnel and I’ve never run so fast in my life as I did during those 90 minutes. I didn’t stand still.

At full-time, the police formed another cordon and only when I got back to the dressing room did I realise that nothing was going to happen.

Three of a kind

Ron Greenwood was a footballing pioneer and, on 1 April 1972, he became the first manager to field three black players in the same league game – Clive Charles, Ade Coker and myself lined up in our 2-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur at Upton Park.

Ron struck a telling blow to anyone thinking our skin colour was an impediment to our ability and, indeed, Ade scored that day.

It wasn’t three black players in an otherwise white team, it was: ‘Hey, we’re all mates together.’

The 1971/72 season was my most successful - ever-present, I played 56 matches and top-scored with 23 goals. It was a tough time, but when you’re playing well you don't think about how tired you are, you just pull on the shirt.

We got to the League Cup semi-finals, facing eventual winners Stoke City. In the first-leg, I scored in our 2-1 victory at Victoria Road but we just weren’t able to do it in the Boleyn Ground return, when they beat us 1-0 after Gordon Banks made a great penalty save from Geoff Hurst.

If we'd got through that night, we'd have won the final. Instead, we ended up losing the second replay at Old Trafford, where Bobby Moore saved Mike Bernard’s penalty after taking over from our concussed 'keeper, Bobby Ferguson.

I’d previously gone between the sticks against Leeds United but didn't go in goal that evening because I felt I’d be more valuable up front, creating a chance or even scoring. Unfortunately, we ended up losing 2-3 - it just wasn't to be on that rainy night in Manchester.

Wembley woe

Nobody knew what would happen that night I left Bermuda back in 1968 but I certainly never dreamed I'd play 218 games for West Ham United, scoring 58 times.

Lots of clubs wanted to sign me during my time in England but I’m a Hammer through and through and loved playing in the Claret and Blue.

It made absolutely no sense to leave somewhere I loved but, by the time the 1975 FA Cup final came around, I’d only played in the fourth round against Swindon Town.

I was now up against Patsy Holland, Billy Jennings and Alan Taylor. We were competing for eleven places and missing out against Fulham is my only regret.

I couldn't just sit there - I wanted to play every match. After scoring my penultimate Hammers goal at Upton Park in our 2-0 win over Sheffield United in September 1975, I started playing in the United States, shortly afterwards.

I later became Bermuda’s national coach and was awarded an MBE for services to football and the community after working at Westgate Correction Centre, where I saw what sport can do for young people and it’s nice to think I might've made a difference.

Nowadays, I wake up, watch TV and go to the Caribbean for the cricket, whenever I want.

Turning 70 today, I enjoy every moment but I'll always cherish my time at Upton Park. It's my second home and I love going back to see such wonderful and respectful people. The Hammers fans are the best in the world.

Replies - Newest Posts First (Show In Chronological Order)

gph 2:46 Sat Feb 27
Re: Happy 70th Birthday Clyde Best
Whenever any fucker goes on about how racist West Ham fans are, I always think of my first away match outside London at Carrow Road, where the locals kept up "Clyde Best is a N****r" throughout, and our lot were outraged at them.

Too Much Too Young 4:25 Fri Feb 26
Re: Happy 70th Birthday Clyde Best
Clyde gets plenty of mentions in my Soccer Skills and Tactics book of 1976.

Far Cough 12:22 Fri Feb 26
Re: Happy 70th Birthday Clyde Best
lab, no Big Clyde was 1968 and Ade Coker started in 1971

Lato 11:13 Fri Feb 26
Re: Happy 70th Birthday Clyde Best
Happy belated Birthday Clyde

lab 10:46 Fri Feb 26
Re: Happy 70th Birthday Clyde Best
Did Ade Coker precede Best ? I may have this very wrong!

wd40 10:44 Fri Feb 26
Re: Happy 70th Birthday Clyde Best

wd40 10:43 Fri Feb 26
Re: Happy 70th Birthday Clyde Best
Yes I that long shot that hit the cross bar over the years he got more and more further out in my mind but it wasn't just outside the box.
Rattled that top bar which bounce up and down.

Mex Martillo 7:48 Fri Feb 26
Re: Happy 70th Birthday Clyde Best
Nice read, and Happy belayed Birthday
Just before my time and I don’t remember him...

boleyn8420 3:07 Thu Feb 25
Re: Happy 70th Birthday Clyde Best
Here's a a Clyde Best montage, including his 2 goals against Santos, footage I've never seen before so result.

Blimey, he's only 6years older than me. Happy Birthday Clyde loved watching you always put a shift in.

My best memory was against Everton when he scored the winner in a 2-1 away win in the 70s, bloody freezing and surrounded by big scousers, what's not to love about that.


SecondOpinion 2:15 Thu Feb 25
Re: Happy 70th Birthday Clyde Best
I always remember the way he wore his shirt

Tucked in at the back, pulled out at the front

Always wondered if this was deliberate

Funny things you think of when you're a kid

ted fenton 1:51 Thu Feb 25
Re: Happy 70th Birthday Clyde Best
Great read

Watched him many a time.

Belated wishes Clyde.

Far Cough 10:24 Thu Feb 25
Re: Happy 70th Birthday Clyde Best
Big Clyde had a wicked shot on him, one game at the Boleyn, he thundered a shot that hit the crossbar, I swear by the next home game, that crossbar was still fucking rattling 🙂

panamahat 5:12 Thu Feb 25
Re: Happy 70th Birthday Clyde Best
Great story , Happy Birthday Clyde son .
I remember well the towering back post header at the Bridge in our comeback 4-2 victory in ‘73 in front of our half of the Shed & the piledriver against Stoke in a 3-2 win at the Boleyn .

Ronald_antly 12:37 Thu Feb 25
Re: Happy 70th Birthday Clyde Best
" .. I played 56 matches and top-scored with 23 goals. It was a tough time, but when youre playing well you don't think about how tired you are, you just pull on the shirt."

Not when you're a MASSIVELY overpaid modern day footballer, you don't.

geoffpikey 9:52 Wed Feb 24
Re: Happy 70th Birthday Clyde Best
"Pelé 2 Clyde Best 2"

Yes SIR! Happy birthday to THE BEST.
Good scoring record, too.

Far Cough 4:59 Wed Feb 24
Re: Happy 70th Birthday Clyde Best
Derek and Clive?

Derek Hales and Clive Best

Lee Trundle 4:50 Wed Feb 24
Re: Happy 70th Birthday Clyde Best

(bloody phone!)

Lee Trundle 4:49 Wed Feb 24
Re: Happy 70th Birthday Clyde Best
A very enjoyable read, that.

Happy birthday, Clive.

Coffee 4:45 Wed Feb 24
Re: Happy 70th Birthday Clyde Best
Far Cough 2:46 Wed Feb 24

Mike Oxsaw 3:55 Wed Feb 24
Re: Happy 70th Birthday Clyde Best
Clyde Best. The man.

Far Cough 2:46 Wed Feb 24
Re: Happy 70th Birthday Clyde Best

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