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West Ham’s gentle giant who became a black pioneer

PUBLISHED: 13:00 12 October 2016

(L-R) West Ham United's Clyde Best takes on Newcastle United's Pat Howard as Newcastle's Frank Clark looks on

(L-R) West Ham United's Clyde Best takes on Newcastle United's Pat Howard as Newcastle's Frank Clark looks on

S&G and Barratts/EMPICS Sport

Clyde Best is a legend of West Ham United and his autobiography shows us why

Clyde Best autobiography Clyde Best autobiography

Clyde Best – The Acid Test

(De Courbertin Books - £20)

The 1960s and 70s were a very different world in football compared to today.

Nowadays, players are treated like royalty, but when Clyde Best arrived at Heathrow airport from Bermuda one Sunday there was no one from West Ham there to meet him.

PA NEWS PHOTO 4/10/69 WEST HAM'S CLYDE BEST(LEFT), BELTS THE BALL PAST BURNLEY GOALKEEPER PETER MELLOR TO SCORE THE FIRST GOAL FOR HIS TEAM IN THE FIRST DIVISION MATCH AT UPTON PARK GROUND, LONDON. FOUR MINUTES LATER HE SCORED ANOTHER. PA NEWS PHOTO 4/10/69 WEST HAM'S CLYDE BEST(LEFT), BELTS THE BALL PAST BURNLEY GOALKEEPER PETER MELLOR TO SCORE THE FIRST GOAL FOR HIS TEAM IN THE FIRST DIVISION MATCH AT UPTON PARK GROUND, LONDON. FOUR MINUTES LATER HE SCORED ANOTHER.

He eventually made his own way to Upton Park, only to find that it was all shut up!

Not the most auspicious of starts, but the then-teenage Best became a household name in British fooball, one of the great pioneers for black players to come and an exemplary professional.

In a brand new book, Best discusses his Hammers career, the racist comments and jibes he had to suffer, the joys of playing with the likes of Geoff Hurst and Bobby Moore, plus one particularly dark day which he has revealed for the first time.

In a letter sent to him at the training ground he was threatened by a man saying he would throw acid in his face at the next home game.

West Ham United's Clyde Best (r) climbs above Leeds United's Gordon McQueen (l) to head for goal West Ham United's Clyde Best (r) climbs above Leeds United's Gordon McQueen (l) to head for goal

The only person he told was manager Ron Greenwood and you can read what happened as Best also covers his time after West Ham as a new pioneer, this time of ‘soccer’ in the United States and then coaching in America and back in Bermuda.

He may be one of the most gentl;e and polite footballers ever to wear claret and blue - he was never sent off in his career - but he doesn’t mince his words in this book.

He slams CONCACAF and Jack Warner in particular for their corruption, he has little time for FIFA and is scathing about the lack of facilities in Bermuda because of underfunding compared to Warner’s own country of Trinidad & Tobago.

All the way through this book, Best comes across as a gentle, polite, committed giant of a footballer. Things haven’t always worked out for him, but he has invariably come through it and made such a success of his career that he was awarded the MBE.

There are testimonials from players from all parts of the game at the end, a foreword from Harry Redknapp and no-one has a bad word to say about him.

This is a must-read book for any West Ham fan, but also for football supporters to help understand what black players went through during the 1970s. It is players like Best, like Ade Coker and John Charles, all of whom played for the Hammers that paved the way for black players in the future.

It is a heart-warming story, perfect for Christmas.

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