Best played for West Ham between 1968 and 1976, scoring 58 goals in 221 appearances. Bermuda coach Graham Adams had recommended Best to Hammers manager Ron Greenwood.
Despite being a small island with a population of around 50,000, Bermuda had, with Best’s involvement, gained silver at the 1967 Pan American Games and came within one match of reaching the 1968 Olympics.
Best states in his autobiography The Acid Test that one of the best pieces of advice he ever had was his father’s words that he was playing for those black players that follow in his footsteps.
He remained focused and dignified in the face of racism. This was demonstrated when, on one occasion in 1972, racist abuse coming from the crowd changed to applause.
Greenwood was a father figure to Best, guiding him through a horrific incident in 1970, when Best received a letter containing a violent threat involving acid.
Best also acknowledges: ‘Under Greenwood’s leadership, skin colour had no relationship to skill or ability'.
He played with and against the finest players of his time.
At West Ham, he played alongside World Cup winners Bobby Moore, Martin Peters and Geoff Hurst, as well as other renowned West Ham players Billy Bonds, Harry Redknapp and Sir Trevor Brooking.
When Best left the east London side, he joined the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the North American Soccer League while it was in its prime.
Loyal to West Ham, Best wouldn’t join another English club. In the United States, Best played against Pelé, Franz Beckenbauer, George Best and Eusebio, and alongside Rodney Marsh and Johan Cruyff.
His father’s advice to Best about the importance of laying the foundations for future black players certainly came to fruition.
Viv Anderson, Cyrille Regis, Luther Blissett and John Barnes are among the many who have cited Best as being influential to them.
Best was rewarded with an MBE in 2006 for his services to football and the Bermudan community.
For several seasons, Leicester City Football Club has worked with De Montfort University’s International Centre for Sports History & Culture on various heritage projects. This season, staff and students at the Centre will feature those players who were pioneers that contributed to the growth and development of the game.
For more information about sports history at DMU please click HERE.
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