Filed: Tuesday, 30th October 2012
By: Staff Writer
It's now 40 years since West Ham United became the first top flight club to feature three black players in the same team - although you might not know it.
A report on the BBC news website this morning perpetuates the myth that it was actually West Bromwich Albion who were the first Division One club to achieve this particular landmark when Laurie Cunningham, Brendan Batson and Cyrille Regis featured for Ron Atkinson's Albion in 1978.
Hoever more than five years earlier - on April Fools' Day 1972, to be precise - Ron Greenwood's West Ham United beat Tottenham 2-0 in a London derby with a team that featured three young black players - 21-year-old Clyde Best, Clive Charles (20) and Ade Coker, who was just 17.
Coker, who was making only his fourth appearance for the Hammers - some five months after his previous outing for the first team at Manchester City in November 1971 - scored the second of West Ham's goals in a 2-0 win (the other being a goal-of-the-season contender from Trevor Brooking).
Clive Charles - brother of John 'Charlo' Charles, who was the the first black player to play in the top flight when he featured for West Ham in a 1-0 defeat at Blackburn in May 1963 - was making just his second appearance for the first team having debuted at Coventry three weeks earlier.
Clyde Best - who went on to make more than 180 appearances for the Hammers - was the most-established player of the trio, having already played more than 75 times for West Ham since moving from Bermuda to England in the late 1960s.
Highlights from the 2-0 win over Spurs - from KUMB.com's 100 Greatest West Ham Moments
Trailblazers: Where are they now?
After leaving West Ham in 1976, Best moved to the United States to continue his pro career. Having featured for clubs such as the Tampa Bay Rowdies and the LA Lazers he eventually hung up his boots in 1984 and took on various (non-sporting) jobs in the private sector. He was hired as the national manager of Bermuda in the late 1990s, a post he remained in for two years, before leaving the game once again to work with prison inmates. Now semi-retired, 61-year-old Best - who was awarded the MBE for his services to football in 2006 - spends his time coaching young footballers and cricketers in Bermuda. Still a regular visitor to England, he last visited the Boleyn Ground in August.
The Nigerian-born striker moved to England at the age of 11 and was spotted playing local football by West Ham's legendary scout Wally St Pier. Like Best, he moved to North America in 1975 having failed to become a permanent fixture in West Ham's first team squad and spent the next 13 years playing for various teams - including the USA national squad for whom he made five appearances - before retiring. Now 58 and living in Seattle with his family, Coker works for Home Depot - the US equivalent of Homebase.
Clive Charles made just a handful of first-team appearances for West Ham before moving on. A three-year stint at Cardiff between 1974 and 1977 preceeded six years in the USA where Charles, like Best and Coker, eventually settled down. However it was as a coach that he truly excelled and having cut his teeth managing High School and University teams, Charles managed the national under 20s womens team, the men's under 23 team and then, most notably, the USA men's senior team from 1995-1998. Sadly Charles developed prostate cancer at the turn of the century and died in 2003.
*You may read more about Best, Charles and Coker in Brian Belton's book East End Heroes, Stateside Kings.
Arise, Sir Clyde [24th Jun 2014]
Brady: fans undermined Allardyce [29th Mar 2014]
Trailblazers [30th Oct 2012]
Best: no trouble with fans [28th Nov 2011]
Brady accused in racism 'slur' [26th Nov 2011]
Midweek date set for Cup clash [28th Sep 2010]
MBE for Clyde [31st Dec 2005]
West Ham United FC - 100 greatest moments: the final 10 [21st Feb 2004]
West Ham United FC - 100 greatest moments [1st Jan 2004]