THE first black footballer to play for Hereford United died yesterday, aged 97.

Tommy Best helped to break down many racial barriers with his goalscoring exploits when non-white footballers were a rarity.

He played for Chester, Cardiff City and Queens Park Rangers before finishing his career at Edgar Street.

In total, he made 145 appearances for the Bulls between 1950 and 1955, scoring 67 goals.

Mr Best remained in Hereford on retiring and lived in Whitecross where he and wife Eunice had three children, Jennifer, Paul and Judy.

Jennifer said they all agreed that he was a brilliant dad.

Born in Milford Haven to a father from Barbados, there was a great support among football fans for Best to represent Wales.

He was told by the management team at Cardiff City that he would represent his country when Trevor Ford was injured but, much to his disappointment, the call did not come.

Speaking to the Western Daily Press in 1998, Mr Best said he could only assume the omission was down to the colour of his skin.

"You have to remember that black players were a rarity then. And I'm forced to the conclusion that I was a victim of prejudice," he told the paper.

"I simply know I deserved to play for Wales."

However, Mr Best never talked about racism with his children – and also explained in the newspaper interview in 1998 that a footballer's job is to "concentrate on the ball and shut his ears to what the spectators may be saying".

Jennifer said her father loved Hereford and had many friends in the city.

Snooker was his big hobby – and he could often be found playing at the Hereford Railway Club.

He had suffered with Alzheimer's for the last few years of his life and lived at the Rose Garden, off Ledbury Road.

From there he still followed the fortunes of the newly-formed Hereford side at Edgar Street and was delighted to receive a visit from two of their players – Joel Edwards and Carlos Moreira – two seasons ago.

And Jennifer added that he was still talking about football the day before he died.

Mr Best is survived by his three children, six grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.

His funeral will be held from 10.30am on Wednesday, September 26, at Holy Trinity Church in Whitecross, Hereford, when donations will be accepted for the Alzheimer's Society. A wake will follow at the Railway Club.