Clyde Best, a trailblazer for black footballers in the 1960s and '70s, was delighted after being appointed an MBE in the New Year Honours list.
Best, 54, came through the ranks to make over 200 appearances for West Ham at a time when racism was rife.
"It's fantastic to be in the same company as Bobby Moore, Sir Bobby Charlton and Geoff Hurst in being honoured by the Queen," he said.
"When you start off your career you never expect it."
The Bermudan-born striker arrived in London's East End in 1968.
He would go on to play alongside the likes of England World Cup trio Moore, Hurst and Martin Peters. Namesake George Best also became a close friend.
Current Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp was another team-mate, while Ron Greenwood, the Hammers boss who went on to manage England, rated Best "the best 17-year-old I've ever seen".
"I'll never forget those memories of England. To come to a country so far away from Bermuda and to play with these guys stays with you for the rest of your life," said Best.
"Now I'm looking forward to coming back to visit Buckingham Palace and I'm sure my wife and daughter will want to come over too. It'll be nice to meet up with some old friends and have a good knees-up.
"I thank West Ham for giving me the opportunity to go over there and make people happy."
Reflecting on those early years in England, when he had to put up with "monkey" chants and hate mail, Best said: "It wasn't easy.
"But I couldn't just think of myself. There were plenty of people behind me."
He overcame the racism to establish himself as a powerful forward - his best season coming in 1971/72 when he scored 23 goals.
Best is also regarded as probably the best player in the history of the Bermudan national team, receiving his first cap at the age of 15. He subsequently coached the team from 1997 to 1999.
There is also an MBE for Lawrie McMenemy, who is best known as the former manager of Southampton, although the citation describes him as "honorary manager, Parliamentary Football Club".
In 1976, he guided Southampton to a sensational FA Cup Final victory over Manchester United. In 1977, Southampton won promotion to the First Division and two years later reached the League Cup Final.
In 1990 he became England manager Graham Taylor's assistant.
He left, along with Taylor, in 1993 after England's failure to reach the 1994 World Cup finals. He subsequently became Northern Ireland manager in 1998 and has been listed in the Guinness Book of Records as one of the 20 most successful managers in post-war English football.
And Rachel Yankey, one of the finest women footballers of her generation, becomes an MBE.
Voted the 2005 Nationwide International Player of the Year, the Arsenal Ladies star is the most capped player in the England squad.