1968 European Cup
1968 European Footballer of the
1967 1st Div League Championship
1965 1st Div
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|Genius, magician, legend, George Best is perhaps the
most naturally talented footballer ever to walk on the face of
the planet. Best was simply the complete player. Pele, Cruyff,
Maradona - all were superb but Best had a bit of each in his
game and more. |
He could beat opponents with skill and
dazzling tricks, swerving through defences like a skier on a
slathom course, or go past them with a burst of devastating
speed. For him, gravity was something that affected other
people, Bestie seemed to zip across the pitch with the ball
tied to his foot.
He could shoot brilliantly with
either foot and out-jump much taller opponents to win the ball
in the air. Imbued with the confidence and arrogance to try
absolutely anything, Best would often make a fool of some of
the games greatest players.
Despite his slight frame,
he had tremendous physical strength and resilience, along with
an almost unnatural elasticity of limb and torso. George was
strong enough to take the knocks and abuse from the less
talented players who would try to hack him out of the game. In
an age where players did not receive protection from referees
and the so called "hard-men" played the game, Best took it all
on the chin and triumphed regardless. When he tried one trick
too many and lost the ball he would fight twice as hard to get
Playing as a winger and sometimes striker, he
would inspire his team and bring a crowd, home or away, to its
feet. The man from Belfast was born with a wonderful gift,
however with this gift came the penalty of a wild destructive
streak that would always cast a shadow on his career. George Best
It was obvious to
Sir Matt Busby from the outset that the skinny 16 year old
from East Belfast's Cregagh Estate was something
extra-special. United's Northern Ireland scout Bob Bishop
famously sent a telegram Busby that read: "I believe I've
found you a genius."
Best made his league debut for
United in 1963 aged 17 and won an international cap before he
turned 18. It wasn't long before he was a household name
throughout Britain. George was perhaps the most important
member of the great United team which won the League
Championship twice in the 1960's.
By 1966, George Best
superstar had arrived, especially after his magnificent
performance in United's 5-1 thrashing of Benfica in Lisbon
where he scored twice. Stepping off the plane the Portuguese
press dubbed him "El Beatle". George Best
five years of playing breathtaking football his place in
history was secured in 1968 - United became the first English
team to win the European Cup and Best scored a superb solo
goal in the final against Benfica. He later claimed that
having beaten round the Benfica keeper he wanted to take the
ball up to the line stop it, lie down on the ground and head
the ball over the line. Only a truly special sort of player
would even have considered such an outrageous act in a game of
In 1968 he was at his peak at only 22
years of age. That year he also deservedly won both the
English and European Footballer of the Year awards. He was
also the club's top scorer that year with 28 goals, and for
the following four seasons. In 1970 he scored six goals in an
8-2 win over Northampton in the FA Cup, the most goals ever
scored in a single match by any United player.
goals captured on television, such as the dazzling runs
against Sheffield United, Chelsea, West Ham and the delicate
lob against Spurs have become all-time classics. And who knows
what other gems he scored in an age before blanket television
coverage, great goals that now live on only in the memories of
those lucky to have been there at the time. George Best
| The first pop-star
Nicknamed "the fifth
Beatle", he was one of the most famous stars in Britain during
the 1960s. Best was the first pop-star footballer, a
personification of youth culture and the swinging sixties.
He had the good looks, the style and the girls went
mad for him with Best getting 10,000 fan letters a week. This
had never happened to a footballer before. Sadly it was this
pop star image that proved his eventual downfall, for he began
to live the lifestyle of a pop star, and not a footballer.
Best himself once said, "If I'd been ugly, you'd never
have heard of Pele". The alcohol, women and wild nights spent
partying would ultimately shorten his career and lead to
severe health problems later on.
As he became a
casualty of intense media attention, George could not
concentrate on football without being hounded everywhere by
paparazzi. He opened a night club and a number of fashion
boutiques which were not a success, while a string of famous
actress/model girlfriend's meant he was under incredible media
scrutiny. George Best
Sir Matt retired in 1969 it was downhill for the Ulsterman as
he became increasingly rebellious and erratic. Busby's
successors, Frank O'Farrell and Tommy Docherty lacked his
fatherly influence on Best. The United team was in decline and
Best found it hard to take.
Seeing United beaten by
teams they used to hammer a few years ago was painful and his
love for football slowly diminished. He took solace in the
bottle with drinking and partying taking over his entire life.
He was now frequently missing training and failing to turn up
In 1972 he announced his retirement at only
26 but was persuaded back by Docherty. The comeback was not a
success and George left United for good on New Years Day 1974,
his final game against QPR.George Best
He then played for numerous
other clubs, most notably Fulham (76-77) with the outlandish
ex Manchester City star, Rodney Marsh. Then there was
Stockport County, Hibernian and USA soccer teams L.A. Aztecs
(1976-78) Fort Lauderdale Strikers (78-79) and San Jose
Earthquakes (80-81). Even though not as fit as in his prime,
the incredible skills were still apparent, no one could ever
take that away from him.
George finally ended his football career with Bournemouth
in 1983, although went on to play in many charity and friendly
matches. In the 1990's he established himself as a successful
sports commentator with Sky Sports and after dinner speaker.
Though playing for many clubs, it was still clear that
Manchester United were the only team that truly remained close
to Best's heart - he was a red through and through.
2000 Best's health reached rock bottom due to liver damage
caused by his years of alcoholism. However, in July 2002 he
had a successful liver transplant operation and made a full
recovery. Personal problems continued to hound him as he
divorced for a second time and was unable to beat the bottle. George Best
On 1st October, 2005, George entered the Cromwell
hospital with flu-like symptoms, later suffering a kidney
infection. He was susceptible to infection because of
medicines needed after the liver transplant and his condition
deteriorated sharply in the next month when it spread to his
Ironcially his death was played out much the
same way as his life, in a blaze of media coverage. Though he
fought on for far longer than doctors ever expected, on 25th
November, George Best lost his battle for life. In Belfast,
Manchester and around the world, the whole of football was in
mourning at the death of a legend.
A week later on 3rd
December, the Belfast Boy came home to his native city for the
final time. 100,000 people lined the streets and grounds of
Stormont for the funeral of Northern Ireland's greatest
sporting hero. George Best
There are many regrets for
Best, such as ending his career early and never displaying his
phenomenal skills in the World Cup Finals. However, when you
look at the positive things he brought to British football,
the moments of sheer breath-taking excitement, the glory of
1968, the lifestyle he led, George Best has lived more than
most of us ever will.
Let us also not forget he played
for ten seasons at United - Eric Cantona spent only five and
few modern day players will have a career as long in the red
shirt. George Best's life on the surface is the classic story
of the wayward genius who had it all and supposedly threw it
However, pundits tend to overlook that it
was this wild self-destructive streak that made him the player
he was. Genius often goes hand in hand with some sort of
eccentric quality, a quality that gives that creative spark
others do not possess.
Just a month before his death
he said "People will remember me for my football" and that is
ultimately what will last the test of time. George Best will
live on as a football icon forever. Blessed with unbelievable
skill, he was a genius the like of which may never come again.
A player that took the game to a different level, a level
which mere footballing mortals can only gaze up at, in wonder,
awe and sheer exhilaration.
George lived in a
house on Burren Way in the Cregagh Estate. A special plaque He
was the eldest child of Dickie and Anne, Best was brother to
Carol, Barbara, Julie, Grace and Ian.
Wolverhampton Wanderers as a boy.
Best and fellow
Ulsterman Eric McMordie were both offered trials by United.
Best was offered a contract but McMordie returned home. He
eventually played for Middlesbrough and Northern Ireland.
George "worked" for the Manchester Ship Canal Company
as a clerk, because technically United were not allowed to
sign him until he reached 17.
George opened two
nightclubs in Manchester, in the late 1960s. One was named
'Oscar's' the other one called Slack Alice's. George also
owned Fashion Boutique's, in partnership with Mike Summerbee
of Manchester City.
In 1969 he built a futuristic
house in near Bramhall, Cheshire, at a cost of Ј30,000. The
modernist split-level design was encased in glass with a flat
roof and had all the latest hi-tec gadgets. He suffered fans
continually besieging the house and eventually sold it after
only three years.
In 1971 playing for N Ireland, he
famously kicked the ball out of Gordon Banks hands during a
goal kick and put the ball in the net only for the referee to
disallow it. Two weeks later he tried it again against Pat
Jennings and the goal was given.
In 2001 he received
an Honorary Doctorate of Queen's University, Belfast and in
2002 he was made a Freeman of the Borough of Castlereagh (a
local council in Belfast).
There are several street
murals in Belfast depicting Best in his playing days. There is
also a statue planned at Belfast City Hall and possibly the
new Northern Ireland stadium will be named in his honour.
Best is buried at Roselawn cemetery beside his
mother's grave, in the Castlereagh Hills just outside Belfast.
Best quote: "I spent a lot of my money on booze, birds
and fast cars. The rest I just squandered"
"I went missing quite alot...... Miss England, Miss Wales,
Miss world....." George Best
Best quote: "In 1969 I gave up women
and alcohol. It was the worst 20 minutes of my life."
Best quote on why he went to America: "I was driving
through London when I saw an advert saying 'Drink Canada dry'
Best quote on his liver transplant blood
transfusion: "I was in for 10 hours and had 40 pints - beating
my previous record by 20 minutes."
Best quote: "Pele
called me the greatest footballer in the world, that is the
ultimate salute to my life."
Best quote: "If I had
been born ugly, you would never have heard of Pelй"
Best quote: "When I die I'd like to be remembered as
the greatest footballer of all time. When that day comes, they
won't talk about the booze, the women, the fast cars. They'll
talk about the football"
Manchester United (1963-1974)
At the age of 15, Best was discovered in Belfast by Manchester United scout Bob Bishop, whose telegram to United manager Matt Busby read: "I think I've found you a genius." His local club Glentoran had previously rejected him for being "too small and light". Best was subsequently given a trial and signed up by chief scout Joe Armstrong.
Best made his Manchester United debut, aged 17, on 14 September 1963 against West Bromwich Albion at Old Trafford in a 1-0 victory. Two weeks later Best scored his first goal against Burnley. By the close of the season Best had six goals, and Manchester United finished second, behind champions Liverpool.
In his second season, Best and Manchester United claimed the league title.
Best hit the headlines the age of twenty when he scored two goals in a European Cup quarter-final match against Benfica in 1966, and was dubbed "O Quinto Beatle" (The Fifth Beatle) in the press.
Best's talent and showmanship made him a crowd and media favourite. He was dubbed "the fifth Beatle" for his long hair, good looks and extravagant celebrity lifestyle, and even appeared on Top of the Pops in 1965. Other nicknames included the "Belfast Boy" and he was often referred to as Georgie, or Geordie in his native Belfast.
The 1966-67 season was again successful as Manchester United claimed the league title by four points. The following season Best became a European Cup winner after scoring in the final against Benfica. United won 4-1 and Best was later crowned European Footballer of the Year and Football Writers' Association Player of the Year; after that began a steady decline.
Best opened two nightclubs in Manchester, in the late 1960s, Oscar's and the other called Slack Alice's (which later became 42nd Street Nightclub). He also owned fashion boutiques, in partnership with Mike Summerbee of Manchester City. However, he developed problems with gambling, womanising and alcoholism.
Best played at United when jersey numbers were assigned to positions, and in the traditional English way, and not the player. When Best played at right winger, as he famously did during the later stages of the 1966 and 1968 European Cups, he donned the number 7. As a left winger, where he played exclusively in his rookie season and nearly all of the 1971-72, he wore the number 11. Best wore the number 8 shirt at inside right on occasion throughout the 1960s but for more than half of his matches during 1970-71. He was playing at inside left (wearing the number 10) in 1972 when he famously walked out on United the first time but was back in the number 11 for the autumn of 1973 before leaving for good. Best even wore the number 9 jersey once for the Red Devils, with Bobby Charlton injure, on March 22, 1969 at Old Trafford, scoring the only goal in a 1-0 defeat of Sheffield Wednesday.
In 1974, aged 27, Best quit United for good. His last competitive game for the club was on 1 January 1974 against Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road. In total Best made 466 appearances for Manchester United in all competitions from 1963 to 1974, and scored 178 goals (including six in one game against fourth division Northampton Town). He was the club's top scorer for six consecutive seasons, and was the First Division's top scorer in the 1967-68 season. Over the next decade he went into an increasingly rapid decline, drifting between several clubs, including spells in Ireland, America, Scotland, and Australia.
Best had a brief resurgence in form with Fulham F.C. in 1976-77, showing that, although he had lost some of his pace, he retained his skills. His time with the Cottagers is particularly remembered for an FA Cup game against second division outfit Hereford United in which he tackled his former teammate, and old drinking mate, Rodney Marsh. Best stated later in life that he enjoyed his time most while at Fulham, despite not winning any honours.
United States (1976-1981)
Best played for three clubs in the United States: Los Angeles Aztecs, Fort Lauderdale Strikers and San Jose Earthquakes; he also played for the Detroit Express on a European tour. Best revelled in the anonymity America afforded him after England and was a success on the field, too, scoring 15 goals in 24 games in his first season with the Aztecs and named as the NASL's Best midfielder in his second. He opened "Bestie's Beach Club" (now called "The Underground" after the London subway system) in Hermosa Beach, California in the 1970s, and continued to operate it until the 1990s.
In his third season in the States, Best scored only once in 12 appearances. His moves to Fort Lauderdale and San Jose were also unhappy, as his off-field demons began to take control of his life again. After failing to agree terms with Bolton Wanderers in 1981, he was invited as a guest player and played three matches for two Hong Kong First Division teams in 1982.
In late 1982, A.F.C. Bournemouth manager Don Megson signed the 36-year-old Best for the Football League Third Division side, and he remained there until the end of the season, when he finally retired from football at the age of 37.
In 1988, a testimonial match was held for Best at Windsor Park. Among the crowd were Sir Matt Busby and Bob Bishop, the scout who discovered Best, while those playing included Ossie Ardiles, Pat Jennings and Liam Brady. Best scored twice, one goal from outside the box, the other from the penalty spot.
George Best is probably more famous now for his drinking than for his once dazzling football skills, so the question is bound to be asked: why should doctors prolong his life when more deserving cases could have benefited from scarce resources?
George is probably more famous now for his drinking than for his once dazzling football skills. So the question is bound to be asked: why should doctors prolong his life when more deserving cases could have benefited from scarce resources?
The answer turns on the notion of "deserving". Certainly, the liver that ended up inside Mr Best and therefore inside a Surrey pub last week could have alleviated someone else's suffering or prolonged someone else's life if a different decision had been made. But then Mr Best would have suffered longer or died sooner. Who is to decide between the two?
The practical answer is a public body called UK Transplant, which judges, on the basis of medical prognosis, who would most benefit from organs as they become available. We do not know whether, in Mr Best's case, anyone else was on the waiting list for whom the new liver was a match. Given the shortage of livers, it is likely that he was not the only possible recipient.
But who is to say that the next patient on the list was not a criminal, or a drug abuser, or a heavy smoker, or simply someone whose views others found objectionable? Once doctors start to make judgements on someone's moral fitness to receive medical treatment, they cross a line.
On medical grounds, Mr Best was a deserving case; his life expectancy before the operation was poor and his incentive to give up drink afterwards was strong. He was entitled to his new liver, which was supplied by the National Health Service, and to have the operation on the NHS.
There is, however, another more important lesson of Mr Best's well-publicised case. It is that everything reasonable should be done to increase the supply of donor organs. The Government should introduce a Bill, such as that proposed by the Labour MP Tom Watson, that would allow doctors and relatives to assume a dying person has consented to organ donation. People who do not want to donate their organs would carry an organ non-donor card, rather than the other way round.
That would be a more constructive response than blaming Mr Best for his sad plight
He was capped 37 times for Northern Ireland , scoring nine goals. Of his nine international goals four were scored against Cyprus and one each against Albania, England, Scotland, Switzerland and Turkey.
On 15 May 1971, Best scored possibly his most famous "goal" of his career at Windsor Park in Belfast against England. As Gordon Banks, the English goalkeeper, released the ball in the air in order to kick the ball downfield, Best managed to kick the ball first, which sent the ball high over their heads and heading towards the open goal. The famous duo scrambled towards the net but Best outpaced Banks and headed the ball into the empty goal. His effort was disallowed for ungentlemanly conduct by a referee whose back had been turned away from the incident.
Best continued to be selected for Northern Ireland throughout the 1970s, despite his fluctuating form and off pitch problems. There were still glimpses of his genius; in 1976, Northern Ireland were drawn against Holland in Rotterdam as one of their group qualifying matches for the 1978 FIFA World Cup. Holland - midway between successive World Cup final appearances - and Johan Cruyff were at their peak at the time. Five minutes into the game Best received the ball wide on the left. Instead of heading towards goal he turned directly infield, weaved his way past at least three Dutchmen and found his way to Cruyff who was wide right. Best took the ball to his opponent, dipped a shoulder twice and slipped it between Cruyff's feet - nutmegging arguably the Best player in the world at that time.
Best was considered briefly by manager Billy Bingham for the 1982 World Cup. However, at 36 and with his football skills dulled by age and drink, he was not selected in the Northern Ireland squad.
With Manchester United:
Football League Championship winners medal, 1965 & 1967
UEFA European Cup winners medal, 1968
European Footballer of the Year, 1968
Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year, 1968
Professional Footballers Association: ALL STAR Award Winner Division 2 (Fulham) 1977.
Freeman of Castlereagh, 2002
Inaugural inductee into the English Footbalnidh aofn's University of Belfast, 2001
PFA Special Merit Award, for his services to football, 2006