Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Misc : George Best

Sadly, one of the all-times greats has gone.

When I was a kid, George Best was my hero. He was cool and fitted in with the whole 60's era - Carnaby Street, Twiggy, Mary Quant, the Beatles, Sergeant Pepper ... He was almost the fifth Beatle with his good looks and long, flowing hair. He was the epitome of what people aspired to - talent, youth, fame, fortune and a blond on each arm.

And he could play football! He had the support around him. In Man U's previous great era, George, Denis Law and Bobby Charlton were each voted European Footballer of the Year over a five year period. Show me another English club with that sort of record.

He was the master of the feint and the dribble. He leapt over tackles like a gazelle. And remember he played in an era where goalscorers were not protected as they are today. He faced such hard men as Chopper Harris, Norman Hunter, Billy Bremner and the like ... and he still scored goals.

He is the only UK player who belongs in the pantheon of the greats; Pele, Cruyff, Maradonna and Best.

He was never rated internationally because he never appeared in a World Cup. Northern Ireland last appeared in that competition in 1958 in Sweden when George was just a nipper. Maybe just as well - George in Sweden with those leggy, beautiful Swedish blondes would would been a potent distraction.

With Matt Busby as a father figure, he flowered. The pre-match instructions for George were "Go out and enjoy yourself" allowing full reign to his talent and individuality. Defenders hated him because he made them look ponderous, slow and stupid. Mostly they just saw his back, twinkling down the touchline.

The rot set in with the later managers - Frank O'Farrell, Wilf McGuinness and Tommy Docherty. They expected him to conform, to be part of the overall pattern, to be part of the common herd. It was never going to work and he walked away in disgust.

He left a massive hole at Man. U. Succeeding generations of footballers were always given the curse - "He's the new George Best". That "compliment" was a hospital pass. Ryan Giggs is a good example - a brilliant footballer, a great team man but the next Best? That's simply not achievable no matter how hard Giggs or anyone else tried - George was a one-off and we'll never see his like again.

Sadly, he forget that he was famous because of football, not in spite of it. He seemed to live on the tabloid's front page. Surrounded by sycophants and diverse hangers-on, he opened night clubs, advertised rubbish, partied and declined.

In his famous words, "I spent my money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered." The incredible talent that made him such a star also destroyed him. This seems to be a common theme - just look at Gazza. Perhaps Rooney should have been taken to the hospital at the end and told "Look - this is your life if you don't wake up"!

George has gone and an era has passed. Shakespeare wrote "the good men do is interred with their bones... but, their evil lives on and on". The "good" George did on the football field is certainly not interred and the genius and the memories will always remain. And what glorious memories - look here for a brief reminder:


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