Saturday, November 26, 2005

So Long Bestie

Obviously as a Northern Irish born football fan yesterdays news of George Best's death came with great sadness if not a great shock.

There are so many tributes from so many people Malcolm Brodie football correspondent for the Belfast Telegraph who knew George before he even set foot in Manchester.

He was to go to Matt Busby's Manchester United to join England's first choice striker Bobby Charlton and Scotland's Dennis Law.

In 1964 he made his Northern Ireland debut with another debutant Pat Jennings.

He lived a life claiming that he lived up to his name being the Best. In first his autobiography, 'The Good, the Bad and the Bubbly', he had a photograph standing next to Pele with the caption:

Me with the second best player in the world.

However, Pele admitted that Best was the best player he had ever seen. He did dazzle and entertain and on several occasions even after beaten his man would go back just for fun and do it again. he won Engllish and European footballer of the year titles before he was 22. And was a key part in Manchester United's European Cup winning team of 1968. However, he walked out on United in 1974 after a dispute with Tommy Docherty never to return, he was only 28.

He returned to football with lowly Stockport County in 1975 then joined the North American Soccer League. From 1976 to 1982 alongside names like Pele and Franz Beckenbauer, first playing for the Los Angeles Aztecs, Fort Lauderdale Stirkers and San Jose Earthquakes. He intersperced this appearances with spells at Cork Celtic, Fulham and Hibernian before ending his playing career at Bournemouth.

Sadly none of George's 37 International Caps lead to one at a world cup. His first was six years after the historic side reached the 1958 Quarter Finals in Sweden, the last in 1977 five years before a glorious return in Spain 1982.

He may have sucumbed to alcoholism, but in his death the greats remembered his football from Diego Maradonna to Sir Alex Ferguson, many of his Man United, Hibernian and Northern Ireland Collegues.

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