Remembering George…

It feels like an unbearably sad day. Whatever time is left to him, George Best is not coming back from this one. He may have been a drunk, endlessly foolish, and unconscionably unkind to his family, but I defy anyone to deny that when he played he made you feel two foot taller, just because you were from Belfast, Northern Ireland or just plain Irish. I don’t want to steal anyone else’s thunder today, so I’ll just ask the other bloggers to make free with their memories, good or bad, of the wee lad from Cregagh who became one of the greatest players in the history of world football.

  • TAFKABO

    An incredible character, flaws notwithstanding.Who can deny that collectively, our lives have been enriched by his talent?

    Here’s to you George, and f*ck the begrudgers (as another Irish alcoholic once said)

  • Adrian

    The greatest man, bar none, to come out of Belfast. With all the soul destoying flaws of that city too, but none of its presbyterian drabness.

    This isn’t the place to debate the division of Irish soccer, but George is never going to get the credit he deserved because of it and what it meant for the ability of either team to make it on the world stage.

    I still remember my shock and disappointment when he said he wasn’t going to play for Man U again. People say the Irish – North and South – only support Man U because they are successful, but that’s not true for me. I support them because of George.

    At least he did not go gentle into that dark night.

  • felix quigley

    Mick

    As an ex Gaelic player I would add

    What a wonderful player and what a likeable man. He was an absolute artist and what is often overlooked he was so wholehearted in his play. Sad day for many many people world wide.

  • Mick Fealty

    Denis Law who finished his career on the blue side of Manchester put it like this:

    “The complete player. He could ride tackles, hit the ball with either foot, send superb long or short passes”.

  • I think my greatest memory is his genuine civility when being interviewed. He had a glint in his eye did George and he was so incredibly likeable. In 1970 When I was 7 years old playing cross-community matches at the junction of Seaforde Street and Newtownards Road (seriously!), every single kid there WAS George Best. There was simply NO-ONE else. And there still isnt…

  • Damian Kerr

    A great man indeed. A genius on the pitch and a tormented man off it. There but for the grace of God go…how many of us? Sadly, too many of us don’t have his genius, just his flaws.

    Great comments from Adrian…George has the big heart of Belfast and that’s the way he stays in my mind.

    Let’s also remember that he’s still here against all the odds. I just hope he’s resting easy.

  • Lafcadio

    In recent years, I had started feeling pretty pronounced reservations about Best, what with the seemingly endless stream of “Back to the Booze” stories, and associated unpleasantness; for a while I lived in Reigate, just near his place, and quite often saw his car parked outside Cafe Rouge, and on the release of his book, the local ASDA piled them high and trumpeted a book-signing weeks in advance – I duly turned up, and stood in a lengthening queue, until finally after a full hour, the store manager said to us all, upset kids and pissed-off adults, that his agent couldn’t get hold of him – and that very night on the news I discovered that he’d gone on the lash instead..

    BUT

    despite all of that crap, I couldn’t shake off my awe at his talents, or the charm his character continued to exert – I still love the guy.. and last night I was waiting for a kettle to boil, and flicked on newsnight and came across a special report on him, which wasn’t especially sentimental, but sent me to bed misty-eyed and desperately sad.

    He’s still a monumental figure, as the acres of press coverage attest to; I hope he isn’t suffering too much.

  • PS

    George Best has died. May he rest in peace.

  • Scotsman
  • headmelter

    Farewell Geordie….you were the greatest!

  • Keith M

    May he rest in peace, condolenses to the best family and to the football world on their loss.

    Adrian “This isn’t the place to debate the division of Irish soccer, but George is never going to get the credit he deserved because of it and what it meant for the ability of either team to make it on the world stage.”

    Actually far more to the point, it was the divisions in UK football that denied him the chance to play in the World Cup. Few would argue that he wouldn’t have been in a UK team in the 1966 and being part of a World Cup winning team would have made him an even bigger star.

  • piebald

    Thanks Georgie

    One day in the dark streets of Belfast,
    A young man was born too soon,
    For had he been born today boys,
    This game would know no gloom

    For he stood only 5 feet 8 inches,
    He weighed only 8 stone,
    By day he played with his friends there,
    By night he played on his own.

    Then early one morning a letter,
    Arrived in the post at his home,
    Will your son please board the ferry,
    From Ireland to England alone

    So a young man arrived at Old Trafford
    Prepared to give his all,
    But England’s a long way from Belfast,
    And the Emerald Isles did call

    It took all of Matt Busby’s persuasion,
    To make him come back for the test,
    For he knew that he’d found a genius,
    Who was so far ahead of the rest

    He could run at the speed of a greyhound,
    Turn on a sixpence and shoot,
    Dribble his way through a minefield,
    While still only wearing one boot

    His playing brought crowds by their thousands,
    His antics attack from the press,
    But they still had to bow down in tribute,
    And acknowledge true genius George Best

    So break open a bottle of bubbly,
    and look back not with sadness but joy,
    Raise a glass to the Genius Georgie
    Farewell to the Belfast Boy.

    George Best RIP

    22nd May 1946 – 25th November 2005

  • Lafcadio

    RIP

  • It is a sad day. RIP Georgie Best, the greatest footballer in the world.

  • We used to sing as kids

    First the worst, second the best, the third marries Georgie Best.

    We thought he was the business and the fact that he came from Belfast too, well you can imagine.

    I think that in his prime most women wanted to be with him and so did the men!

  • A fantastically gifted player, what a shame we never saw him play in a World Cup.
    He also signed my brother’s copy of The Wedding Present’s ‘George Best’ album at a signing in Eason’s a few years back.
    Total legend.

  • mark

    Without wishing to rain on anyone’s parade I would like to raise a point that some may agree with. Apologies if it is not phrased sensitively enough.

    I feel great sympathy for all those who had relatives die waiting for liver transplants or those currently waiting in agony as their families watch them fade in pain.

    Best wasted his own life, a liver and possibly deprived a more deserving/mature transplant patient of life.

    I’m not happy to see such a mentally weak or selfish character lauded merely because he had natural ability with a ball. He frittered everything else away.

  • Dualta

    I remember when Terry Wogan exploited George Best’s illness to boost his flagging ratings by bringing him onstage despite knowing his was chronically drunk.

    During the interview Wogan blantantly quizzed Best in a manner designed to court controversy. He brought up the subject of Paul Gasgoigne and asked Best what he thought of Gazza’s talents.
    “He’s not in my league”, replied Best, to the gasps of the English audience. Wogan milked it and Best stuck to his guns.

    The tabloids had a go and some called him a swaggering, arrogant drunk, but he was right. The man was extremely good at what he did and nobody since in UK and Irish football has touched his abilities. A sad day indeed.

  • Brian O’Neill

    As I tribute to George, I created a nice desktop wallpaper that you can set as your screen background. This is free and you can see it at:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/50679361@N00/

    If you like it pass the link on to your friends.

    He was the best.

  • mwk
  • yerman

    Martin McGuinness 2005 –
    ” George Best as a footballer brought immense pleasure to millions of people around the world.

    I would wish to offer my sympathies to his family and friends at this very sad and difficult time.

    All a bit different to when George Best was being given the freedom of Castlereagh and Sinn Fein criticised the Council for doing so as he was “an alcoholic and a former member of the junior Orange Order”.

    Could the phrase ‘crocodile tears’ be any more appropriate???

  • Nathan

    George Best had a few verbal spats with the Shinners yerman, that is common knowledge e.g. “Adams shouldn’t be allowed to speak in public, and we shouldn’t give him the oxygen of publicity on TV, radio and in the newspapers.

    and,

    “Every time he opens his mouth, he is insulting our intelligence.”

    Plus much more!

    Sinn Fein should have ignored the remarks – instead one of their self-appointed ‘spokespersons’ came out with the following:

    “We will not lose any sleep over the meanderings of a drunken wife-beater and former member of the junior Orange Order.

    “It wouldn’t unduly worry Gerry. I don’t think he is a soccer fan anyway.”

    It just goes to show how much of a liability some of these self-appointed wannabes really are. Thank goodness the culprit was kicked out of Connolly Hse and put back to what he does best – canvassing on the streets.

  • PaddyReilly

    Yes indeed. But at least the man had the good taste not to proceed to the Senior Orange Order.

  • Mal one

    Reference 21,22 and 23 posts.
    It did not take long did it?

  • cas

    George did take a lot of criticism from n.i fans for believing in the forming of an all Ireland football team.

    http://ourweecountry.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=4813&b=1&st=&p=&#entry

    Short memories !!!!

  • brecht

    When I was about nine years old in the late sixties, I walked with a mate from the Falls to windsor park. N.I. were playing Turkey.We speedied up,to me,an enormous pole to get in.

    Eventually we were allowed by the Peelers to lie on the track around the pitch.Georgie came to the side line to take a throw in. We couldn’t contain ourselves and jumped up.

    There were howls of abuse from the spectators to get us off and the Peelers obliged. I can’t even remember the score but that memory stays forever.

  • PaddyReilly

    George Best had and utilised the right to express political opinions, and it is not surprising that others should believe they had the right to comment on them. But I note with concern the following passage from the Times obituary:-

    < >

    My first reaction to this piece was to inveigh against sectarianism of any kind, and to recommend the immediate abolition of school uniforms, or at least their unification, so that all should wear exactly the same jacket and trousers.

    But a look at the map breeds a certain cynicism. How on earth does one find a “sectarian Roman Catholic area“ on the way from Cregagh to Grosvenor Grammar School? Can someone elucidate? Maybe Belfast was different in those days. But I suspect the Mackerel-snappers are being unfairly blamed.

    Perhaps he was really a victim of anti-Grammar School prejudice, or maybe he left Grosvenor under a cloud. Perhaps, which is only to be expected, he was only interested in sport and not in any academic subject and that led to his relegation.

    But the need to outlaw, or unify school uniforms remains. If it hasn’t already beeen done in NI, it should be. If it has, it should be done in Scotland as well.

  • John East Belfast

    Paddy Reilly

    Until the early sixties or very late 50s (I cant remember) Grosvenor High School used to be on the Grosvenor Road, West Belfast – hence its name. This is why Bob McCartney went there – he grew up on the Shankill. I went to the one in Cameronian Drive of Castlereagh Road in East Belfast when it moved across town to its current home.

    However I always thought the reason he moved was because it didn’t play football.

  • John East Belfast

    Being in 1963 and raised a few hundred yards from where he grew up George Best was certainly an icon throughout my life to date. He was probably the only person I would have stopped what I was doing to watch on TV or pick up anything I came across written about him.

    My earliest memories are my older brother and father cheering at the European Champion final in 1968. I don’t know if it was the radio or Live TV (if they had it then) infact I am not even certain if we had a TV then. I was upstairs at the time in bed but that rare excitement of my father and brother sticks with a 4 year old. My brother 4 years older than me became a life long Man U supporter whereas to set myself apart and to reflect the Leeds team of the early seventies I gave my loyalties to Elland Road.

    Throughout the seventies my memory of him is more disappointment – his career finishing early and his international career soemtimes marked by him not being ‘available’ or indeed sometimes not turning up !

    However I remember in 1982 getting fully behind a half baked notion that he could have gone to Spain 82 with NI even at that stage.

    I distinctly remember reading his exploits in the tabloids throughout the Eighties in my 6th Form experience and time at QUB – it was always on my part a mixture of sadness and regret.

    I also remember the Wogan show which my wife and I, pre children, would sit down and watch every night. I will always recall her anguished “he’s pissed” when he walked onto the set.

    After that he still retained my attention but I must admit I often considered him a drunken bollix and disgrace in recent years. However such sentiments never remained long.

    He had an amazing ability to prompt forgiveness – maybe it was his footballing genius combined with charm and vulnerability – but he as one of those people it was difficult to dislike for long.

    I often wonder if he didn’t have the problem with alcoholism what would he be doing now ? Perhaps there would be no Sir Alex Ferguson ?

    Maybe he would have gone into politics – that charm would have gone a long way – although not if he ahd come back here !
    Being no judge of such things myself my wife says his early photographs are film star looks. My father in law who worked in the Shipyard with his dad and said George’s mother was a stunner.

    I read somewhere he had said he had a Mensa IQ – I know he said it but he was only 2 from his Council Estate Primary school to get the 11+ that year. I take my hat off to any kid from working class inner city Belfast, as particularly gifted, who jumps the NI Social Selection System barrier.

    Anyhow I salute a legend.

    I hope his funeral next weeks fully illustrates Belfast’s appreciation of having in its midsts a world class talented footballer.

    I also hope we get our new Stadium – it isnt at the Maze – and it is called The George Best Stadium – a fitting memorial.

  • Alan

    Back in the old days our primary school team played in red and we all thought we were Geordie Bests, even if we wore Alan Ball white boots.

    The football arguments were over quickly too – all you had to say was – yeah, but we’ve got Geordie Best.

    I feel really priveliged to have been born in the same city and to have seen him play.

  • Realist

    Sad to see that some on the thread want to highlight George’s “politics” and even more disgracefully so, his illness.

    I was brought up a few hundred yards from where Besty was. I still live close to the family home.

    My first time going to watch George “live” was to Windsor Park in 1971, when he played for Northern Ireland v Cyprus.

    I was 9 years of age at the time, and the butterflies in my stomach were akin to those any young kid has on Christmas Eve.

    Besty scored a hatrick that night in a 5-0 victory for Northern Ireland. Best was magical. One of the goals he scored was direct from a corner.

    He had done the same thing for Manchester United not long previous, and some papers labelled it a fluke.

    I often think that that George was sticking two fingers up to the sceptics that night at Windsor Park…typical of the man!

    macswiney’s post is one I wholly relate to.

    At George Best’s prime, Northern Ireland was tearing itself apart.

    Northern Ireland was known for two things…George Best and terrible civil unrest.

    George Best was a glue that enabled many, many people to hold their head up and be proud of where they came from at a time when there was very little to be proud about.

    For many reasons, I have always had a special place in my heart for George Best.

    Selfishly, I am so proud that he was a “Belfast Boy”.

    The beautiful game has lost the most beautiful player ever to grace it.

    Full backs in heaven will be a little uneasy today.

    God Bless Besty.

  • Realist

    cas,

    So Northern Ireland fans disagreed with George Best regarding an All Ireland football team…so what?

    I disagree with my missus about most things…doesn’t mean I don’t love her.

    Thanks anyhow for the link…on the site you will see a plethora of glowing tributes, footage of some of Besty’s greatest moments etc.

    Feel free to post your tribute cas…or perhaps your interest only extends to trying to get a cheap shot in at Northern Ireland fans?

    PS: Wonderful gesture by Celtic Football Club this weekend. Instead of holding a minutes silence, fans will applaud for a minute. This has only previously taken place at Parkhead once before…following the death of the great Jock Stein.

    George would have liked that.

  • james

    Sky has reported plans of a tribute game being organised in memory of George.

    An all Ireland team v England sometime next year.

    It would be fitting if everyone could leave their political beliefs aside to honour the life of Besty.

    What better tribute to a man who crossed all the boundries within this society.

  • “Sky has reported plans of a tribute game being organised in memory of George.

    An all Ireland team v England sometime next year.”

    I don’t think $ky should be involved in any sort of tribute – they just can’t seem to help but try and turn everything into a cheap money-making scheme; I’d much sooner entrust it to the likes of the BBC.

    Also, I’m sure George wouldn’t be offended if I point out that England struggled with Northern Ireland, never mind an all-island team 😉

  • The school stuff is amply recorded in Blessed, his autobiography of 2001. Suffice to say he ends his account by saying the attacks by the local Catholic kids were great for his sprint training.

  • PaddyReilly

    Football is a strange career path. If you master it, it gives you everything you want by the age of 19, and then spends the rest of your life taking it all away again.

    Football is altogether a strange business. It simulates war, delivers victories, sometimes accompanied by bloodshed, but nothing is conquered. It is like an election, where only the politicians win, and their supporters feel better, but their lives are just the same. It is a sort of incipient sectarianism, which has not yet gone too far. (Unless it concides with the real thing). There may be fights in the school playground, but they haven’t yet established separate schools.

    George Best could handle a ball better than anyone else in the world. Capitalising on this impressive, but objectively useless talent, he rapidly achieved unbounded fame and considerable, though finite, fortune. These he merely used as a springboard to progress into his preferred metier, which was bedding, on a serial basis, the most beautiful women in England. Sacrificing his vertical career for a horizontal one was a conscious choice, but an expensive one, though most males would do the same, if they had the chance.

    Having supplied seratonin boosts to ten of thousands of men at the same time, he now confined himself to servicing women one, or at most two, at a time. At this point one would expect some diminution in his fanbase. Certainly attention was turned elsewhere. As he put it, “If I had been ugly, you’d never have heard of Pele.”

    But his downfall was not the women, but the clubs in which, and the bottles of champagne he used to woo them. Alcoholism is due to a defective gene and may soon be curable. But many persons who are disposed to it are able, if they have some purpose to their life and something yet to achieve, to keep it at bay by never touching a drop.

    These he lacked. From then on, it was downhill. Bankrupted, he recovered and was given a political column which was about as impressive as a football team manned by journalists. If he helped to sell newspapers, it was as a news-item, not a writer. But by now he had moved onto his third career, which was as a guinea-pig investigating the effects of alcohol poisoning. Alcoholics: what can one say. Anyone who has tried looking after one for any period of time ends up wishing they could be gassed. Calling Best a wife-beater is perhaps unfair. There was no mens rea: I doubt that he was even aware he had struck his wife.

    Bestie did not need your adulation: it was the adulation that did for him. If there hadn’t been quite so many women wanting to sleep with him, if he hadn’t been told he was God when he was 17, he might have had done more with the rest of his life. As Kipling said, < > He couldn’t, I’m afraid.

  • james

    “I don’t think $ky should be involved in any sort of tribute”

    They ‘reported’ that a game was being organised.

    Sky are not organising the game.

    “Also, I’m sure George wouldn’t be offended if I point out that England struggled with Northern Ireland, never mind an all-island team ;)”

    As far as i am aware, it would be a friendly game, so i doubt that it would be hugely competitive fixture, more a chance for players and supporters to show their respect and admiration for George.

  • JJ

    Lest we forget that this man left his wife with a broken arm and black eye. What other society would give an alcoholic wife beater a “state” funeral? Is George Best an icon this society can be proud of? The answer is an emphatic NO. This Princess Di type hysteria is nauseating.

  • Realist

    “Lest we forget that this man left his wife with a broken arm and black eye. What other society would give an alcoholic wife beater a “state” funeral? Is George Best an icon this society can be proud of? The answer is an emphatic NO. This Princess Di type hysteria is nauseating.”

    Interesting that both George’s ex wives attended the funeral, and talked of their love for George.

    What was most nauseating was the plethora of self righteous mouthpieces, with absolutely no clue about alcoholism, who denegrated George after his death.

    This wee place will never see the likes of George again on a football pitch. That we will never forget.

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