Best, Beauty or Beast?
February 14, 2012 Leave a comment
Women adored him, men wanted to be him. Pele called him the greatest footballer the world has ever seen.
He was of course George Best.
At his pomp in the height of the swinging 60s, he was the biggest name in the English game. However it wasn’t just the skills he possessed on the football pitch that made him great, it was his way of life.
It is well known that Best was a player on and off the pitch, from becoming Footballer of the Year in 1968 to womanising and alcoholism that eventually lead to his death in 2005 at the age of 59.
It all started at the age of three, when he kicked a football around the garden and his late father Dickie Best told him to use his left foot as well as his right.
Dickie said: “George would have kicked a rugby ball if he could. He was never happy unless he was kicking something.”
When Best got older: “He did it all on his own, practice, practice, practice” said Dickie.
This determination led to his first professional contract at the age of 15 at Manchester United. Bob Bishop spotted the young Northern Irishmen and brought him to Manchester but Best only stayed for 36 hours, before returning home due to home sickness. However he returned to Manchester a few months later and stayed.
He waited a further two years to make his debut at the tender age of 17 against West Brom in 1963. Best’s potential was clear and he started to become a household name.
Barbara McNarry George’s sister said: “The press were constantly at our door. He was big news, our lives became public.”
Best spent 10 years at Old Trafford before being sacked for excessive drinking and failing to turn up for training. His appetite for the game he loved as a child had disappeared. However during those years he had a phenomenal career, scoring 179 goals, helping them lift the European Cup in 1968 and two First Division championships.
After his time at United he spent the next decade playing around the world for a number of different clubs, his most productive time being in America.
Best’s career declined as his celebrity lifestyle increased. He was known by some as the ‘fifth Beatle’ and he started to live like a pop star. He was described by his sister Barbara as a ‘bit of a character’.
This showed in his antics off the pitch, which he spent with the likes of Miss World and several other beauty queens. His evenings ended in night clubs where alcohol and women followed. It soon became clear that George had become an alcoholic.
George told his brother in law, Norman McNarry, if he wanted a drink, he could get one anywhere.
The drinking landed a troubled George on the wrong side of the law. He was jailed for three months in 1984, for drink driving, assaulting a police officer and failing to answer to bail. This wasn’t the end of his criminal record with further drink driving offenses, and an investigation for sexual assault for which he was never found guilty.
Barbara McNarry admitted that her brother’s drinking had a ‘profound impact’ on the family’s life when it was at its worst.
George gave up drinking for a while, but it had already taken its toll. In 2002 he nee
Barbara said: “He tried everything to overcome alcoholism he possibly could.ded a liver transplant to save his life.
“He came through the liver transplant very well, but a year later he succumbed again.”
This last temptation was going to cost George dearly; the world would lose one of the greatest icons of the game.
He died in hospital on the 25th November 2005, as a result of a kidney infection.
He would have been 65 this month. His father summed him up perfectly.
“George will be remembered, as one of the very best.”