George Best tribute


As someone who was born and raised in South London, I’ve become perfectly used to jibes from other football fans about the fact that I support Man United. My answer if I feel compelled to give one is always the same – just two words: George Best.

I was eight years old when I saw United beat Crystal Palace 5-3 at Selhurst Park (17/4/71). Best scored twice and Denis Law scored a hat trick.

From then on, I had the posters on my wall, the (terrific) biography by Michael Parkinson, and of course the George Best football boots, with Stylo in capitals and his autograph.

Even when I got into pop music, punk or movies, George remained the most glamorous icon in my life. Like Alex Higgins and John McEnroe, he had that combination of wild flair and disregard for authority that people like to label ‘genius’.

He played like Maradona, looked like Warren Beatty, was sent off for throwing mud at the referee. Even his name was perfect. No footballer has ever been more skilful or better looking. Even those great arbiters of cool and Man City fans, the Gallaghers, used his face on the artwork for Definitely Maybe.

Not surprisingly, he became the first football superstar. He made his debut for United aged 17 the week the Beatles released their first single.

As a man, a player, he was brave and determined. He trained and trained to improve his left foot in a way few footballers today can be bothered to, by kicking a tennis ball at a door handle.

Off the field, he was astute, funny and charming.
“With all these girls,” Parkinson once asked him, “how many times were you actually in love ?”
“Oh,” said George chivalrously, eyes flashing with mischief. “A couple of thousand.”

After George Best, I could never understand how anyone could NOT support Man United even though it was thanks to him that throughout the 70s and 80s I was condemned to supporting a club who won hardly anything. Even when Ron Atkinson’s side won their first 10 league games of the season, we still lost the league to Liverpool. Again.

His death, at the age of 59 is desperately sad and the end of an era. For any true United fan, George Best symbolises the club in a way that not even Keane and Cantona put together come close to.

For people like myself, I suppose it symbolises not only the end of my childhood but a style of playing and a kind of glamour that football – now a business more than a form of entertainment – just doesn’t have anymore.


George Best: 22 May 1946 – 22 November 2005)