One of the greatest footballers of all time, the legendary GEORGE BEST, died today at the age of 59 after a long illness.
My father was killed in a car accident in 1963 and my late grandfather, my mother’s dad, took on a lot of the lost parental role for this then devastated little boy. One of the first things he did was start taking me to Old Trafford, the home of Manchester United, the legendary “Theatre of Dreams”. It became such an important ritual, a new cornerstone for my shattered life, that when the first team was away, Grandad and I would go see the reserves together. It was the start of one of the most important and lasting relationships in my life, my love affair with Manchester United, the bright shining light of my home town.
The early 60s were a fantastic time, with great changes in social activity – fashion, music, sport; all were throwing off the depressing early years of a century mired in war, industry and repression in favour of excitement, colour, passion and openness.
The amazing ball control, goalscoring and creative skills of this skinny little Belfast kid, who was nominally a left winger but just as likely to pop up anywhere on the pitch, with moves and tricks of a quality and variety never seen before or bettered since, ably supported by the other genuine superstars of their day, Bobby Charlton, Dennis Law, Nobby Stiles and Paddy Crerand, the sheer vitality of George Best; all this and more helped this wide eyed and vulnerable little boy develop a love for individual style and personal expression that would never leave him.
In this sense, George Best was my father too, someone to look up to and admire, someone to want to be like. For this I will always love him, even though we never met.
The following is the official statement from Manchester United.
United legend George Best has died, aged 59, following a long spell in hospital.
The sad news was confirmed on Friday by doctors at the Cromwell Hospital in west London, where George had been receiving treatment as an in-patient since 1 October.
George had appeared to be making a recovery in recent weeks; seven days ago, he was reported to be “relatively stable” on a general ward. But he was re-admitted to intensive care last Friday after developing a lung infection. His condition deteriorated further on Tuesday. Complications caused by internal bleeding in the early hours of Thursday put him in a position from which he could not recover.
Professor Roger Williams said at lunch-time today, “It (the bleeding) has affected his lungs and other parts. There really is no return from that situation.”
George Best was arguably the most talented British footballer of all time. He made his professional debut for United in 1963, at the age of 17. He was named Footballer of the Year in England and in Europe in 1968 after helping the Reds to win the European Cup.