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George Best

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George Best

George Best
Best in 1976
Personal information
Full name George Best
Date of birth (1946-05-22)22 May 1946
Place of birth Belfast, Northern Ireland
Date of death 25 November 2005(2005-11-25) (aged 59)
Place of death London, England
Height 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)
Playing position Winger
Attacking midfielder
Youth career
1961–1963 Manchester United
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1963–1974 Manchester United 361 (137)
1974 Jewish Guild (loan) 5 (1)
1974 Dunstable Town (loan) 0 (0)
1975 Stockport County 3 (2)
1975–1976 Cork Celtic 3 (0)
1976 Los Angeles Aztecs 23 (15)
1976–1977 Fulham 42 (8)
1977–1978 Los Angeles Aztecs 32 (12)
1978–1979 Fort Lauderdale Strikers 28 (6)
1979–1980 Hibernian 17 (3)
1980–1981 San Jose Earthquakes 56 (21)
1980–1982 San Jose Earthquakes (indoor) 21 (33)
1982 Sea Bee 2 (0)
1982 Hong Kong Rangers 1 (0)
1983 Bournemouth 5 (0)
1983 Brisbane Lions 4 (0)
1983 Osborne Park Galeb 1 (1)
1983 Nuneaton Borough 0 (0)
1984 Tobermore United 0 (0)
Total 604 (239)
National team
1964–1977 Northern Ireland 37 (9)

* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.

† Appearances (goals)

George Best (22 May 1946 – 25 November 2005) was a Northern Irish professional footballer who played as a winger for Manchester United and the Northern Ireland national team. In 1968 he won the European Cup with United, and was named the European Footballer of the Year and FWA Footballer of the Year. He has been described by the Irish Football Association as the "greatest player to ever pull on the green shirt of Northern Ireland".[1]

Born and brought up in Belfast, Best began his club career in England with Manchester United, with the scout who had spotted his talent at the age of 15 sending a telegram to manager Matt Busby which read: "I think I've found you a genius."[2] After making his debut for United aged 17, he scored 179 goals from 470 appearances over 11 years, and was the club's top goalscorer in the league for five consecutive seasons.[3]

One of the greatest dribblers of all time, his playing style combined pace, skill, balance, feints, two-footedness, goalscoring and the ability to beat defenders.[4][5][6] Best unexpectedly quit United in 1974 at age 27, but returned to football for a number of clubs around the world in short spells, until retiring in 1983, age 37. In international football, he was an automatic choice when fit, being capped 37 times and scoring nine goals from 1964 to 1977, although a combination of the team's performance and his lack of fitness in 1982 never allowed his talent to be displayed in the finals of a European Championship or World Cup.

Such was Best's talent and charisma that he became one of the first celebrity footballers, earning the nickname "El Beatle" in 1966,[7] but his subsequent extravagant lifestyle led to various problems, most notably alcoholism, which he suffered from for the rest of his life. These issues affected him on and off the field, at times causing controversy.[8] He said of his career: "I spent a lot of money on booze, birds (women) and fast cars – the rest I just squandered".[9] After football he spent some time as a football analyst, but his financial and health problems continued into his retirement.[8] He died in 2005, age 59, due to complications from the immunosuppressive drugs he needed to take after being controversially granted an NHS liver transplant in 2002.[10] Best was married twice, to two former models, Angie Best and then Alex Best. His son Calum Best was born in 1981 from his first marriage.

Before he died, Best was voted 8th in the BBC, Best was remembered by mourners at his public funeral held in Belfast as "the beautiful boy" [with a] "beautiful game".[12]


  • Early years and family 1
  • Club career 2
    • Manchester United 2.1
    • Later years 2.2
  • International career 3
  • Personal life 4
  • Alcoholism 5
    • Death 5.1
    • Funeral 5.2
    • Memorials 5.3
  • Career statistics 6
  • Honours 7
    • Club 7.1
    • Individual 7.2
  • Biographies 8
  • George Best: The Movie 9
  • Notes 10
  • References 11
  • External links 12

Early years and family

Best grew up on the Cregagh estate, east Belfast

George Best was the first child of Dickie Best (1919–2008) and Anne Best (née Withers; 1922–1978). He grew up in

  • The George Best Foundation
  • George Best – Classic Player profile
  • George Best Profile at
  • George Best Player Profile
  • English Football Hall of Fame Profile at the Wayback Machine (archived 15 April 2005)
  • George Best's appearance on This Is Your Life

External links

  • Best, George (2005). Hard Tackles and Dirty Baths: The Inside Story of Football's Golden Era.  
  1. ^ Profile of George Best
  2. ^ a b Stephen McGinty, "Best coming to the end of his life", The Scotsman, 25 November 2005
  3. ^ "Reliving the Dream: The Triumph and Tears of Manchester United's 1968 European Cup Heroes". Random House,
  4. ^ "Sterling showed his composure against City and it bodes well... three of the greatest players ever are some of the smallest". Daily Mail (London). Retrieved 20 August 2014
  5. ^ John Roberts, "George Best was reliable only when there was a football at his feet", The Independent (London), 26 November 2005
  6. ^ a b "We have just unearthed a gem from your neck of the woods...". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 5 January 2014
  7. ^ a b c d "The birth of El Beatle". The Independent (London). Retrieved 20 August 2014
  8. ^ a b Gordon Burn, "The Long Goodbye", The Guardian (London), 25 November 2005
  9. ^ "Best: Decline of the golden boy". BBC News. 14 June 2005. 
  10. ^ a b c d e "Football legend George Best dies".  
  11. ^ IFFHS' Century Elections. RSSSF.
  12. ^ "A city mourns for the Belfast boy", BBC News Northern Ireland, 3 December 2005
  13. ^ Andrews, David L (2004). Newcastle United: a thematic study. Abingdon, Oxfordshire: Routledge. p. 135.  
  14. ^ George Best collarette in Archived 25 September 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ George Best's Father, Dickie, Dies Aged 88, Sky News, 16 April 2008
  16. ^ George Best drama: an intrusive film that failed to tell the whole story
  17. ^ Best 2005, p. 4
  18. ^ "George Best". Talk Football. Retrieved 5 March 2008. 
  19. ^ Anne Cadwallader, "Best too small and light for local club as teen", Tiscali News, 25 November 2005
  20. ^ "George Best Interview from 1972". Barnjournalen. 1972. Retrieved 10 February 2008. 
  21. ^ Best 2005, p. 3
  22. ^ a b Best 2005, p. 1
  23. ^ Best 2005, p. 34
  24. ^ Best 2005, p. 43
  25. ^ a b c Best 2005, p. 57
  26. ^ "Manchester United 2 – 2 Liverpool". Retrieved 9 October 2012. 
  27. ^ Jim White, "Too many knew only the tabloid Best", Daily Telegraph (London), 28 November 2005
  28. ^ a b Best 2005, p. 73
  29. ^ Best 2005, p. 74
  30. ^ Best 2005, p. 75
  31. ^ Best 2005, p. 115
  32. ^ Best 2005, p. 117
  33. ^ Best 2005, p. 123
  34. ^ Best 2005, p. 127
  35. ^ Best 2005, p. 129
  36. ^ Best 2005, p. 139
  37. ^ Best 2005, p. 144
  38. ^ Best 2005, p. 142
  39. ^ Best 2005, p. 146
  40. ^ Best 2005, p. 148
  41. ^ a b ". Daily Mirro.. Retrieved 5 January 2014
  42. ^ Best 2005, p. 162
  43. ^ Best 2005, p. 165
  44. ^ Best 2005, p. 166
  45. ^ Best 2005, p. 167
  46. ^ a b "Book looks back with no anger". Telegraph. Retrieved 5 September 2014
  47. ^ Best 2005, p. 174
  48. ^ a b "Book still winces at six of the Best". Telegraph. Retrieved 5 September 2014
  49. ^ 100 Greatest sporting moments – results Channel 4
  50. ^ Best 2005, p. 212
  51. ^ a b c Best 2005, p. 235
  52. ^ Best 2005, p. 249
  53. ^ Best 2005, p. 252
  54. ^ Best 2005, p. 270
  55. ^ Best 2005, p. 271
  56. ^ Best 2005, p. 272
  57. ^ Best 2005, p. 275
  58. ^ [2] Tuesday 1 January 1974
  59. ^ Best 2005, p. 301
  60. ^ Best 2005, p. 302
  61. ^ Players match by match – George Best
  62. ^ Raath, Peter (November 2007). "Our Blood Is Also Red-ish". Sports Illustrated (South Africa) (Touchline Media) (119): 107. 
  63. ^ "Best's run with Cork among many regrets". The Irish Times. 
  64. ^ Sean O'Conor, "Best's American Years", Yanks Abroad, 26 November 2005
  65. ^ a b c d e Wilson, Mike (9 March 2003). "Caught in Time: George Best joins Hibs, 1979".  
  66. ^ a b c Baker, Thomas (25 November 2005). "Best's time at Hibs a heady cocktail of scandal and skill".  
  67. ^ "George Best at Burrelton". Retrieved 18 November 2012. 
  68. ^ "George Best in Hong Kong" on YouTube (video clip)
  69. ^
  70. ^ a b "Complete game list 1978-84". Retrieved 19 March 2013.
  71. ^ Nathan Radford (6 October 2011). "Dee Why Football Club : History". Dee Why Football Club. Retrieved 12 September 2011. 
  72. ^ John Ashdown (30 July 2008). "The professionals who played for pub teams". The Guaridan (London). Retrieved 12 September 2011. 
  73. ^ a b c George Best: Goals, girls ... where did it all go wrong?, Daily Mirror.
  74. ^ a b c ""Maradona hails 'inspirational' Best". RTE Sport. Retrieved 9 September 2013
  75. ^ "Best calls for 'united' Ireland". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 1 November 2013
  76. ^ "George Best".  
  77. ^ Best 2005, p. 46
  78. ^ The Rolling Stones – The Last Time (video clip)
  79. ^ George Best and me Manchester Evening News, 25 November 2010.
  80. ^ Ramsbottom author tells George Best inside story in book Lancashire Telegraph, 2 November 2010.
  81. ^ David McKittirck, Seamus Kelters, Brian Feeney, Chris Thornton & David McVea, Lost Lives: The Stories of the Men, Women and Children Who Died as a Result of the Northern Ireland Troubles, Mainstream Publishing, 2008, p. 425
  82. ^ "Best in quotes". BBC. Retrieved 10 September 2014
  83. ^ "Matches of the Day: How footballing marriages of yesterday compare to Coleen and Wayne's lavish nuptials". London Evening Standard. 11 June 2008. Retrieved 5 October 2012. 
  84. ^ Heartbroken Samantha Janus's tears for estranged father Daily Mail (London)
  85. ^ Marriages England and Wales 1984–2005
  86. ^ Lovejoy, Joe (1998), "Bestie", Pan, pg 356
  87. ^ Lovejoy, Joe (1998), "Bestie", Pan, pg 236
  88. ^ a b "Tribute to Best's sausage adverts". BBC. 8 February 2007. Retrieved 31 October 2010. 
  89. ^ "FIFA 16 Ultimate Team - New Legends". EA Sports. Retrieved 7 August 2015. 
  90. ^ "GQ: The 50 Most Stylish Men"
  91. ^ How do you blow millions of pounds? This lot could give a few pointers... - The men who lost everything - MSN Him UK
  92. ^ "Football’s tragic playboy prince" Retrieved 6 January 2014
  93. ^ a b Do alcoholics deserve liver transplants?
  94. ^ Lovejoy, Joe (1998), "Bestie", Pan, pg 306
  95. ^ Video clip on YouTube; Stephen McGinty, "Parky was a 'nut', says Meg Ryan", The Scotsman, 5 April 2006
  96. ^ Best in hospital with pneumonia
  97. ^ The Scotsman: Criticism grows of Best liver decision, 14 July 2003
  98. ^ "George Best Gets Drink-Drive Ban".  
  99. ^ a b "Flawed Best had it all". The Age (Melbourne). Retrieved 10 September 2014
  100. ^ "George Best very close to death", BBC News
  101. ^ "Top 10 Eric Cantona Quotes - Seagulls, Water Carrier, Terminator And Many More". Retrieved 4 February 2015
  102. ^ "Minute's silence for Best". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 10 September 2014
  103. ^ a b "Old Trafford stages Best tribute". BBC Sport. Retrieved 10 September 2014
  104. ^ a b c "Final farewell to football legend". BBC. Retrieved 7 August 2015
  105. ^ "Belfast City Airport to be renamed in honour of George Best", 21 March 2006, Belfast City Airport website; "Best family proud of airport name", 22 May 2006, BBC News
  106. ^ Deric Henderson, "'George Best Airport' splits city", The Scotsman, 22 March 2006; "Best family hits out at Belfast Airport renaming opposition",, 22 March 2006
  107. ^ "Ex-Mayor in Belfast City Airport Best tribute call",, 27 November 2005
  108. ^ "Flybe pays tribute to George Best!", 15 March 2006, Flybe website
  109. ^ Aims & Objectives The George Best Foundation, 2012.
  110. ^ "Bank note honour for George Best". BBC Online. 26 October 2006. Retrieved 26 October 2006. 
  111. ^ "Last of Bestie fivers sells out". BBC Online. 1 December 2006. Retrieved 9 June 2007. 
  112. ^ "Best note prompts auction fever". BBC Online. 1 December 2006. Retrieved 9 June 2007. 
  113. ^ Victoria O'Hara (29 January 2008). "Best memorial plan rescued by fan".  
  114. ^ Man. United stats. Manchester United. Retrieved 19 March.
  115. ^ Top international stars in the NASL, 1967-1984; George Best. ASHA. Retrieved 19 March.
  116. ^ Best North American Soccer League stats. Retrieved 19 March.
  117. ^ George Best league stats. Retrieved 19 March 2013.
  118. ^ Hibernian stats. Retrieved 19 March 2013.
  119. ^ "Complete game list 1973-76". Retrieved 19 March 2013.
  120. ^ "Complete game list 1976-78". Retrieved 19 March 2013.
  121. ^ "Northern Ireland – Record International Players". RSSSF. Retrieved 19 March 2013.
  122. ^ George Best at
  123. ^ Slater, Chris. "Hunt for actor to play United legend George Best in new film", Manchester Evening News, Manchester, 22 March 2015. Retrieved on 14 September 2015.
  124. ^ "George Best: The Movie" Tifosy, Retrieved 14 September 2015.


  1. ^ Includes appearances in Charity Shield (1965 and 1967), Intercontinental Cup (2 in 1968), Watney Cup (3 in 1970–71 and 1 in 1971–72) and NASL play-offs (1 in 1976, 5 in 1977 and 5 in 1978).


[124] In 2015 it was announced that a new film about the life of George Best was being worked on, directed by

George Best: The Movie

  • Bestie (co-written with Joe Lovejoy),
  • The Good, The Bad and The Bubbly (with Ross Benson)
  • Blessed: The Autobiography (with Roy Collins)
  • George Best: A Celebration (Bernie Smith and Maureen Hunt)
  • Scoring at Half Time (with Martin Knight).
  • Hard Tackles and Dirty Baths (with Harry Harris)



Manchester United



Northern Ireland national team
Year Apps Goals
1964 6 2
1965 6 1
1966 1 0
1967 1 0
1968 1 1
1969 4 0
1970 4 1
1971 6 4
1972 2 0
1973 1 0
1974 0 0
1975 0 0
1976 2 0
1977 3 0
Total 37 9
Club Season League Cup League Cup Continental Other[nb 1] Total
Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Manchester United 1963–64 17 4 7 2 2 0 0 0 26 6
1964–65 41 10 7 2 11 2 0 0 59 14
1965–66 31 9 5 3 6 4 1 1 43 17
1966–67 42 10 2 0 1 0 0 0 45 10
1967–68 41 28 2 1 9 3 1 0 53 32
1968–69 41 19 6 1 6 2 2 0 55 22
1969–70 37 15 8 6 8 2 0 0 53 23
1970–71 40 18 2 1 6 2 3 1 51 22
1971–72 40 18 7 5 6 3 1 1 54 27
1972–73 19 4 0 0 4 2 0 0 23 6
1973–74 12 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 12 2
Total 361 137 46 21 25 9 34 11 8 3 474 181
Stockport County 1975–76 3 2 0 0 0 0 3 2
Cork Celtic 1975–76 3 0 0 0 0 0 3 0
Los Angeles Aztecs 1976 23 15 1 0 24 15
Fulham 1976–77 32 6 2 0 3 2 37 8
1977–78 10 2 0 0 0 0 10 2
Total 42 8 2 0 3 2 47 10
Los Angeles Aztecs 1977 20 11 5 2 25 13
1978 12 1 12 1
Total 32 12 5 2 37 14
Fort Lauderdale Strikers 1978 9 4 5 1 14 5
1979 19 2 19 2
Total 28 6 5 1 33 7
Hibernian 1979–80 13 3 3 0 0 0 16 3
1980–81 4 0 0 0 2 0 6 0
Total 17 3 3 0 2 0 22 3
San Jose Earthquakes 1980 26 8 26 8
1981 30 13 30 13
Total 56 21 56 21
Bournemouth 1982–83 5 0 0 0 0 0 5 0
Brisbane Lions 1983 4 0 0 0 4 0
Tobermore United 1983–84 0 0 1 0 1 0
Career total 574 204 52 21 30 11 34 11 19 6 709 253

Career statistics

In December 2006 the George Best Memorial Trust launched a fund-raising drive to raise £200,000 in subscriptions to pay for a life-size bronze sculpture of George Best. By 2008 the money had still not been raised until a local developer, Doug Elliott, announced on 29 January 2008, that he would put up the rest of the money and would manage delivery of the project.[113]

In June 2006, Sarah Fabergé, great-granddaughter of Russian Imperial Jeweller Ulster Bank issued one million commemorative five pound notes.[110] The notes sold out in five days.[111] The notes sold on the online auction site eBay for up to £30.[112]

In March 2006, the airline Manchester memorial service for Best.[108]

"With feet as sensitive as a pickpocket's hands, his control of the ball under the most violent pressure was astonishing. The bewildering repertoire of feints and swerves... and balance that would have made Isaac Newton decide he might as well have eaten the apple."

— Sports writer Hugh McIlvanney.[6]

Public opinion in Northern Ireland about the renaming of the airport was divided, with one poll showing 52% in favour and 48% against.[106] Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) deputy leader and East Belfast Member of Parliament Peter Robinson, in whose constituency Belfast City airport is situated, stated that his preference was a sports stadium be named after Best.[107]

The official new name and signage was unveiled to a gathering of the Best family and friends at the airport on 22 May 2006, which would have been his 60th birthday. [105] Belfast City Airport was renamed

Following his death, the George Best Belfast City Airport was named after him.


There was an 11 am service in the Grand Hall attended by 300 invited guests relayed to around 25,000 mourners inside the grounds of Stormont. Best's brother Ian, agent Phil Hughes, Dr Akeel Alisa, who treated Best, and his brothers-in-law Norman McNarry and Alan McPherson, were also pallbearers. As the cortege left Stormont, the Gilnahirk pipe band played. The funeral was live on several television stations including BBC One. Afterward, Best was cremated, and his ashes were interred beside his mother Annie Elizabeth Kelly in a private ceremony at the hill-top Roselawn Cemetery, overlooking east Belfast.[104]

His body left the family home at Cregagh Road, East Belfast, shortly after 10:00 UTC on Saturday, 3 December 2005. The cortege then travelled the short distance to Stormont. The route was lined with around 100,000 mourners.[104] Former Northern Ireland manager Billy Bingham, international team-mates Derek Dougan, Peter McParland, Harry Gregg, Gerry Armstrong and Denis Law were the first to carry the coffin to the base of the Stormont steps.[104]

Best's grave at Roselawn Cemetery, overlooking east Belfast


The Premier League announced that a minute's silence would be observed before all Premier League games to be held over the weekend of his death; however at many grounds a minute's applause broke out in his honour.[102] The first match at Old Trafford after Best's death was a League Cup tie against West Bromwich Albion, the club against which he made his debut for Manchester United in 1963.[103] The match, which United won, was preceded by tributes from former team-mate Sir Bobby Charlton. Best's son Calum and former team-mates, surviving members from the West Brom team which he played against in his debut, all joined the current United squad on the pitch for a minute's silence, during which fans in every seat held aloft pictures of Best, which were given out before the match.[103]

Tributes were paid to Best from around the world, including from arguably the three greatest football players ever, [101]

[100][10] In the early hours of 25 November 2005, treatment was stopped; later that day he died, aged 59, as a result of a

Best continued to drink, and was sometimes seen at his local pub in Surbiton, Southwest London. On 3 October 2005, Best was admitted to intensive care at the private Cromwell Hospital in London, suffering from a kidney infection caused by the side effects of immuno-suppressive drugs used to prevent his body from rejecting his transplanted liver.[10] On 27 October, newspapers stated that Best was close to death and had sent a farewell message to his loved ones. Close friends in the game visited his bedside to make their farewells, including Rodney Marsh, and the two other members of the "United Trinity", Bobby Charlton and Denis Law.[99] On 20 November the British tabloid News of the World published a picture of Best at his own request, showing him in his hospital bed, along with a warning about the dangers of alcohol with his message: "Don't die like me".[99]

Graffiti honouring Best appeared all over Belfast after his death.
Gates of Belfast City Hall soon after Best's death, Another view.


Best was diagnosed with severe liver damage in March 2000.[10] In 2001, he was admitted to hospital with pneumonia.[96] In August 2002, he had a successful liver transplant at King's College Hospital in London.[10] The transplant was performed at public expense on the NHS, a decision which was controversial due to Best's alcoholism.[97] The controversy was reignited in 2003 when he was spotted openly drinking white wine spritzers.[93] On 2 February 2004, Best was convicted of another drink-driving offence and banned from driving for 20 months.[98]

In 1984, Best received a three-month prison sentence for drunk driving, assaulting a police officer and failing to answer bail. He spent Christmas of 1984 behind bars at Ford Open Prison. Contrary to popular belief and urban legend he never played football for the prison team. In September 1990, Best appeared on the primetime BBC chat show Wogan in which he was heavily drunk and swore, at one point saying to the host, "Terry, I like screwing".[95] He later apologised and said this was one of the worst episodes of his alcoholism.

Best suffered from alcoholism for most of his adult life, leading to numerous controversies and, eventually, his death.[93] In 1981, while playing in the United States, Best stole money from the handbag of a woman he did not know in order to fund a drinking session. "We were sitting in a bar on the beach, and when she got up to go to the toilet I leaned over and took all the money she had in her bag."[94]

"I was born with a great gift, and sometimes with that comes a destructive streak. Just as I wanted to outdo everyone when I played, I had to outdo everyone when we were out on the town."

— Best on his excesses off the field.[92]


In 2007, GQ magazine named him as one of the 50 most stylish men of the past 50 years.[90] When Best played football, salaries were a fraction of what top players earn today, but, with his pop star image and celebrity status, Best still earned a fortune. He lost almost all of it. When asked what happened to the money he had earned, Best quipped: 'I spent a lot of money on booze, birds (women) and fast cars. The rest I just squandered.'[91]

Best had a video game seriesFIFA; he was included in the FIFA 16 Ultimate Team Legends.[89]

At the peak of his career in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Best advertised Cookstown sausages on television with the phrase "the Best family sausages".[88] In 2007 a memorial plaque was placed outside the pork factory in the County Tyrone town.[88]

He married Alex Pursey in 1995 in George Carman QC, a close drinking companion of Best, as acknowledged in his book, Scoring at Half Time.

Best married Angela MacDonald-Janes on 24 January 1978 at Candlelight Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas, having met in the United States when Best was playing for the Los Angeles Aztecs. Their son, Calum, was born in 1981, but they separated the following year and divorced in 1986.[83] His niece by marriage is actress Samantha Janus, who is the daughter of Angie MacDonald-Janes' brother.[84]

"In 1969 I gave up women and alcohol - it was the worst 20 minutes of my life."

— Best quips on his lifestyle.[82]

He opened a nightclub called Slack Alice on Bootle Street in Manchester in 1973 and owned restaurants in the city including Oscars, on the site of the old Waldorf Hotel.[79][80] He also owned fashion boutiques, in partnership with Mike Summerbee. Best's cousin Gary Reid, a member of the Ulster Defence Association, was killed in 1974 during an episode of serious rioting in east Belfast.[81]

During his early years at Old Trafford, Best was a shy teenager who passed his free time in snooker halls.[77] However he later became known for his long hair, good looks and extravagant celebrity lifestyle, and appeared on Top of the Pops in 1965.[78]

George Best's voice
from the BBC programme The New Elizabethans, 20 July 2012[76]

Problems playing this file? See .

Personal life

A proponent of a United Ireland football team, in 2005 Best stated: "I've always thought that at any given time both the Republic and Northern Ireland have had some great world-class players. I still hope that in my lifetime it happens."[75]

Best was considered briefly by manager Billy Bingham for the 1982 World Cup, but at the age of 36, with his football skills dulled by age and drink (and five years having passed since his last cap), he was not selected for the Northern Ireland squad.

Best continued to be selected for Northern Ireland throughout the 1970s, despite his fluctuating form and off pitch problems. Dutch captain Johan Cruyff commented: "What he [Best] had was unique, you can't coach it".[74]

On 15 May 1971, Best scored possibly the most famous "goal" of his career at Windsor Park in Belfast against England.[73] As Gordon Banks, the English goalkeeper, released the ball in the air in order to kick the ball downfield, Best managed to kick the ball first, which sent the ball high over their heads and heading towards the open goal.[73] Best outpaced Banks and headed the ball into the empty goal, but, although legal, the goal was disallowed by referee Alistair Mackenzie.[73]

He was capped 37 times for Northern Ireland, scoring nine goals. Of his nine international goals four were scored against Cyprus and one each against Albania, England, Scotland, Switzerland and Turkey.

"George Best was one of the most talented players of all time and probably the best footballer who never made it to a major world final."

— 1974 World Cup winning West Germany captain Franz Beckenbauer.[41]

International career

On 8 August 1988, a testimonial match was held for Best at Windsor Park. Among the crowd were Sir Matt Busby, Jimmy Murphy, and Bob Bishop, the scout who discovered Best, while those playing included Osvaldo Ardiles, Pat Jennings and Liam Brady. Best scored twice, one goal from outside the box, the other from the penalty spot.

Best played in a friendly for Newry Town against Shamrock Rovers in August 1983,[69] before ending his professional career exactly 20 years after joining Manchester United with a brief four-match stint playing for the Brisbane Lions in the Australian National Soccer League during the 1983 season.[70] He also was a guest player for an exhibition match between Dee Why Football Club and Manly Warringah held on 27 July 1983; Dee Why won the match 2–1, with Best having scored the winning goal.[71][72]

In late 1982, Bournemouth manager Don Megson signed the 36-year-old Best for the Third Division side, and he remained there until the end of the 1982–83 season, when he retired from football at the age of 37.

He returned to the US to play for the San Jose Earthquakes in what was officially described as a "loan", though he only managed a handful of appearances for Hibs in the First Division in the following season.[66] He returned one last time to Easter Road in 1984, for Jackie McNamara's testimonial match against Newcastle United.[65] In his third season in the States, Best scored once in 12 appearances. His moves to Fort Lauderdale and San Jose were also unhappy, as his off-field demons began to take control of his life again. After failing to agree terms with Bolton Wanderers in 1981, he was invited as a guest player and played three matches for two Hong Kong First Division teams (Sea Bee and Rangers) in 1982.[68]

Best in 1982

Best caused a stir when he returned to the UK to play for the Scottish club Hibernian.[65] The club was suffering a decline in fortunes and was heading for relegation from the Premier Division,[65] before Best was signed on a "pay per play" basis after the club chairman, Tom Hart, received a tip-off from an Edinburgh Evening News reporter that he was available.[65][66] Even though Best failed to save Hibs from relegation, gates increased dramatically, and the attendance quadrupled for his first match at Easter Road.[65] One infamous incident saw Best initially sacked by Hibs after he went on a massive drinking session with the French rugby team, who were in Edinburgh to play Scotland.[66] He was brought back a week later. In August 1982, he played 20 minutes for Scone Thistle against Scone Amateurs; the appearance fee he received helped to pay off an income tax bill.[67]

Best played for three clubs in the United States: Los Angeles Aztecs, Fort Lauderdale Strikers and later San Jose Earthquakes; he also played for the Detroit Express on a European tour. Best revelled in the anonymity the United States afforded him after England and was a success on the field, scoring 15 goals in 24 games in his first season with the Aztecs and named as the NASL's best midfielder in his second.[64] He and manager Ken Adam opened "Bestie's Beach Club" (now called "The Underground" after the London subway system) in Hermosa Beach, California in the 1970s, and continued to operate it until the 1990s.

He had a brief resurgence in form with Second Division club Fulham in 1976–77, showing that, although he had lost some of his pace, he retained his skills. His time with the "Cottagers" is particularly remembered for a match against Hereford United on 25 September 1976 in which he tackled his own teammate, and old drinking mate, Rodney Marsh. Best stated later in life that he enjoyed his time most while at Craven Cottage, despite not winning any honours.

Best had a brief spell at Cork Celtic in December 1975 and January 1976. He made his League of Ireland debut against Drogheda United at Flower Lodge on 28 December. He played only three league games, the others against Bohemians and Shelbourne, but despite attracting big crowds he failed to score or impress. Being on a rolling contract with Cork his failure to show for a game saw him being dropped and subsequently leaving the club.[63]

Playing only five competitive matches for Jewish Guild in South Africa, Best endured criticism for missing several training sessions. During his short time there, he was the main draw attracting thousands of spectators to the matches.[62]

Best in 1976

Later years

Best played at United when shirt numbers were assigned to positions, and not the player. When Best played at right wing, as he famously did during the later stages of the 1966 and 1968 European Cups, he donned the number 7. As a left winger, where he played exclusively in his debut season and nearly all of the 1971–72 campaign, he wore the number 11. Best wore the number 8 shirt at inside right on occasion throughout the 1960s, but for more than half of his matches during 1970–71. He was playing at inside left (wearing the number 10) in 1972 when he famously walked out on United the first time but was back in the number 11 for the autumn of 1973 before leaving for good. Best even wore the number 9 jersey once for United, with Bobby Charlton injured, on 22 March 1969 at Old Trafford, scoring the only goal in a 1–0 win over Sheffield Wednesday.[61] In total Best made 470 appearances for Manchester United in all competitions from 1963 to 1974, and scored 179 goals. Over the next decade he went into an increasingly rapid decline, drifting between several clubs, including spells in South Africa, Ireland, the United States, Scotland, and Australia.

Best's last competitive game for the club was on 1 January 1974 against Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road, which United lost 3–0.[58] He failed to turn up for training three days later and was dropped by Docherty, though he claimed Docherty was deceitful with him.[59] Best was arrested and charged with stealing a fur coat, passport, and cheque book from Marjorie Wallace, but was later cleared of all charges.[60] United went on to suffer relegation into the Second Division in 1973–74.

United's decline continued in the 1972–73 season, as Best was part of the 'old guard clique' that barely talked to the newer, less talented players.[53] Frustrated with the club's decline, Best went missing in December to party at the London nightclubs.[54] He was suspended, and transfer-listed at a value of £300,000.[55] After O'Farrell was replaced as manager by Tommy Docherty, Best announced his retirement for a second time.[56] He resumed training on 27 April.[57]

New manager Frank O'Farrell led United to an eighth-place finish in 1971–72. Highlights for Best included hat-tricks against West Ham United and Southampton, as well as a goal against Sheffield United that came after he beat four defenders in a mazy run.[51] However he was also sent off against Chelsea, was the subject of death threats, and failed to turn up for training for a whole week in January as he instead spent his time with Miss Great Britain 1971, Carolyn Moore.[51] On 17 November, he was the subject of Eamonn Andrews's This Is Your Life[51] when he was surprised at a central London restaurant. He would be the subject for a second time in 2003 when Michael Aspel surprised him at Teddington Studios. With 27 goals in 54 appearances, Best finished as the club's top-scorer for the sixth – and final – consecutive season. Best then announced his retirement from football, but nevertheless turned up for pre-season training, and continued to play.[52]

Busby returned as manager in December 1970, though the 1970–71 season also ended without a trophy. Best began to get into trouble with his discipline: he was fined by the Football Association for receiving three yellow cards for misconduct, and he was suspended by United for two weeks after missing his train to Stamford Bridge so as to spend a weekend with actress Sinéad Cusack.[50]

Best's sixth goal saw him go one on one with Northampton goalkeeper [48] Best's six goal performance earned him an invitation to No 10 Downing Street from UK Prime Minister Harold Wilson, who had also regularly written fan letters to him.[46] In 2002 the British public voted Best's record breaking performance #26 in the list of the 100 Greatest Sporting Moments.[49]

United improved slightly under new boss Wilf McGuinness, but still only managed an eighth-place finish in the 1969–70 season. Best hit 23 goals, including an FA Cup record six goals in an 8–2 win over Northampton Town in a mud-bath at the County Ground on 7 February 1970.[47]

"It's been a joke on the circuit ever since. You know, I'm on one side of the street, George Best is on the other. He nods to me and I dive under a bus."

— Northampton goalkeeper Kim Book laughs about the jibes he has faced since being fooled by Best's feint in the 1970 FA Cup game against Manchester United.[46]

The 'holy trinity' of Best, Law and Charlton remained effective as ever in the 1968–69 campaign. However the club's new recruits were not up to scratch, as United dropped to 11th in the league before Busby announced his retirement. Best later said that "I increasingly had the feeling that I was carrying the team at times on the pitch."[42] He scored 22 goals in 55 games, though only he and Denis Law scored more than six league goals. In the Intercontinental Cup, fans and players alike looked forward to seeing United take on Argentine opposition Estudiantes de La Plata over the course of two legs. However Best said "no one tackled harder or dirtier than this Argentinian team" as a 1–0 defeat at the Estadio Camilo Cichero was followed by a 1–1 draw at Old Trafford.[43] In the home tie, Best was kicked and spat on by José Hugo Medina, and both players were sent off after Best reacted with a punch.[44] Despite their poor league form, United managed to reach the semi-finals of the European Cup (they had a relatively easy run in getting past Ireland's Waterford United, Belgium's Anderlecht, and Austria's Rapid Wien) where they were knocked out 2–1 on aggregate by A.C. Milan following a 2–0 defeat at the San Siro; Milan goalkeeper Fabio Cudicini was the hero after keeping United to only one goal at Old Trafford.[45]

"It seems impossible to hurt him. All manner of men have tried to intimidate him. Best merely glides along, riding tackles and brushing giants aside like leaves."

Joe Mercer, Manchester City manager, 1969.[41]

Days after returning to England, as the First Division's joint top-scorer (level on 28 goals with Southampton's Ron Davies) Best was presented with the FWA Footballer of the Year award, becoming the youngest ever recipient of the award.[37] Facing United in the European Cup Final at Wembley were Benfica; whilst his teammates rested, Best found "a novel way to relax" before the big game by sleeping with "a particular young lady called Sue".[38] The game went into extra-time, and just three minutes into extra-time Best went on a mazy run and beat goalkeeper José Henrique with a dummy, before rolling the ball into the net; two further goals from Brian Kidd and Bobby Charlton settled the tie at 4–1.[39] The victory was not only the pinnacle of Best's career, but arguably Manchester United's greatest achievement, considering the Munich air disaster had wiped out most of the Busby Babes just ten years previously.[40] Best also won the Ballon d'Or in 1968 after receiving more votes than Bobby Charlton, Dragan Džajić and Franz Beckenbauer. This meant that he had won the three major honours in club football at the age of just 22 (the league title, European Cup, and European Player of the Year award). After this, his steady decline began.

Best scored twice against rivals Liverpool in a 2–0 win at Anfield, and also claimed a hat-trick over Newcastle United in a 6–0 home win on the penultimate league game of the season. However a home defeat to hated local rivals Manchester City proved costly, as City claimed the league title with a two-point lead over United. Yet the 1967–68 season would be remembered by United fans for the European Cup win. After disposing of Maltese Hibernians, United advanced past Yugoslavian Sarajevo with a 2–1 home win – Best assisted John Aston for the first and scored the second himself, and was described as Geoffrey Green of The Times as "the centrepiece of the chessboard ... a player full of fantasy; a player who lent magic to what might have been whimsy".[33] In the quarter-finals United advanced past Polish club Górnik Zabrze 2–1 on aggregate, having held on to their aggregate lead in freezing temperatures in front of 105,000 at Silesian Stadium; despite losing the away tie 1–0, Best described the defeat as "one of our best-ever performances, given all the unwelcome circumstances".[34] Facing six times champions Real Madrid in the semi-finals, Best scored the only goal of the home fixture with a 15-yard strike that Alex Stepney described as one of Best's finest goals.[35] In the tie at the Bernabéu, Best was marked effectively by Manuel Sanchís Martínez, but on the one time Best got the better of him he made a telling cross to Bill Foulkes, who calmly found the net to level the game at 3–3 and to win the aggregate tie 4–3.[36]

The 1966–67 season was again successful, as Manchester United claimed the league title by four points. Best stated that "if the championship was decided on home games we would win it every season. This time our away games made the difference. We got into the right frame of mind."[31] An ever-present all season long, he scored ten goals in 45 games. He then helped the "Red Devils" to share the Charity Shield with a 3–3 draw with FA Cup winners Tottenham Hotspur; it was the first game to be broadcast in colour on British television.[32]

[30].Partizan Stadium at Partizan Belgrade His last game of the season, his knee strapped-up, came on 13 April, and ended in a 2–0 defeat to [29] He had little faith in the United medical staff, and so he secretly saw Glentoran's physiotherapist, who readjusted his ligaments in a painful procedure.[28] However United staff claimed it was light ligament damage so as to keep Best on the field for the rest of the campaign.[28] player.Preston North End season, and Best was injured from 26 March onwards with a twisted knee following a bad tackle from a 1965–66 However United failed to win any major honours in the [27] The rising star of English football, Best was catapulted to superstar status at the age of 19 when he scored two goals in a

Though opponents would often use rough play to try to stifle his technical ability, Busby ensured that "fierce, sometimes brutal" training sessions left Best well used to coping with tough challenges.[24] In the 1964–65 season, his first full season as a first team regular, Best helped Manchester United to claim the league title.[25] A 1–0 victory at Elland Road proved decisive as the title race came down to goal average between the "Red Devils" and bitter rivals Leeds United; Leeds did manage to gain some measure of revenge though by knocking Manchester United out of the FA Cup at the semi-final stage.[25] Over the course of the campaign Best contributed 14 goals in 59 competitive games.[25] He scored the opening goal of the 1965 FA Charity Shield at Old Trafford, which ended in a 2–2 draw with Liverpool.[26]

The United Trinity statue of Best (left), Denis Law (centre) and Bobby Charlton (right) outside Old Trafford

Best made his First Division debut, aged 17, on 14 September 1963 against West Bromwich Albion at Old Trafford in a 1–0 victory.[22] He then dropped back into the reserves, before scoring his first goal for the first team in his second appearance in a 5–1 win over Burnley on 28 December.[22] Manager Matt Busby then kept Best in the team, and by the end of the 1963–64 season, he had made 26 appearances, scoring six goals. Manchester United finished second, four points behind Liverpool. They also reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup, where a defeat to West Ham United cost Best the chance to break a record; in the final Preston North End's Howard Kendall became the youngest ever player in a FA Cup Final – he shared the same birthday as Best.[23] That same season, Best was a part of the Manchester United side that won the 1964 FA Youth Cup, the sixth FA Youth Cup won under the management of Jimmy Murphy, and the first since the 1958 Munich air disaster.

At the age of 15, Best was discovered in [20] He returned to Manchester and spent two years as an amateur, as English clubs were not allowed to take Northern Irish players on as apprentices. He was given a job as an errand boy on the Manchester Ship Canal, allowing him to train with the club twice a week.[21]

Manchester United

Club career

In 1957, at the age of 11, the academically gifted Best passed the 11 plus and went to Grosvenor High School, but he soon played truant as the school specialised in rugby. Best then moved to Lisnasharragh Secondary School, reuniting him with friends from primary school and allowing him to focus on football. He grew up supporting Glentoran and Wolverhampton Wanderers.[17]

in 1978, at the age of 55. [16]cardiovascular disease Best's mother Anne died from alcoholism-related [15].Northern Ireland, Dundonald in Ulster Hospital Best had four sisters, Carol, Barbara, Julie and Grace, and one brother, Ian (Ian Busby Best). Best's father died on 16 April 2008, at the age of 88, in the [14]

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