Best: His Name Said it All…

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The young Best makes his debut

by Rob Shepherd.

This weekend marks the 50th anniversary of George Best making his league debut.

It’s tempting to think that if Gareth Bale is worth a fee of 100 million Euros then Best would on the current market be worth, what, 300 million..?

In terms of influence on the pitch and allure off it, the modern day equivalents are Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

One also wonders whether in the ‘money talks’ language of the modern game whether Manchester City would out-bid everyone and lure Best away from United as they tried to do with Wayne Rooney.

Many books, films and documentaries have been written about Best. The list of ‘Bestie’ anecdotes quips and quotes would make a book in itself. Many, especially those about wine woman and song, still bring the house down at after dinner speeches.

Below is a random selection of the not quite so obvious and some video evidence to boot.

Gone but never forgotten, here’s to you Georgie Boy…

Sir Bobby Charlton on Best’s debut :

“To be honest, his first performance for the team in a league match against West Bromwich at Old Trafford in September 1963 does not linger in my mind.
I am sure he showed some nice touches. But the overall impact was not overwhelming. It was when he returned to the first team, a few months later against Burnley at Old Trafford, that we began to see all that would be.”

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“For those who witnessed Best’s brief zenith in the 60’s, the effect went beyond the realisation that we were seeing the world’s most popular game played better than all but two or three men in its long history have ever played it.”
Hugh McIlvanney, Sports Journalist

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“Shellito was taken off suffering from twisted blood!” United team-mate Pat Crerand after Best had given Chelsea full-back Ken Shellito a torrid time.

“There are times when you want to wring his neck. He hangs on to the ball when players have found better positions. Then out of the blue he wins you the match, and you know you’re in the presence of someone special.” Paddy Crerand, again

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Sir Alex Ferguson on the “stupidity” of likening Ryan Giggs to Best.

“He’ll never be Best. Nobody will. George was unique. The greatest talent our football has ever produced – easily! Look at the scoring record, 137 goals in 361 league games. A total of 179 goals for United in 466 matches played. That’s phenomenal for a man who did not get his share of gift goals that sometimes come to specialist strikers.”

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“He has ice in his veins, warmth in his heart and timing and balance in his feet.” Danny Blanchflower, Spurs star and Northern Ireland captain.

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Little did he know it, but Best was set to enthrall the world with his skill and style

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“Keegan is not fit to lace Best’s drinks.”
John Roberts, football writer, after Best said Kevin Keegan was not fit to lace his boots.

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“George Best was the greatest player in the world.” Pele, considered by many as the world’s greatest, admired Best.

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Best, in retirement, to a small group of journalists, with a wry smile on his face: “If I had been born ugly…you would never have heard of Pele.”

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Best on Sir Matt Busby: “He never said much after a game. ‘Well done son’ would make me feel great. In fact the best compliment he ever paid me was to say I was the best tackler in the club. ‘Sometimes I’m frightened for you’ he said.”

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

McIlvanney, writing in The Sunday Times.

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Best: Twisting the blood of defenders everywhere

“He was able to use either foot – sometimes he seemed to have six.” Sir Matt Busby on Best.

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Of Best’s courage, David Sadler said of him circa ’68: “At the time he was the complete man. He was so brave, so strong in comparison to his size and build.

If he got injured he’d still play. In my opinion he was without doubt the greatest player I ever saw or played against”.

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Best on his demise at the age of just 26:

“It had nothing to do with women and booze, car crashes or court cases. It was purely football. Losing wasn’t in my vocabulary. When the wonderful players I had been brought up with – Charlton, Law, Crerand, Stiles – went into decline, United made no real attempt to buy the best replacements. I was left struggling among fellas who should not have been allowed through the door. It sickened me that we ended up being just about the worst team in the First Division.”

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“As a Manchester United fan I always saw George Best as a football legend and it was a proud moment for me when I wore the same number seven shirt as him. He is one of the greatest players to have ever graced the game and a great person as well.” David Beckham on following in Best’s footsteps.

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Bobby Charlton:

“When I look back on a life that was too brief, too troubled – whatever bright light George attempted to shine on it at time – I share that sense of wonder, sometimes disbelief when I think of how good he was and all those improbable things he achieved under such immense pressure.”

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And Van Morrison
In a factory in a street called Bread in East Belfast
Where Georgie knows best
What it’s like to be Daniel in the lion’s den
Got so many friends only most of the time

From the song ‘Ancient Highway’

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