Posts Tagged ‘Bobby Charlton’

Sir Bobby: The Deepdale Gaffer



As Wayne Rooney closes in on the England goal-scoring record we thought we’d dig up a nice photo of the man he’s set to overtake; the legend that is Sir Bobby Charlton.

Rather than the usual images of Sir Bobby blasting one in for United or holding the World Cup aloft with England that we’re all so used to seeing, here we’ve opted for something a little less common. This pic is of Sir Bobby as he assumes the role of manager at Preston North End in 1973, a few months after hanging up his boots and leaving Old Trafford at the end of the 1972-73 season.

Charlton’s first task was signing his former United and England team-mate Nobby Stiles as player-coach. His first season ended in relegation however and although he began playing again he eventually left Preston early in the 1975–76 season after a disagreement with the board over the transfer of John Bird to Newcastle United. On the field he made 38 league appearances for Preston and scored 8 times.

After a brief stint with Waterford United in Ireland Charlton began doing punditry on matches for the BBC which continued for many years. In 1984 he became a director of Manchester United, a role he continues with to this day.


Classic Shots from Pre-Season Training Featuring the likes of Best, Jennings, McLintock, Auld & Moore


With the start of the new season on the horizon BOBBY has delved into it’s archives to bring you a random selection of photos from years gone by of footballers preparing for the new campaign.

Whilst some approaches were perhaps a little less scientific than others, the pics are a great snapshot of the enthusiasm players brought to the game. They may not have been super-rich like footballers of today, but they certainly realised they were happier being paid to play than work down a pit for example.


Two Bob: A great photo of Bobby Robson and Bobby Charlton training with England at Roehampton ahead of the 1958 World Cup in Sweden.

Soccer - Chelsea - Training - Stamford Bridge

Lumber-Up: Chelsea players workout using a 125lbs tree log to stretch during a pre-season training session in 1953.

Bobby Moore

Poetry: West Ham centre-half Bobby Moore heads the ball during a pre-season training session in Chadwell Heath in August 1962.

Soccer - Tottenham Hotspur Training

Burn Out: Pat Jennings and his epic sideburns in action during a Tottenham training session in 1973.

Soccer - Football League Division Two - Millwall FC Photocall

Lion King: Goalkeeper Brian King of Millwall springs into life in July 1969.

Soccer - Football League Division Two - Fulham Photocall - Craven Cottage

Photocall: Fulham’s Len Fisher limbers up with some stretching in pre-season at Craven Cottage, 1939.

Football - Chelsea Training - Stamford Bridge

Balls Up: Champions Chelsea get in some heading practice at Stamford Bridge in 1955.

Jimmy Hill goes through his paces at a Craven Cottage training session, 1958

Chin Up: Jimmy Hill goes through his paces at a Craven Cottage training session, 1958.

Diego Maradona

New Boy: Diego Maradona seen here training with his new Napoli teammates in the mountain resort of Castel del Piano in central Italy on July 27th 1984.

Arsenal favourite Frank McLintock showing off his leaping skills before the 1968-69 season

High Gunner: Arsenal’s Frank McLintock showing off his leaping skills ahead of the 1968-69 season.

Manchester United manager Wilf McGuiness with George Best during a training session in 1970

Scorcher: Manchester United manager Wilf McGuiness with George Best during a training session in 1970.


Hoops: Celtic assistant manager Sean Fallon watches Bertie Auld and Bobby Lennox enjoying a bit of the old running in-and-out-of-tyres routine in this training shot from 1967. Earlier that year Jock Stein’s brilliant collection of local players became the first British team to win the European Cup when they beat Inter Milan in Lisbon.


Hairy: Chelsea defender Dave Webb, sporting an impressive beard, seen here in training in Mitcham, south London, before the 1970-71 season. At the end of the previous campaign, Webb had scored the extra-time winner in that feisty FA Cup final replay against Leeds at Old Trafford.


Natter:  Tottenham captain Danny Blanchflower (left), and team-mate Dave Mackay, sit and chat tactics during a training session at Cheshunt, in July 1962 as they prepare for the start of the 1962-63 season.


Big Jack at 80
Cathal Dervan pays tribute to the man that changed Irish soccer forever


Jack Charlton, with his brother Bobby, in 1965. They would lead England to World Cup glory a year later. (Photo by Kent Gavin/Keystone/Getty Images)

England play Ireland on June 7 in Dublin a week ahead of the European Championship showdown qualifier against Scotland for Martin O’Neill’s team.

It will be a case of make-or-break for Ireland’s chances of reaching the 2016 finals in France.

Indeed failure will almost certainly cost O’Neill his job.

Who next..?

Those who make such decisions might just hark back to the day when the shock appointment at the time of an Englishman ushered in a new era.

Jack Charlton turned 80 on May 8. Our Great Shot is from April 8th 1965:  Brothers and members of the England football team, Jack Charlton and Bobby Charlton train at Chelsea Football Club’s Stamford Bridge stadium. Big Jack faces the camera and flashes the cheeky grin that would eventually capture the hearts of people on both sides of the Irish Sea.


Below the sports editor of The Irish Sun, Cathal Dervan, pays tribute to Big Jack and how he turned the Republic Ireland into a football force;

“We were going nowhere as a nation and as a football team when we first met Big Jack in late 1985.
By the time he left us a decade later we believed we were world beaters, on and off the pitch.

Jack Charlton didn’t just transform Irish football and give us all a reason to visit Germany, Italy and America; He made us proud to be Irish, convinced us that we could compete on any stage no matter who the opposition.

That is the greatest testament to the Charlton era. Without Jack we’d never have seen the Celtic Tiger.

Without him, we’d have maintained our position in mid-table mediocrity, in football and in life.

Love his football or hate his football, he made it good to be Irish at a time when even we needed convincing.

That’s his lasting legacy.”

April ’73: Charlton Bows Out
Bobby Charlton retires from top-flight football


Bobby Charlton leaves the Stamford Bridge pitch with Peter Boneti in front of an East Stand that’s under construction.

His Final Bow

Bobby Charlton retires from top-flight football

by Richard DJJ Bowdery.

Seven years after lifting the World Cup and five years after winning the European Cup, Bobby Charlton finally hung up his ‘Manchester United’ boots on 28 April 1973; though his United career ended on a low note that day as the Red Devils lost by the only goal of the game in a league match against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

During his career he scored 249 goals in a total of 754 appearances for the Red Devils, many of which were dispatched with his trade mark thunderbolt shot.

Born in the coal mining village of Ashington, Northumberland, in October 1937, he came from excellent footballing stock. Most famously, he was the nephew of legendary Newcastle United and England striker ‘Wor Jackie’ Milburn. Some have likened Bobby’s fierce shot with either foot to that of his uncle. And then there was his brother Jack who played professionally for Leeds United and England.

Bobby Charlton made his United debut in October 1956, in a league match against Charlton at Old Trafford. He scored twice, although he kept a secret from his manager, Matt Busby, which he later recalled during an interview. Busby had asked him if he was okay to play in that game. Charlton was suffering with a sprained ankle at the time, but wasn’t going to confess it to his manager: not on his debut. So he crossed his fingers and said he was fine.

Just two years later, he was to suffer injuries he couldn’t hide from anyone. At a snowbound Munich airport, Manchester United’s plane had landed to refuel. The team were on their way back to Manchester from Yugoslavia, in jubilant mood. They had drawn their match against Red Star Belgrade 3-3. The draw secured their place in the European Cup semi-finals. As the pilot attempted to take off the plane hit a perimeter fence, skidded into a frozen field and burst into flames. Bobby, along with Busby and several of his teammates, was hospitalized in West Germany. Twenty-one people lost their lives as a result of the crash, including seven of the Busby Babes. Among the seven was one player who many have argued was the greatest footballer ever. His name was Duncan Edwards.

As for twenty year old Bobby Charlton, he rose from the ashes of that disaster to rebuild a career that included many successful milestones: none more poignant than one night at Wembley in 1968. He was part of a United side that defeated Benfica at Wembley 4-1, to lift the European Cup. Bobby Charlton scored two of the goals that night. But he didn’t attend the post-match celebrations, preferring instead to be alone to remember his former teammates who were cut down in their prime, a decade earlier.

On the international stage he made a lasting impression in the minds of football fans everywhere; none more so than in July 1966. He was part of the England team, along with his brother Jack, which lifted the Jules Rimet trophy – England were the world champions and tears of joy coursed down Bobby’s cheeks.

He made 106 appearances for his country, a record that would probably still stand if substitutes weren’t awarded caps as they are today. But one record that hasn’t been broken is his 49 goals scored while proudly wearing the three lions badge on his shirt. Many have tried to surpass it, none have succeeded – although a certain current Manchester United player could overtake that achievement within the next 12 months.

Following his final game (incidentally, played on the same day as his brother Jack played his last game for Leeds United) Bobby Charlton went on to appear briefly for Preston North End (who he also managed) and, in 1976, Republic of Ireland side Waterford.

His post-playing career included a spell at Wigan as a board member, where he was also first-team manager. Then in 1984 he became a director of Manchester United, a position he still holds today.

His prowess on the football field led to him being named the Football Writers’ Player of the Year for 1967; and in 1974 he was awarded the PFA Merit Award. His career also led to an MBE and an OBE. Then in 2008 he received the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award.

Yet for all those successes gained off the pitch, none weas more richly deserved than the knighthood he received from the Queen in 1994. Arise Sir Robert Charlton. Not bad for the lad from a mining community in Northumberland.

Watch out for my book review of ‘Duncan Edwards – The Greatest’ which will appear here on Bobby FC later this spring.


United Lose Their Cool In Battle With Argentine Champs
October 16th 1968 Remembered


by Karl Hofer.

On October 16th 1968, Estudiantes of Argentina won the Intercontinental Cup, beating Manchester United in a bitterly fought two-legged final.

Manchester United were the reigning European Cup holders having overcome Benfica at Wembley to become the first English side to lift ‘the cup with the big ears’.By winning the previous season’s Copa Libertadores, Estudiantes earned the right to face them to decide which was the finest side in club football.

They met for the first leg on September 25th in the Estadio Alberto J. Armando, home of Boca Juniors, as Estudiantes’ ground was deemed unsuitable. The hosts eked out a narrow 1-0 victory in a match that saw United midfielder Nobby Stiles sent off and winger Bobby Charlton receive a blow to the head that required stitches.

Despite that result, United were favorites going into the second leg at Old Trafford three weeks later. A crowd of 63,500 were on hand to cheer on the reds, many waiting for as much as five hours in the heavy rain to purchase their tickets which ranged from 10 shillings to as much as £3 in price. The match generated over £50,000 in gate receipts which was a record for the time.

Despite the partizan crowd United fell behind early when Estudiantes forward Juan Ramón Verón headed a free-kick past Alex Stepney after just seven minutes. There was more bad news for United when striker Denis Law received an injury and had to come off in the 43rd minute, replaced by the Italian Carlo Sartori.

In similar scenes to the previous years match between Celtic and Racing, tempers flared in the second half as both teams had a player dismissed – George Best for United and José Medina for Estudiantes- in the 88th minute after a scuffle. Allegedly Best punched Medina in the face and pushed Néstor Togneri to the ground in the build up to the fracas. After the referee produced red cards for Best and Medina, Best is accused of spitting at Medina, resulting in the two having to be escorted to their respective changing rooms.

Almost straight after Willie Morgan drew the home team level on the night in the 89th minute, but they could not find another goal and Estudiantes held on to win on aggregate.

After the final whistle the Estudiantes team attempted to run a lap of honour, but the home fans hurled objects onto the pitch, cutting the lap of honour short!

Probably the most violent member of the Estudiantes side was their midfielder Carlos Bilardo, whose conduct caused Sir Matt Busby to later comment that “holding the ball out there put you in danger of your life”.

In our Great Shot José Hugo Medina of Estudiantes is escorted off the pitch clutching his face in dramatic fashion after being sent-off along with United’s George Best in that second leg (Photograph: PPP).


Rooney Will Be The Record Holder But He Will Never Be In The Same League As Charlton…

by Rob Shepherd.


Rooney: closing in on Charlton’s record

Wayne Rooney failed to fill his boots in the 5-0 sleepwalk over San Marino last week but a penalty in that game then his free-kick strike in the 1-0 win over Estonia has edged him closer to Bobby Charlton’s England goal record of 49.

As it stands only Jimmy Greaves (44) and Gary Lineker (48) are ahead of Rooney who is now on 43 after that goal in Tallin, struck ironically just before manager Roy Hodgson was about to take him off, such had been his profligacy prior to then.

So Rooney is on the threshold of a great achievement in the history of the English game, but greatness..?

Without taking anything away from Rooney there are more ‘cheap’ international goals about than there were in Lineker’s day let alone in the Greaves and Charlton era. There are more internationals, too.

For the record Greaves’ haul of 44 came in just 57 games. Lineker’s 48 came in 80 matches. It took Charlton, who don’t forget was a winger turned midfielder rather than a striker, 106 for his 49. In that respect Rooney’s ratio is similar. On November 15 at Wembley he is set win his 100th cap against Slovenia.

It is pointed out that Rooney has scored more “competitive” goals than any England player. But there are far more qualifying games than there used to be and more “minnow” opponents. But given his age (he is 29 later this month) it is likely that Rooney will not only break Charlton’s goal scoring record but surpass Peter Shilton’s 125 cap appearance record as well.


Sir Bobby in his heyday

It has been something of a chequered England career, especially when it has come to tournament finals, consequently it will be hard for many to see Rooney as a true England legend.

That said, for some of his faults Rooney is the only current England player who would have got close to making England’s 1966 World Cup winning side or indeed the Italia 90 which reached the World Cup semi finals.

Given that Roy Hodsgon has made him England captain there seems little doubt Rooney will surpass Charlton’s record, perhaps by the end of this season.

No doubt Sir Bobby – especially considering the Manchester United connection – will salute Rooney graciously but anybody who thinks the record books and statistics tell the whole story are misguided.

Bobby Moore was the inspiration of the World Cup winning team while Geoff Hurst eventually took the goal scoring plaudits with his unique hat-trick in the 1966 final after he took the place of an injured Jimmy Greaves (the best ever instinctive English striker) but in many ways it was Charlton who was the talisman.

Charlton was the England player football fans around the world viewed with most awe.

He scored two “routine” but crucial goals when England overcame Portugal in the semi finals (Rooney has only managed one World Cup goal in three tournaments) but the strike that summed up Charlton best was his spectacular effort in the group stage win over Mexico.

Rooney has yet to and one suspects never will score goals for England quite as important. Certainly he will never be a true football legend, the kind that Sir Bobby Charlton has become.



Rooney Has Sir Bobby Charlton In His Sights As He Chases Immortality

by Roy Dalley.

Wayne Rooney has been calling himself England’s “Big Man” since he arrived late at the 2006 World Cup, clutching a note from his doctor declaring himself fit for duty. We all know how that worked out…

A new chapter begins in an international career that has so far brought 95 caps, 41 goals, and not much else apart from a few red cards and the odd broken metatarsal. Rooney has been awarded the captaincy he long cherished a month before his 29th birthday, and is saying all the right things as he looks ahead to the challenge.

Coupled with his appointment as new skipper at Manchester United there is no doubt Rooney’s chest will be even more barrel-like as he leads England into the forthcoming qualifier against Switzerland.

But he will do well to compartmentalise his pride, for the Big Man has taken on a Big Job, and the next two years may well show us once and for all what sort of stuff he’s made of.

Alistair Cook knows only too well of the pressures both mind and body suffer in such a lofty environment. Well, you can probably multiply the weight of hope and expectation Rooney will carry onto the pitch as the eyes of a nation burn into him.


Rooney is set to take Sir Bobby Charlton’s scoring records for club and country

He’s already getting it in the neck from former England and United right-back Paul Parker, whose scathing critique of Rooney’s early performances as United captain rivalled a spell under Sir Alex Ferguson’s hairdryer in their venom. Views probably shared by many football watchers from Old Trafford to Wembley who reckon he shouldn’t be in their teams, never mind leading them out.

It will be fascinating finding out if Rooney can hold his nerve as the immortality he seeks appears on the horizon. Granted, United won’t win much more for a while… they’ve only effectively got the FA Cup and a top four place to play for over the next nine long months, for example.

But by the time of the European Championship Finals in 2016 Rooney might not just be captain of club and country, but their respective record goalscorers too. Something to tell the grandkids I daresay?

Who knows, a Knighthood may even be in the beckoning. Sir Bobby Charlton is the one currently holding those particular aces, scoring 49 for England and 249 for United. Rooney needs 9 and 33 respectively to surpass Wor Bobby, easily attainable in two seasons one would have thought?

Only problem is will he play every week, even if he avoids injury? Certainly Ross Barkley will be eager to add his name to the challengers for his place in Roy Hodgson’s team once he returns to fitness. And Radamel Falcao’s arrival in English football has already got Rooney on the retreat as he speaks of a more deeper-lying role in the years ahead.

Perhaps it may be so. Perhaps he will look to Andrea Pirlo for inspiration as he contemplates his 30’s. Or perhaps will he end up crying in his pillow? It’s time to find out…



Di Stefano: The Most Influential Player of All Time + Tributes & Quotes to a Legend of the Game

by Tim Vickery.

Who is the greatest player ever – Pele or Maradona? It is a question I get asked all the time. It’s a tricky one – and often seems to me a bit like two bald men fighting over a comb.

They were exceptional talents, to be enjoyed rather than compared, especially in the aggressive tone usually employed in the debate.

But the more I think about it the clearer my own answer, for what it’s worth, seems to be. They ask Pele or Maradona. I say Di Stefano.

Alfredo Di Stefano with Argentina, taken during the 1947 Americas Cup

Alfredo Di Stefano with Argentina, taken during the 1947 Americas Cup

The comparisons on playing styles are always difficult, especially when dealing with different eras. But I think I’m on safe ground arguing that there has never been a footballer more influential than Alfredo Di Stefano.

He never played in a World Cup, but club football belongs to him. The world’s two leading international club competitions bear his mark – one obviously and directly, the other indirectly.

Di Stefano was the last great product of the golden age of Argentine football, the 1940s, when he starred for River Plate. After the big players strike there in 1948 he was snapped up by Colombia’s newly-launched league, and helped get the professional game off the ground there as the star of the great Millonarios side. And in 1953, at the age of 27, he went to Real Madridand changed the course of history.

When the European Cup, as the Champions League was then known, was launched in the 1955/56 season there was no guarantee of success. World War Two was still very recent, though the continent was rebuilding and starting to pull away from post-war austerity. The English authorities were sufficiently suspicious of the whole thing to discourage Chelsea from entering the inaugural version.

In hindsight, such an attitude appears ridiculous – because it meant that English crowds were missing out on the Di Stefano show.

Bobby Charlton got a close look in 1957, when he watched from the stands in the first leg of the semi final, Manchester United away to Real Madrid.

“Who is this man?” was Charlton’s instant impression. “He takes the ball from the goalkeeper; he tells the full-backs what to do; wherever he is on the field he is in position to take the ball; you can see his influence on everything that is happening… I had never seen such a complete footballer. It was as though he had set up his own command centre at the heart of the game. He was as strong as he was subtle. The combination of qualities was mesmerising.”

All of Europe was going through the same experience. Di Stefano took the game of football up to a level the continent had never seen before. He was not the driving force behind Real Madrid winning the first five European Cups, he was also chiefly responsible for the quick success of the competition. Everyone wanted to see his Real Madrid side.


Di Stefano is the reason why Leeds where all-white.

Just as had happened after Uruguay won the 1924 Olympics in Paris, some South American talent had set off a fever for the game in Europe. If Leeds United wear white, if there is a club in the US called Real Salt Lake, and if the European Cup was an instant hit, then much of the credit belongs to Di Stefano.

Some would even argue that as the leading light in Real’s galaxy, Di Stefano helped improve foreign perceptions of Spain, thus encouraging the tourist boom and consequently hastening the country’s integration into mainstream Western European politics following the death of the dictator Franco.

That might well be going too far. But I don’t think that it is excessive to argue that, without ever intending to, Di Stefano helped bring into life the Copa Libertadores, South America’s European Cup equivalent.

There were serious impediments to launching such a competition in the continent of Di Stefano’s birth – South America is huge, and transport structure, far from perfect even today, was rudimentary.

An attempt had been made in 1948 to gather the continent’s best clubs for a tournament in Chile – Di Stefano played for River Plate – but although it was a success the timing was wrong; the players strike was about to erupt in Argentina, which had the effect of forcing the country into footballing isolation and driving Di Stefano to Colombia.

So there was no follow up, and no thoughts of a competition staged on a home and away basis – until an invitation arrived from Uefa.

Liga de Quito win the 2008 Copa Libertadores

Back on the other side of the Atlantic, the success of the European Cup was making people curious. Could there conceivably be a better team than Real Madrid somewhere out there? Did the continent that produced Di Stefano have any more where that one came from?

Uefa, then, proposed to the South American Federation that an annual game be staged between the champions of the two continents. All South America had to do was find a method of deciding its champion. And thus was born the Copa Libertadores, whose 50th version kicks off in earnest this week.

Without Di Stefano’s exploits with Real Madrid it would not have got off the ground so soon.

 From Tim Vickery’s BBC Blog, originally published in February 2009 (@Tim_Vickery).


Here are some quotes on the great Alfredo Di Stefano who passed away on Monday having just turned 88;

Soccer - European Cup - Final - Real Madrid v Eintracht Frankfurt

Alfredo Di Stefano (left) scored three goals, and Ferenc Puskas (right) four in the 7-3 win against Eintracht Frankfurt at Hampden Park

“Alfredo Di Stéfano was the greatest footballer of all time – far better even than Pelé. He was, simultaneously, the anchor in defence, the playmaker in midfield, and the most dangerous marksman in attack.”

Helenio Herrera, legendary former coach of Inter Milan.

“I don’t know if I had been a better player than Pelé, but I can say without any doubt that Di Stéfano was better than Pelé. I am proud when one speaks of Di Stéfano. Pelé would have flopped had he played in Europe, whereas Alfredo has played very well throughout the world. I can say that Maradona could be worse than Pelé. But I emphasize Di Stéfano was better”.

Diego Maradona, World Cup winner, speaking to Italian television in 1997.

“To his strength, stamina and electric change of pace, Di Stéfano allied superb ball control on which he put a premium. He score goals in superabundance yet made so many for others. If there was a King in the European Cup, it was surely Alfredo Di Stéfano.”

Brian Glanville, world famous soccer writer.

“Di Stéfano was a great player and saw things others didn’t see. He knew the game back to front and was always physically and mentally well-prepared. Di Stéfano ranks among the greatest players for me.”

Ferenc Puskas, former teammate and one of the all time greats.

“When Madrid fans said I was the heir to Di Stefano’s role in the Real team, I was more apprehensive than pleased. For Di Stefano was the greatest player I have ever seen. The things he did in a match will never be equalled.”

Luis Del Sol, former teammate and Juventus legend.




Alfredo Di Stefano; July 4th 1926 – July 7th 2014

“A soccer game without goals is like an afternoon without sunshine.” Di Stéfano scored over 800 goals in his career.

“We are all footballers, and as such should be able to perform competently in all 11 positions.”

“The best player I saw in my life was Adolfo Pedernera. Undoubtedly Maradona was exceptional, fantastic. The best for years. One can also not ignore Pelé. For heaven’s sake, although it is difficult to make comparisons, Pedernera was a very complete player who can play in the whole pitch.” 

“The ball gave me prestige, gave me fame, gave me riches. Thank you, my old friend. Because the ball I have a wonderful family, I have a son that plays soccer…” 

“I was right-footed, so my father didn’t let me play unless I would shoot the ball with my left foot.” Di Stéfano explains why he had such a powerful left-footed shot.



Best: His Name Said it All…


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.”


“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


“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


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.”


“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.


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


“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.


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


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.”


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.”


“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.



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.


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”.


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.”


“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.


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.”


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’

Eamon Dunphy
“Sir Matt Busby and Manchester United: A Strange Kind of Glory”

Publisher: Aurum Press Ltd

It was never going to be a smooth ride succeeding Sir Alex Ferguson.

And already there are rumblings of discontent even if much of it is from those only to be pleased to stoke up things a little and create an impression things are already going wrong at OT.

Much has been made about the lack of activity in the transfer market until the last seconds. There was the always doomed chase of Fabregas, the Wayne Rooney saga and mutterings from RVP about changes on the training ground.

DunphybookMaybe to counter act some of the flak David Moyes has now said he needs to shake up the club’s scouting system.

The pressure on Moyes succeeding Fergie The Godfather draws obvious comparisons with how the club coped – or didn’t – when Matt Busby abdicated at the end of the Sixties.

A transition that was designed to be seamless was far from it as Manchester United unravelled from a club who had won the European Cup in 1968 to become one which was relegated from the top flight in 1974. Such a decline was unthinkable back then, but it happened.

Eamon Dunphy’s ‘Sir Matt Busby and Manchester United: A Strange Kind of Glory’ offers a fascinating insight into the club’s decline of the time and takes the reader through the seeds of recovery that Ferguson started to sew at the end of the Eighties.

And of course it examines just what made United the club it became, taking the reader from the very start of the Busby era in 1945; with authoritative detail of the Busby Babes, Munich Air disaster and the rise from the ashes to the height of the Swinging Sixties.

The book is further helped by the fact that Dunphy was a young player at the club at the end of the Fifties and start of the Sixties and so adds a fantastic personal touch and has unique access to some of the players of the time where he gets underneath the skin of the true relationships between Best, Charlton and Law.

It’s not just a book for United fans, but every football fan who wants to understand the roots of the club and what it was all about before the commercial era took hold. One thing is certain now, given how the landscape has changed and their financial muscle, United won’t go down the pan as dramatically as they did back then.

BB Rating: 9/10