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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

More George Best Memories

Watching George

My first United hero was Duncan Edwards and when he died I thought life would never be the same. I cried myself to sleep many a time and still get emotional when the Munich disaster is mentioned. The 60s came and a new United was being made. First came ‘The King’ with his swaggering arrogance and aggression in the United cause. Joining (the now much maligned) Bobby Charlton, I really thought that United would start to win again. And then came Georgie!

I could recount many tales of seeing him do outrageous things in almost every game I saw, but the following will suffice. The home game of the first leg of the semi final against Madrid in 1968. For some reason I was in the Scoreboard End (I was usually a Stretty Paddock person in those days!) and was stood right behind the goal when he rifled the left foot shoot into the top corner and we began to believe we could win the European Cup.

Secondly, the now often seen goal against Sheffield United in 1971 when despite being pushed further right than he wanted to he magicked the ball into the far left corner. The reason that was so special to me, was that there were developments going on to the ground, Sheffield United were top of the table and I got locked out! We waited outside listening to the commentary from the Manchester Evening News van, it was a warm sunny day. The second half came and the clock was ticking away... In those days they used to open the gates about 20 minutes before the end of the game and as soon as this happened I was in like a flash and crowd surfing my way in to avoid the stewards. I had been upright for about 45 seconds and the run and the goal came.

Happy and Magical days

On a sad note, about 25 years later I was at a dinner in London where George was the guest of Honour. He did an after dinner stint where his agent prompted him to tell a few stories. He could hardly struggle his way through things. I was upset seeing him like that. Anyway I had a programme from the 1968 final. At that stage it was signed by everyone including Sir Matt, but except Bobby and George. I politely asked him to sign, which he did, but his eyes were empty and grey. I thought he was dying back then.

Earlier this year I was at another dinner at Michael Parkinson's Pub in Bray, and the room was full of old United Players. Rumours that George might turn up abounded, but nobody really knew what to expect - he had form for not turning up! As things turned out he was there and was in much better shape than he was 15 years earlier! Sadly this time he really was dying. This was his last 'public' appearance.

I have been lucky to see him on and off the field, but memories of what he did on the pitch will always be the ones I want to talk about.

All the Georgie Best (as I always used to sign my letters)

Mick Gorman

Knowing George

I met George when I was 9 years old in San Jose. My friend's family knew a place that the players went to after matches, and George would invariably be there. He ended up shooting darts with my dad on occasion, and he took a bit of a shine to me, as I sat there on the bar stool next to him, with my chin on the counter.

He talked to me and bought me a Sprite to drink. I met his wife, at the time, and sat with her at some of the games. I knew he was our best player, but I had no idea who exactly he was... I found out a bit more when we had a summer soccer camp where George showed up. A lot of the kids were screwing around, but some of us were really paying attention to everything George said or did those few days.

To this day, I still strike the ball a certain way that he showed me... I received an autobiography from my parents and George signed it for me, and it was here where I started reading about this team in England called “Manchester United” where he won a lot of trophies and scored a lot of goals. I was soon asking my dad to save me the Sports pages if anything from English football related to them was mentioned - it wasn't easy as they were mostly crap.

My friend's family would get tapes of matches sent over occasionally, and we would watch all the matches we could that way. And that was about all we could do at the time, until satellite TV started to get more popular and matches were soon available. This is where everything ramped up for me. Of course, since the NASL folded, my parents and I would go on to support MLS teams in any city we lived - San Jose Clash, LA Galaxy, and now, for me, DC United.
I've been to Old Trafford and it was surreal to see the pitch in which my team plays, and the museum that had information on my childhood hero - I spent an hour at the video replay kiosk watching every goal from George Best they had. We also took the rail to PNE's ground to see the George Best exhibit at the Football Hall of Fame. I have plenty of George Best memorabilia, and I'm always arguing with my friends about Georgie being the best ever player.

I'm upset and disappointed with George for the choices he made in his life, but I'm not fit to judge him - and I hope I'm never in his shoes (so to speak) when talking about addictions to alcohol and/or gambling so that I can be. He's been a lifelong footballing inspiration for me, and I'll never forget him. He was a very kind person, despite his flaws, and the genius of genius footballers. I'll miss him and the world seems darker to me since his passing.

Rest in peace, George. I will miss you.
Ian Motter Frederick, MD USA

Meeting George

I was lucky enough to see George Best play for United many times from the first time my Dad took me to Old Trafford in 1967 until he eventually left United, but my outstanding memory of George at Old Trafford is from many years after he stopped playing.

I think it would have been around the time of the treble winning side. We were stood outside the Trafford pub on Chester Road when a taxi pulled up and out stepped George who was with some mates. He was just in front of us as we crossed the road and headed down Sir Matt Busby Way. He was recognised immediately of course and the crowd parted to let him through, and as one everyone started to applaud George and the applause continued all the way from Chester Road to the stadium. The warmth and spontaneity of the ovation he received that day would have left no doubt in his mind as to the love United fans still felt for a TRUE UNITED LEGEND.


In these days of computers, interactive games, interactive cinema, etc , I do not think a youngster could ever imagine exactly what that 90 minutes of sheer exhilarating, George Best induced excitement meant to a teenager in the 60s and 70s. The surge of expectation when Georgie picked up the ball and began to run at defenders as if the ball was somehow attached to his boot laces. The sense of panic which spread through defences not knowing which way he was going to go. The sheer delight when he beat a defender and then went back and did it again to leave him sitting on his arse shaking his head in abject acceptance to the cheers of the Stretford End. The wonderful Mazy run and goal against Chelsea in the League Cup all those years ago. The wonderful delicate chip into Tottenham's goal in front of the Stretford End, and towards his latter years at OT, waltzing through Sheffield Utd's defence (league leaders at the time) to slot the ball home. The unforgettable 6 he scored at Northampton. I could go on and on. Brilliant, Genius, breathtaking are all words that are bandied about freely these days, yet none (and I include Rooney in that) of the present day pretenders to Georgie's throne can hold a torch to him.

Thank you George. You will not be forgotten.



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