Saturday, November 26, 2005

Memories of George Best - at Luton and Dunstable

George Best was a boyhood hero of mine. Yes, I got angry with him over some of his behaviour, but I loved him all the same - and there's very few famous people I can say that about.

Most football crazy young boys (or girl in one of my ex's case) of my, now mid-40s, generation wanted to play like George, and look like George - even if we didn't support Manchester United.

I saw him play in a friendly for Manchester United at my club, Luton Town, in 1971, and he put in one of the best two or three performances I have ever seen, and it was just a friendly. I saw him play for Dunstable Town in 1974, and remember having to back away, with a friend of mine, Colin McCaig, as George needed room to take a corner. I remember feeling a mixture of sadness that this wasn't the stage he deserved, and delight at seeing him at least playing again. The opponents that day were a hotchpotch Manchester United side. They went 2-0 up, but eventually Dunstable won 3-2. Jeff Astle was also in the Dunstable side that day, and they were managed by Barry Fry. So, all very surreal, which was the story of George's life.

The last time I saw him play was a couple of years later, when George was in that star-studded Fulham side of the mid-'70s, which included two of the very few players who had a similar charisma and talent to George - Bobby Moore and Rodney Marsh. Fulham were at Luton, and won 2-0, and there was a famous photograph of young Luton starlet Ricky Hill dribbling past George, who ended up on his backside. Almost an analogy of where George's career was at. I should have seen George at Craven Cottage, playing for Fulham at home to Luton in the return fixture, but Bestie didn't show. By this time it wasn't unexpected. People excuse geniuses, because they are different. Genius is a curse and a blessing. A curse for those close to George, but a blessing for the rest of us.