Jim Gracie: George Best is a legend of Manchester United and my childhood idol, but he always simplified himself so that he could make me feel important.



16 years ago today Manchester United And Northern Ireland legend George Best passed away.

n 2015, on the tenth anniversary of his death, I paid tribute to the man who was a childhood hero and later became a friend.



Here is that article:

Have you ever interviewed George Best? It’s the question I get asked the most at every milestone, because at the age of only 59, she was brutally taken, due to alcohol-related ailments, and is now the 10th of that Friday, November 25, 2005. The anniversary has arrived in a heartbeat.



The answer is, well, yes… and, er, no! Truthfully, I have no shame in admitting that the first time I met my all-time, ultimate ideal, he interviewed me.

I was simply stunned at the presence of the boy whom I had revered since childhood as both a footballer and Jack the Lad.



George Best That’s why I ended up in the toy store, because the sports department of the newspaper is known for ‘serious’ (jealous?) magazines in front of the newspaper.

He ended my love affair with football and Man United. Wolves were his club, grew up in Craigieg, and if he ended up there, I would be Old Gold today instead of Red.

As a child, I was amazed to see him play for Northern Ireland at Windsor Park. He stirred up the earliest sports feelings that I remember…

The excitement and excitement leading up to match day… the thrill of watching him play; Buzz around the field as he swings the ball; The day he was sent off for slinging mud on the referee against Scotland, he was distraught.

disbelief in his disallowed goal against England when George fired the ball into the air from Banks as the great keeper dropped it for a kick out; Bestie rounded Banks and nodded into the net in front of me and my old man at the railway end, in reference to ruling out any goal for no other reason than it had been done before.

And disappointment came when he moved from United for a Spanish beach run at the age of just 26. As a boy, I read every word written about him, collected posters, saved every magazine.

As criticized for his later lifestyle, I heard nothing bad about my ideal.

When he left us, it was hard to find words to express the sense of loss felt by an entire football generation of my age.

It was pretty much the same, for different reasons, the first time I met him. Try as you might, I couldn’t speak!

It wasn’t like I was a Cubs reporter with a stick. I was in my 20s and had gone around the block several times. From the beginning of Billy Bingham’s glorious reign, I was on a rollercoaster ride with that great Northern Ireland side on their early 80’s World Cup and British Championship.

Billy Hamilton, Gerry Armstrong and Norman Whiteside, the big names of the day, were partners. still are. So I was no stranger to the company of famous footballers. Then one night, after Spain’s high of 82, Bestie broke into Windsor Park.

Later in the bar upstairs (where else?) my early mentor and much-remembered colleague, the late Gordon Hanna, had a conversation with George – one of the many times I hear about foreign trips to casinos and late night hotels in Northern Ireland. Was. A crowd of beautiful girls surrounded by screaming.

Then one side of George’s character later came out to greater acclaim than any other.

Clearly recognizing someone who had fallen out of conversation and was unable to speak for himself, he nodded to me and asked Big Gordon: “Who’s your partner?”

“Sorry,” Gordon introduced me apologetically, “I thought you’ve met George before.”

I went to speak, but couldn’t because Gordon joked with George: “You’re his hero.” Which tied me to my tongue even more.

The way I used to look at this guy, I was no height, went out of his way to make me feel comfortable which I will never forget and to replay all his football videos, this is what I follow Will be his memory.

Boy, did he try hard with me that night.

“How long have you worked for Wee Malcolm (Brody)?”

“You’ve done well to have that job” he congratulated me? “Wherever I go in the world, the first thing journalists ask me is if I know Malcolm.”

None of this worked. Not even a joke. “You and Big Pat must have great cracks on away trips!” He joked.

This was my experience with George Best every time, turning the conversation from myself to my interviewer, mutual friends, and shared interests.

I still went home in amazement, vowing to regain the power of speech if ever next. And the opportunity came shortly after when the circus rolled into Tobermore in the winter of 84.

The wee team signed George, who needed money to get out of Tackman, for an Irish Cup tie against Ballymena United.

After a few false starts at snow-capped Fortwilliam Park and a 7-0 thrashing later on Thursday afternoon, I found myself in the Tobermore dressing room with my old sidekick, the late Alex Toner of the Daily Mirror, and another from Old Northern Ireland . The Trip Gang of George’s Champagne Vintage.

The casino stories resurfaced and a million women around the world would have switched places with me the moment George stepped out of the shower and started dressing up while he and Alex lived the long, fluid nights they spent together.

And at the time, I couldn’t resist an ironic crackdown as George pulled on the Perrier jumper.

“Oh, you’re going to talk today, aren’t you?” George smiled, silenced me again! Be aware that your sculptures may have feet of clay, warned the poet. It’s not. George’s most endearing quality to me as a superstar was his ability to appear normal while making others feel important.

In more relaxed meetings after those fumbling introductions, he would always break the ice by asking after Malcolm, Gordon, and Alex and you knew he was real.

I wasn’t so sure, though, as I had sent her to Ford Open Prison on her drink driving wrap when she claimed to have received the Christmas card. OK, mine and 5,000 others.

I once asked him if he thought those gimmicky appearances at places like Tobermore and FiveMiletown had diminished his legend. “People wanted to see me and I needed money,” he nodded.

No amount could buy the skill that George enjoyed being loved and forgiven throughout his life, no matter what his excesses.

When Taxman finally caught up with him, despite wasting a fortune most of us could never understand, it was people of modest means who took him out with a 1988 Windsor Park testimonial, utterly to the delight of him. Brought, nothing more, the late, legendary crusader football character Derek Wade.

George needed a hundred grand to clean the slate and it was clever Wade, I remember, who came up with the wheezing of selling a ticket to a tenant with small print informing the buyer: “Entry £ 1, remaining a donation to his best”, which would have made George proud of turning a body to the taxman.

A wasted life, according to the tutors? He must be lucky enough to be fit at 79, which he covered at 59.

George was a raker and raking is what rakers do.

But he chose not to become an alcoholic and those who understand this would never have condemned him.

Which is why I stood up for him emphatically when he wheeled me into one of those Sunday lunch religious affairs radio shows after another boring omission on that borrowed liver.

“It’s immoral, giving that man a new liver,” shouted some holy harpy, to which I turned back: “What will you do? Let him die? How moral is he?”

He never asked me back.

The last time I saw George was in the hospitality room after the League Cup final at Wembley. He was (honestly!) sipping tea with actress Maureen Lippman, and was wearing a stylish, brown leather jacket emblazoned with ‘Legend’ on the back.

“He has an ‘ology,” I joked his friend from the old BT commercials. “And the rest,” she smiled.

When the Queen Mother died, I was reminded of a commentator observing that the Queen had transformed overnight from a daughter to a 79-year-old grandmother.

And so on, with those of us whom George kept young as long as he was around to live life to the fullest and dodge the Reaper.

As we move forward in the queue, it has a light that never goes off. Legend and memories live on with each anniversary and with a new perspective.

My aforementioned, now 84-year-old, father considers a day without outings to be in vain. Upon returning from one of his latest, I asked where he was this time. “To go to George’s grave,” he replied.

I didn’t know till then that Nayak worship was hereditary.

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