It’s ten years to the day since footballing legend George Best died, aged 59.
Famed as much for his playboy lifestyle as his on-pitch skills, the former Manchester United and Northern Ireland player is largely regarded as the greatest footballer ever to emerge from the British Isles, and is often argued for in any ‘greatest ever’ arguments
His playboy lifestyle, however, would eventually be his undoing - “the fifth Beatle” eventually succumbing to alcohol-related illness in November 2005.
However, it’s best that we remember him at the height of his career in the late 1960s for the great skills and goals that earned him European Player of The Year, the Ballon d’Or top goalscorer award, as well as English Football League and European Cup medals.
Best was the boyhood idol of Johnston Press North West sports editor Peter Storey.
He recalls: “I got my first United kit for my seventh birthday in the days before squad names and numbers, and was aghast when I stood proudly at the front door only for the milkman to enquire if I was Bobby Charlton.
““I’m George Best of course,” I told him.
“You could see the floodlights of Old Trafford from the front windows of our house and for many years that was the nearest I got to my idol, George, until Greater Manchester Police saw fit to block out the skyline with their new headquarters.
“By the time I was old enough to stand on the Stretford End, Bestie was long gone. I only saw him play once in the flesh. Bearded, and a little portly, he turned out for Paddy Crerand’s testimonial in 1975, part of a 1968 team playing against the present day side of Pearson, Coppell, Macari and Co.
“But he still had magic in his feet. He’d scored a wonder goal playing in the US for Fort Lauderdale Strikers which has been replayed time and again. Bestie still had it.
“And so had I – hero worship.”
Worksop Guardian sports editor Graham Smyth also grew up in awe of Best, albeit long after the footballer’s career was over, in Northern Ireland.
“I was made very aware as a young boy that George Best was the finest footballer to grace the planet, and he was ours,” he said.
“My dad is a huge Manchester United fan, and Bestie had been his idol.
“As a small country, anyone from Northern Ireland who is world class in sport is rightly celebrated, but perhaps even more so than in countries that produce top sportsmen and women with greater frequency.
“One of the boys in my primary school class claimed he was George Best’s nephew, and we never believed that we were just one degree of separation away from sporting greatness.
“It was only as a teenager, when I read George Best’s autobiography, that I discovered Andrew Campbell had been telling the truth in the playground at the age of eight.
“It’s glory by association, in its most tenuous form, but I’ll happily roll that story out for years to come because there will never be another George Best.”