Frank Keating

Simply the Best

Simply the Best

Before both codes of rugby muscled in briefly with a flurry of Test matches, a month or so ago who’d have imagined the two most compelling contests at the top of soccer’s Premiership this first Saturday of December would be Bolton Wanderers against Arsenal and Wigan Athletic’s neighbourly barney at Liverpool. Olde-tyme top-of-the-table ‘six pointers’. While Bolton’s reclaiming of the heights has been worthily achieved of late, their name has an antique resonance as founders of the League in 1888; Wigan’s dramatic rise would be even more spectacularly heady if they were to beat Liverpool today and then stop in their tracks the strutting leaders, Chelsea, next weekend at Stamford Bridge.

Panegyrics for George Best will continue in lachrymose flood. As they mourn, are those of a certain generation also grieving for the final burial of the 1960s, that hedonistic, both-ends-burning time of peace, love and self-indulgence? Not to mention mini-skirts and maxi-measures. Between lost weekends anyway, George was a delightful fellow; shy even, but humorous and button-bright with it. And some player: a copper-bottomed, heaven-sent wonder, an inspiration. Although he played in the First Division only till he was 28, it is ludicrous to say he squandered his talent. Cut it off short, maybe, but he started at 17 and 466 matches (179 goals) for Manchester United was no short rations. Best undeniably served his dues to the game. Star football writer for the local Evening News and a mate of mine, David Meek, watched more of Best, home and away, than probably any other person, and he scoffs at the very idea that the player wasted his talent: ‘He was hunted down by defenders for 11 full seasons, seldom without sympathy from referees. The man was incredible, and not only for his daring, his awareness, his dribbling and his goals.

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