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"God answers my prayers everywhere except on the golf-course."

Billy Graham

George Best: a personal memoir

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Michael Parkinson, London, Hodder and Stoughton, 2018. ISBN 9781473675735

I have seven books by or about George Best on my bookshelf. Michael Parkinson’s recent book is a welcome addition.

Parkinson writes as someone who knew Best for about 40 years as a friend but who also writes as a dispassionate journalist. Having interviewed Best a dozen times, he weaves extracts from the transcripts of some of those interviews into the book. Parkinson writes of the Matt Busby era and the Munich air-crash, showing how in a way that the loss of the Busby babes paved the way for the George Best era.

The book tries to grasp the essence of George Best’s genius. For the author he: “played football as if instructed by a higher power”. Matt Busby is quoted: “He had more confidence in his ability than I have ever seen in any other sportsman”.

The dichotomy – how he was so good yet fail so spectacularly – is faced head-on. George was a player “who could command a football field like no other player I have seen before or since, simply didn’t know how to live”. Michael (junior) adds: “He never really grew up and his personality became shaped by the unreality of fan worship and idolatry. No wonder he ran away when things soured or he couldn’t get his own way; no wonder he blamed others for things he did; no wonder he drank to fill the hole where a fully grown-up person should have been”.

His epitaph is in a way: “The question always remains — how great could he have been? The ultimate sadness is that not even George Best knew the answer to that”.

An excellent and very readable book.

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