What The Papers Say

THE Daily Mail's Jeff Powell praises West Ham United's efforts in honouring the legendary George Best before Sunday's match against Manchester United at Upton Park.

Taken from the Daily Mail, Monday 28th November
By Jeff Powell

WHEN the time came for the country which invented football to salute the Irishman who showed us how beautifully the game should be played, spontaneous applause broke out in the midst of the minute's silence pre-ordained at funereal grounds all over England.

This was followed by the guttural roar of adulation which distinguishes the working man's game from the latest fancy of the chattering classes.

George Best would have loved it.
Loved it for its raw emotion.
Loved it for its public communion of genius. Loved it for the uninhibited generosity of the people of his adopted homeland.

He would have hoisted his right arm aloft in that gladiatorial gesture to every goal he plundered, then raised a glass to the befittingly giant portrait of himself which lit up the electronic screens of the modern amphitheatres of the eternal game.

It was a pity that this, the latest fashion in remembrance, did not override the ritual 60 seconds of hushed reverence at every stadium.

Then the communal chant - 'There's only one George Best' - would have drowned out the moronic voices who shattered the reverie at Manchester City versus Liverpool and Millwall versus Leeds.

Despite those isolated blasphemies the civilised majority of football lovers set the stage for yesterday's emotional appearance at West Ham of Best's Manchester United successors.

If their first game since his premature passing could not be at his spiritual home of Old Trafford, then Upton Park offered the potentially most sympathetic alternative. So it proved as the local congregation  adopted the trend originally kicked off by Celtic's full-throated appreciation of their legendary manager Jock Stein.

They love their football at the old East London Academy. Football played with style, with flair, with élan, with a cavalier flourish, with a devil-may-care disdain for the limitations of negative tactics and constraints of smothering defence.

Football played not only in hope of victory but to delight the senses. Football played not in fear of failure, but expectation of glory, be it fulfilled or not.
Football played the beautiful way of George Best.

It is more than 10 years but it seemed like only the day before yesterday that the Hammers paid homage to the memory of Bobby Moore. It was improbable that the Cockney faithful would equal the huge outpouring of grief and gratitude for the greatest of their own, the finest defender who ever drew breath. Nevertheless, here was a fitting place to commemorate one of Moore's noblest adversaries, the most extravagantly gifted of all British footballers.

There will be a cluster of opportunities to remember George.
Bryan Robson - who better than United's old Captain Marvel? - takes his West Bromwich team to Old Trafford on Wednesday. It was against Albion that Best made his full debut as a 17-year-old.

By another eerie coincidence the next huge match in United's calendar - one pivotal to their entire season - will be the decisive Champions League qualifier against Benfica in Lisbon.

It was against these opponents, in their Stadium of Light, that a teenage Best astounded world football with the performance which announced the arrival of the new star of the global game. It was from that city that he came home to rapturous acclaim as the fifth Beatle.

There is a worthy proposition for an All-Ireland team to play England in a memorial match at Old Trafford.
The philistines who desecrated Best's memory on Saturday cannot be excused. Not even if they were as inebriated as Best himself had been on more occasions than were good for his health.

If you cannot acknowledge genius, you impale the game for which you profess such a rumbustious dedication on the sake of your ignorance.
Those who promoted silent respect into exuberant tribute put the loudmouths to shame.

As one who urged readers not to mourn his premature passing but to celebrate his overflowing life, I took a drink on his behalf. If he had died in less stringent circumstances he would have left the price of a round behind the bar.

It is reported that the Cromwell Hospital understands the financial position. Like the kindly Professor Williams, who performed Best's liver transplant for nothing and then oversaw his treatment, they are said to be considering waiving the £100,000 cost of his last, long, battle for life.

If so, they will not only relieve young Calum Best of an onerous burden but add much goodwill to the mountain of priceless publicity which his father's period in residence bestowed upon this West London haven of care for the rich and famous. Private medicine, after all, is a competitive business.

The laying to rest, at this week's end, of Ulster's most famous son in his home city of Belfast is predicted to be the most populous funeral to take place in these Isles since the world came to London to mourn Princess Diana.

In the spirit of George Best, it will surely be followed by one helluva wake.