Wednesday, 4 February 2015
81 The Best in Football
First watched : 1972
This was a fourteen part ten minute series where the flamboyant football star coached a bunch of youngsters in various aspects of the game. I wasn't very interested in football at this point but I knew who Best was and had the impression he was an invincible superman who produced victory in every game he played.
The timing of the series wasn't great. With his team struggling Best had begun to lose interest in football and had recently skipped a full week's training in order to bonk Miss Great Britain 1971 piling the pressure on his manager , the luckless Frank O' Farrell. In fact Best's misbehaviour had begun the previous season when he opted for a weekend with Sinead Cusack rather than a game at Chelsea in Matt Busby's final season in charge. It's generally glossed over that United's decline began under Busby rather than his two immediate successors. Best actually announced his retirement ( at 26 ) at the end of the season but changed his mind over the summer. He did the same again when O Farrell was sacked at the end of the year but continued to play until the beginning of 1974 when he was dropped by shifty new boss Tommy Docherty and left the club for good at the end of the season when United were relegated.
Best's long slow decline from that point is well documented. There were isolated moments of joy such as the game he and Rodney Marsh played for Fulham against Hereford who were so out of their depth the duo were able to lark around on the pitch and still hammer them and a fabulous goal he scored for one of his American teams. However his time at Fulham was also recalled for an horrendous tackle which effectively ended the career of Crystal Palace's Ian Evans and for which he never apologised. He was a good talker and got work as a TV pundit including a series with Marsh ( who was conspicuously sharper ) and that well known soccer expert Tony Wilson. This tailed off after a disastrous appearance on Wogan where he was smashed ( it was probably a stepping stone in the show's fall from grace ). Thereafter it's hard to muster much sympathy for him, wife beating, drink driving, denigrating any new star in the tabloids for a few quid and criminally wasting the new liver he was controversially given on the NHS in 2002. The story ended nearly a decade ago when he succumbed to kidney and lung infections in hospital.