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Maradonna good, Pele better, George Best
Blessed: My Autobiography - George Best
Member Name: Stewwydablue
Blessed: My Autobiography - George Best
Advantages: Very openly written
Disadvantages: The tragic and inevitable losing battle against his alcoholism
I'm into football, so naturally I was interested to read George Best's autobiography, Blessed. He was a man who had wide appeal, not just to football fans like myself. For non-football fans, part of this appeal was the interest he caused by living his life like a rock star as the "fifth Beatle" - tragically this lifestyle caught up with him and he sadly passed away in 2005 at the age of 59. For some, his death was an inevitable result of the years of alcohol abuse and not much sympathy came from that quarter, but for the majority of people his death was the end of the life of a man who, for a few woefully short years, was untouchable on the pitch and played the beautiful game in the most beautiful of ways.
Apart from the introductory chapter which features George having a health scare in his later years, the book starts with his upbringing in Belfast. He appeared to have a normal childhood in a loving family - for people looking for a reason for his later drinking habits there isn't many clues in this part of his life.
When he first arrived at Man Utd in 1963 as a 15 year old, he only lasted two days before home-sickness got the better of him and he got the ferry back to Belfast. On his return, he grew from strength to strength as a player and helped United win the European Cup in 1968, the first time that club had ever won it. Unfortunately though, some would say that this was the highest point his career would ever reach and he began a long slow slide into alcoholism after this which eventually saw him leave United in 1974 and from there joined a string of clubs around the world. At none of these clubs did he ever recapture his best form as the booze by now was getting in the way of his playing and he often missed training, became unfit and lost his edge.
His last league game for a professional club came in 1983 in Australia, and it's sad to say that by now he was an old, slow, balloon shaped hardened alcoholic who was only in the game in order to squeeze out the last few pennies of his earning potential. The rest of the eighties saw him in prison, still drinking, the nineties saw him working as a TV pundit and on the after dinner speaking circuit, still drinking, and the early naughties saw him have health problems - not drinking as much. The book was published in 2002, before his divorce from Alex Best, three years before his death and was co-written with Roy Collins (a journalist).
I've got a few opinions about this book, and I'm sure that there will be many more opinions about George Best from other readers - some would argue that it was wrong for him to be given the second chance in life that his NHS liver transplant offered him, and some would argue that his alcoholism was a disease and he deserved the treatment for it just as much as anybody else. Read the book and make your own mind up on that front. What I will say is that whilst reading the book, it struck me how tragic it was that drinking destroyed his talent and that by his own admission, he was more concerned with having a drink than anything else in his life. I'm not blaming George for wasting that talent, after reading his book I blame the disease he was under the firm control of - alcoholism, although he often did let himself down and he was certainly no angel.
What was refreshing to read was his openness about his faults and shortcomings - he doesn't entirely blame the booze for his problems and admits that he has a weakness for dealing with problems by running away from them rather than standing firm and trying to improve the situation. Also, his womanising has caused him much turmoil for which he only has himself to blame, another area of his life that he is refreshingly frank about in the book as he openly admits to having affairs. Whilst not acceptable that he did this, at least he doesn't lie about it like some would in order to protect the public perception of him. What is sad though is that he never seems to learn from his past mistakes as his book continues through the years and many a time whilst reading it I thought he was a daft old sod who couldn't see what he was doing to himself and others.
The book, to rehash an often used football quote, is very much a book of two halves. There is the half where Best was the king of football, then the half where he was the king of the drunks. A famous quote of his is that he spent 90% of his money on drink, women and gambling and the rest he wasted. Whilst it's quite a funny quote, it doesn't do him any favours amongst those who lament his demise as a player due to the drink and playboy lifestyle he led. Even as a Man City fan, I thoroughly enjoyed reading the half where George was arguably the best European footballer of the last century - I've seen videos of him and read many a football biography about footballers from that time and all agree that Best was simply the best. Players of his quality don't come around that often, but when they do all lovers of the beautiful game unite in appreciation of such an awesome talent, irrespective of club rivalries.
An interesting revelation by Best was about his relationship with Matt Busby. The general perception is that Busby was a father figure to him, but Best rubbishes this claim and tells of how Sir Matt was too soft on him and never really helped with his drinking problem. Also, I was intrigued to read that he and Bobby Charlton never really got on - both thought the other was a greedy little so and so and that they weren't team players. This was due to Best's tendency to keep the ball, try and beat six players and score an amazing solo effort goal without passing and Charlton's tendency to blast the ball at goal from 40 yards out as soon as he received it. The phrase six of one and half a dozen of the other springs to mind!
Overall, I would say that if you don't want to be upset by the tragedy that the rest of his days became after winning the European Cup, then don't read onwards after that chapter. If you want a warts and all account of the demise of one of the world's greatest ever players, then read the full book. I'd recommend it to anyone who supports a football team and dreams of their club signing a player who was half as good as George was.
Five stars from me, thanks for the memories George and showing us all how football should be played. Rest in peace.
RRP: £7.99 but available on Amazon brand new for £5.59
Summary: One of George Best's autobiographies, a good read
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