There's been much said about George Best - his footballing genius, his flamboyant lifestyle and of course his drinking. But one man from Chorlton remembers a gentle side of George. This is the story of the superstar and the ballboy:
John Edwards was a 15-year-old ballboy at Old Trafford during George Best's heyday at United.
As a United-mad teenager, he lived on Maitland Avenue, just round the corner from where George lived in digs with Mrs Fulloway in Chorlton.
And when John asked his hero for his United shirt, George didn't let him down. These are John's memories of George Best:
on getting a lift home in George's Jag:
"What would happen was, after the game had finished, he would meet his friends for ten or 15 minutes, then we would make our way to the front of the ground, go underneath the stands, then we would just bolt it for the car. Invariably, when we got out there, the car would be surrounded by 50 or 60 people, a couple of stewards or policemen and that was it. So we just had to make a run for it. Once we got near the car, there would be a lot of pushing and shoving. In those days, he had a white Jag, and girls used to write ‘I love George’ on the paintwork. He’d get in the car first, and then I’d try to make my way in but often I found myself being pushed away by the stewards and I’d be shouting: ‘I’m with him, I’m with him!’ And then we’d get in the car and come back to Chorlton."
on talking to George Best:
"We used to talk. He was just a down-to-earth boy. He was just one of these guys you could just speak to. You were never overawed by him even though he was a superstar. At the time I was about 14 or 15 and to know that every other week or weekend, you’d be talking to George - it was unbelievable… but to me he was up there among anything. He was just a likeable lad. Everybody loved him - all the kids loved him, all the girls loved him, all the mothers wanted to mother him, that was the type of guy he was.... To me he was just a normal guy. He would ask how I was doing, how my family was, that was the type of guy he was. He was a superb guy."
on getting George Best's shirt:
The last game of the season, we played Leicester at Old Trafford. I said to George at half time going down the tunnel: 'At the end of the game, can I have your shirt?' To which he said: "Yes, no problem.' The game finished, I think we beat Leicester and in those days I was positioned between the Stretford End and the Cantilever Stand... because they anticipated the crowd running on, the steward said to us: as soon as it's over, just bolt it straight across the pitch and come off with the players. So when the referee blew, I just picked up the flag and ran straight across. By the time, I got to the tunnel, there were thousands on the pitch. I eventually got my way to the tunnel - I think I was the last one in - and I'm thinking: 'I've blown it. I'm not going to get his shirt. When I get up the tunnel, there'll be no-one there!'
"Anyway, I start to head up the tunnel, and as I got to the top, I see a guy stood there in a pair of boots, shorts, socks round his ankles, with no shirt on. And it was George Best. And he said: "John, there's the shirt I promised you." Not many people today would do that I don't think, no matter how big the superstar was. So I got his shirt, and I was made up. And to me, that just sums up the man."
"I always vowed that I'd never wear it. But that night when I got home, and told my mum and dad that I'd got his shirt, and we all met on the local Christies playing fields. And I put it on - I've only ever worn it once - and I could have done anything I wanted, anything with a ball that any of the greatest players could. I never wore it again. A local businessman wanted to give me £200 for it which in 1968 was quite a lot of money but no, I'd never part with it."
on helping John with his school magazine:
"The school that I went to, St Mary's in Stretford, had a a house magazine. I think I came up with the brainwave of speaking to George and getting him to answer some questions. So I put some questions together and said to George: "If you answer them in your own time and give them me back. I think the questions were: where was his boutique, his birthday, what hobbies he had - I think it was snooker - and his favourite beat group at the time was the Mamas and the Papas, and his ambition at that time was to visit America. I've still got the reply from George. We also asked him about his car, and what car he hoped to get.. the White Jaguar was the one he was hoping to get. He also hoped to go on and have a wonderful career and be up there with the likes of de Stefano, Stanley Matthews and the great Denis Law. And looking back he certainly achieved all that."