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Immortal: the Approved Biography of George Best By Duncan Hamilton

Release date: 15th September, 2013
Publisher: Century

List Price: £20.00
Our Price: £12.00
You Save: £8 (40%)
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After Sergio Aguero had joyfully side-footed in Manchester City’s third goal against near neighbours United recently, television viewers were treated to seeing the strike at least twice from perhaps half a dozen different angles. It’s the nature of modern football, modern sport; broadcasters must ensure the moment is seared into our collective memory banks, irrespective of whether it’s a meaningless tap-in, or a screamer struck from 30 yards. There can never be too many replays…

This point is worth bearing in mind when reading Duncan Hamilton’s excellent biography of George Best, for as the author reminds us, there was “scarcely any televised football” when the northern Irishman made his debut half a century ago.

This means that Best’s goals have, like many of his performances in Manchester United red, become the stuff of sepia-tinted, often wildly embellished, legend. There is no doubt that on his day, Best could be an outstanding footballer, but he played in a very good team, surrounded by men of the calibre of Law and Charlton, both of whom were at least as influential in United’s success.

Dozens of books have been written about Best, but this is the first ‘approved’ biography as his sister granted Hamilton access to what must have been a mountain of family material. The author deserves great credit, therefore, for writing not a sycophantic paean to Best, but an accomplished, well-researched account which doesn’t shy away from the footballer’s alcoholism and his propensity to be violent towards women.

Best was essentially a nervous man who discovered much-needed confidence at the bottom of a glass, but Hamilton maintains that it wasn’t drink that destroyed him. Instead, he writes, “the football was to blame.”

In other words, Manchester United’s rapid fall from grace (within six years of winning the European Cup, they were in the Second Division) coincided with Best’s own slide and he had difficulty coping with that. Best considered drink to be the answer to both disappointments.

Best’s footballing legacy is preserved mostly in black-and-white footage and the occasionally exaggerated accounts of folk who saw him play, but despite this, Hamilton has produced a warts-and-all volume which highlights the man’s other, more painful side. We’re not supposed to feel sorry for him, merely regret that he never made more of his undoubted talent.


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