Family and friends in bedside vigil

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A small circle of relatives and close friends was keeping a vigil at George Best's bedside last night.

His 87-year-old father, Dickie, was with Best in hospital as his health continued to deteriorate. Though he rarely leaves his home in Belfast, he travelled to London this week when the gravity of his son's illness became clear. The former shipyard worker saw his wife, Anne, die prematurely from her own chronic alcoholism.

Among the friends visiting Best were his former Manchester United team-mates Sir Bobby Charlton and Denis Law. The footballer's sisters Barbara and Carol also flew from Belfast to be with him.

His former United team-mate Denis Law said: "I wasn't able to talk to him. He was more or less unconscious. When I was here a few weeks ago, I really thought I would not be seeing him again."

Rodney Marsh, a former team-mate at Fulham, said: "George Best is a tragichero. I have witnessed countless acts of generosity, raising money for underprivileged children, appearing at hospitals to shake hands and take photos with terminally ill kids ... He knows exactly the hand he has been dealt. He chooses to play it his way. He is a genius, a flawed one maybe, but every true genius is."

His son, Calum, has been visiting him regularly, and was with him last night. The 24-year-old model and reality TV star is Best's only child and moved from Los Angeles to London three years ago to get to know the parent who was absent for most of his childhood. Calum's looks and partying have led to comparisons with his father.

Although Best's former wife Alex, 37, was banned from visiting him by his family, she was with him last night. She flew back from a holiday in Tenerife last week when Best's condition deteriorated.