A thirst for tributes to football at its Best

Sport on TV

George Best turned 50 last week, as anyone who has not been holidaying on Uranus recently will know, and Britain's television producers found his golden jubilee irresistible. BBC2's Best Night, an entire evening of booze, birds and beautiful football, was the most comprehensive, but Sky chipped in with George Best at 50 - a Tribute, and Channel 4 paid homage in The Greatest.

Best Night offered plenty of lovely moments between periods of inactivity, rather like its subject's performances for Manchester United. Michael Parkinson narrated the opening documentary, encapsulating the delights to come in a phrase: "George Best wasn't just a footballer, he was a mini- series waiting to happen."

The highlights of that series are the footballing clips: Best kicking the ball out of Gordon Banks's hands, Best befuddling Benfica, Best skipping through a Chopper Harris tackle that would have levelled a house. Best's dribbles justified the name: they were mouthwatering.

But we also got the other legendary clips: "El Beatle" in the outsize sombrero, Best filling a tower of champagne glasses (what balance, what poise, what thirst), Best doing the frug with a micro-skirted dolly bird. Eddie Hindle, a former flat-mate, commented deadpan: "It wasn't difficult for George Best to form an attraction with a young lady." On an evening of superlatives, the understatement of the century. And lastly the image of the fall: Best on Wogan, swaying, desperately smiling, nutmegged by the booze.

And that was just the first programme. Next up was Jim White's Manchester United Football Family Tree, which wisely, if cheekily in this context, had very little to do with George Best. The villain of the piece here was not the Demon Drink, but the Demon Doc, Tommy Docherty. His method of disposing of surplus players was the subject of some dispute: Docherty seems convinced that "I always told the player to his face what I was gonnae do". The players concerned were adamant that the first they knew of their impending departures from Old Trafford was through the media. Willie Morgan, one victim of the Doc, said: "There is a word to describe him, but I don't want my kids to hear it."

Dave "Statto" Sexton was replaced by Ron Atkinson, memorably summed-up by White as "Flash, brash and tandoori-tanned". The secret of Big Ron's relatively successful reign at United was revealed by Bryan Robson. "At the club," he said, "little things were always done for you. Bathrobes, flip-flops, that kind of thing." Perhaps this is the key to Middlesbrough's disappointing performances last season: the wrong shade of bathmat for Branco, maybe; lint on Juninho's loofah.

Bathroom imagery persists in the reign of Alex Ferguson. The irascible manager is known to his players as "The Hairdryer", not because he has a secret past in the Aberdeen coiffure industry, but because of the ferocity and face-to-face proximity of his post-match tantrums. A terrified Peter Barnes once hid in the team bath for half an hour to avoid getting the curlers-and-conditioner treatment.

The Best Team was supposed to be a discussion of George's personal fantasy side between him and a bunch of laddish pundits in the Phene Arms, the great man's local. True to form, though, he failed to show, and we were left with the LPs. It was like Waiting for Godot rewritten by Nick Hornby.

Best did show up, though, for his interview with Parkinson. Looking like a dissolute teddy bear, he ran through the highs and the lows. The most startling revelation had nothing to do with Miss World or missed training sessions: it was that a scout from Leeds United had watched him play at the age of 15 - and left after 20 minutes without signing him up. How different the story might have been, not least for fans of Leeds.

One approached Sky's George Best at 50 - a Tribute with trepidation. How long would they hold out? Not long. Seven and a half seconds into the programme, Richard Keys uttered the dreaded words "Simply the Best", and Tina Turner blared over the dribble-clips. It was the televisual equivalent of premature ejaculation.

The show was a bit of a mess. There was some home-movie footage ("After the dog, probably, after the dog will be George. That's him!"), plenty of plodding linkage from Keys ("It was during the Sixties that the fresh- faced Best took the football world by storm," etc), and a bizarre fascination with Best as chef (Keys: "Mike Summerbee, did George ever run anything up of a culinary nature in that flat that you shared?" Summerbee: "No"). The conclusions reached were lame. Keys asked Summerbee: "Why do we love him so much?" Summerbee thought for a moment, then suggested: "Because he's a nice man."

Oops, nearly run out of space to discuss The Greatest. Let's take a leaf out of Willie Morgan's book: there is one word for the programme, but this is a family newspaper.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist / Physio / Osteopath

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for o...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager / Sales Executive - Contract Hire

£35000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leader provides c...

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most