Family, friends and team-mates: they were there with George until the very end

Maxine Frith
Saturday 26 November 2005 01:00


Dickie Best, 87, has rushed back and forth between his home in Belfast and London over the last six weeks, as his son's health deteriorated.

A former shipyard worker, Best Snr had already watched his wife Ann die prematurely from her own chronic alcoholism at the age of 54.

Mr Best still lives in the terraced house on a Protestant estate where George was brought up.


Calum Best, a 24-year-old model, barely saw his father while he was growing up in America with his mother, Best's ex-wife Angie.

Since Calum moved to Britain three years ago in order to be closer to Best, the pair have had a volatile relationship, but those close to the family say that Calum has spent the past few days desperate for some final words with his father in order to achieve "closure" in their relationship.

Visibly upset, he left the hospital after his father's death yesterday, saying: "Not only have I lost my dad but we have all lost a wonderful man."


Barbara McNarry, above, Best's 53-year-old sister, spoke for the family yesterday when she thanked the public for its support.

His twin sisters Julie and Grace, 42, as well as brother Ian, 39, and sister Carol, 58, were also at his bedside. Best was the eldest of six, and the siblings had been brought much closer following the footballer's liver transplant in 2002.

He even returned to Northern Ireland, close to his family, for a spell in an effort to avoid the temptations of his local pubs.


After the medical staff, it was Phil Hughes, below, whom Best's sister Barbara thanked for remaining a "firm friend" over 25 years.

As an agent, Hughes tried to pull Best out of debt by arranging personal appearances and getting him jobs as a pundit.

As a friend, he saw wives and girlfriends come and go but was the one Best always turned to in times of trouble.

He has spent the past 10 years dealing with constant press inquiries about Best's rumoured demise, but yesterday he could not stop the tears as he said: "He is safe now."


Denis Law, Best's Manchester United team-mate and close friend, arrived to pay his last respects on Thursday and spent the last night of Best's life in the hospital with his family.

Another United legend, Sir Bobby Charlton, left, had also visited Best during his final hours.


Professor Roger Williams' closeness with Best was evident in the past week as he gave almost hourly updates on the footballer's condition.

The pair first met when Best collapsed and was taken to hospital in 2001.

When Professor Williams' receptionist told him that George Best was in his waiting room, the doctor replied: "Who's George Best?"

But the eminent liver doctor, below right, was quickly won over by his patient's charm and stoic attitude towards his problems.

Faced with Best's inability to stop drinking, Professor Williams did not blame his patient for what he believes is a tragic illness, but instead turned on the publicans who continued to serve him alcohol.

He continued to try to support Best, even making public appeals for the footballer to come to back for tests and treatment when he missed appointments.

Now aged 74, he is based at University College London, but does private work at the Cromwell Hospital where he treated Best. Four years ago, Professor Williams set up the George Best Appeal for Liver Research, a charity which studies alcoholism and its effects.

Dr Akeel Alisa had assisted Professor Williams, as they fought in vain to keep him alive. As Best's life entered its final 24 hours, a clearly emotional Dr Alisa said: "George is a friend, not just a patient."

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