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on 24 August 2009
To (ab)use the oft qouted football cliche - its a book of two halves. As it follows George's career, there is a definate split in his fortunes - George the player that many say will never be equalled, then George the man who struggled with alcoholism.

The first half of the book (there goes that cliche again) is for the admirers of George, for the fans of the game in whose eyes George could walk on water. Covering his start at Man Utd as a young lad living in digs, to winning the European Cup and his player of the year awards, for someone who never saw him play like me, it really does affirm just how good he was. Perhaps reading about the highs George gave to fans prior to drink taking over his life makes the second half that little bit harder to digest. Written with some very honest conversations and qoutes from and with the man himself, the darker side of George is covered here in all it's morbid and saddening detail. Honestly, if you still hold a candle for the man and want to remeber him as The Best, stop reading after he leaves Man Utd, I didnt, and it was very upsetting reading, especially as the book came out in the late nineties prior to his death a few years ago. The book does speculate as to how long George could maintain his giant appetite for the drink before it claimed him for ever.

Well deserves its five stars.
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on 30 October 2000
Long before the days of sarongs and stress clinics there was one true football character, the first soccer celebrity, the pioneer of the Beckham's and Owen's, the godfather of rock 'n' roll football, the soccer icon; George Best.
George's life is celebrated and chronicled in a new biography by Sunday Times Football correspondent Joe Lovejoy entitled Bestie. It provides a detailed and articlate account of the life of a legend- the booze, the birds and the football are all covered and the only surprise is that it takes just 372 pages to do it.
George Best is an ideal topic for a biography as there are endless topics and incidents to cover in a life packed full of drama. Lovejoy guides us through the rollercosrter that starts in Belfast going via Manchester, London, America returning to England's capital. Lovejoy's affectionate tone suggests that like any true football fan of his or any era they are totally in awe of the genius that was and still is George Best. This lead his manager of many years Sir Matt Busby to say to his assistant ' Don't coach hiom, he's genius'. As expected the book is full of superb football anecdotes including Best the perfectionist who whilst still at school in Belfast, worrying about being a one footed player reverted to only using his left in one game and scored 11 times.
Lovejoy's affectionate narration is supported by contributions from his peers and friends in the game such as Mike Summerbee, Dave Sadler and Rodney Marsh but it's the second half of the Sixties where Bests genius was arguably at its peak. Under the virtual parental guidance of manager Sir Matt Busby, Best and Manchester United flourished, blossomed and dominated the English and European game just as they are doing today. But this era was somewhat different with Best, Law ans Charlton being made legends.
So with all this success so soon it was probably only a matter of time before it all went wrong. Not before the Best of the late Sixties revelled in his unparrelled notoriety, being hailed as the fifth Beatle and adorning the bedroom walls of both sexes Best was now the first pop star footballer. As Manchester United declined so did Best. This occured in the early Seventies when United became an average First Division side and George's playboy lifestyle took over. Over the next 15 years Best retired, came back, left the club again, went to America, came back to Fulham, got married, played in England again, was declared bankrupt and jailed. But to Best all this is a little blurred. Football became secondary as the alcohol, gambling and the Miss Worlds took priority.
At about the same time as George's appetite for booze became almost intolerable to those close to him, one of those closest to him contracted the same disease. His mother Ann Best tee total till the age of 40 died because of booze some five years later in 1978. His Mothers death leads to an extremely touching chapter where both George and her clearly bessotted husband Dickie describe those last painful years of her life. This chapter is delicately dealt with by Lovejoy and would befit any book but provides a touching alternative to all of George's high jinx.
You can't help but feel sympathetic to the flawed genius as via Lovejoy's descriptions he seems such a genuine man who reacted in the only way he saw how when he had fame thrust upon him. Unlike the Owen's of today Best had no-one to learn from, he had to make his own mistakes but no doubt he had fun making them.
Lovejoy's account is unparalled in its excellence in the Football literature genre, where often the offerings are painful to read this isn a pleasure. It packs no punches giving a thoroughly detailed account of a life definitely lived. It dismisses the myth that Best was merely a boozing womaniser who treated football as a sideline but as a football obsessed genius who liked a drink and liked the ladies. For a first book this is definitely a great debut.
Review by Mark Stanford
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on 22 December 1998
I should start by saying that I'm not from England nor was I around when George Best was at his prime. However, I am both a football and history fan, and so I heartily enjoyed Bestie: Portrait of a Legend.
I found this autobiograpy to be remarkably honest. Best is not proud of his crash, nor does he make light of it. It is simply presented as a life he has lived, with all of the gifts given him and the manner in which he blew it all.
I would recommend this book for everyone -- it's a cautionary tale for young people who view themselves as immortal; at the same time, it's also a wonderful case study on how a talented person can ruin his life.
Through the myriad opportunities that George Best both earned and was given, there seems to be a desire to drink his successes away. The co-author Lovejoy does a wonderful job in making this Canadian understand Best's profile in England and how the pressures ultimately destroyed a superstar. Two words: "buy it!"
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on 7 February 2010
I happen to be an ardent football fan - and Manchester United supporter - and so have read quite a few football biographies and autobiographies. I also saw Goerge Best play a reasonable number of times (which reveals my age!). Where this book comes out so very well is that it is an excellent balance of readability, consistent facts and a low level of spin. You can read and enjoy the book in order just to learn and understand more about the man George Best, or if you so wish to form your own judgements about him and / or his colleagues: this contrasts with many sporting biographies which are written in order either to demolish the subject's reputation, or to idolise him and omit or airbrush the difficult issues.

Joe Lovejoy goes through George Best's background and upbringing - including the relevant context of 'the Troubles' in Northern Ireland - his intellect in getting into grammar school, which he left partly in order to play football rather than rugby, his youthful shyness and the extent to which young footballers early 1960's were not looked after in the round by their clubs in the way that Premiership Academies - with Manchester United in the forefront - rightly do now. Quite apart from the money aspect, GB and his contemporaries did not have a welfare officer, education and possible alternative career paths automatically arranged for them, nor the now general level of diet, general health and fitness advice, or medical and physiotherapy support.

It is not a question of 'men were men' in those days, but that youngsters were generally much less aware, via the media for example, of the outside world and yet apprentice footballers were not prepared for the overwhelming likelihood of failure to make a good living from adult football for the majority, combined with the almost unbearable adulation for the few major successes. This comes out inferentially from Joe Lovejoy's book but is not thrust in your face as a justification for George Best's errors.

After all, others in the same situation - inferred rather than said - did not succumb and stayed balanced people even up to now - Denis Law or Geoff Hurst are two of the best examples. It is often said that genius is next to madness (or at least fallability / major eccentricity), so however odd the comparison may seem maybe George Best must stand alongside Mozart or Beethoven in this regard.

The only comment I would make about this very well-written, readable and interesting book is that it is a shame that the author has not slightly updated it for George Best's death. The conclusions and 95% of the description would not change, but the manner of his departure and the tributes that his passing evoked offer additional insights into his own thoughts about his own life, as well as what others who knew him very well thought of him.
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on 22 May 2000
Brilliant. I have read many books ranging from crime to classic lit. to sport over the last 2 weeks, and this is the best book I have read all year. Of course it helps that I am an admirer of Best on field (and a mourner of his off field antics), but this is as good a story about the instability of genius you will find anywhere, fact or fiction. Joe Lovejoy taps the memories of the people closest to him, on field and off, providing an in-depth view of his playing days, and providing interesting snippets of trivia to the non-statos amongst us. Unfrtunately, some double entrendres did enter the prose, but not enough to spoil the detail and coverage of this book.
Joe, if you are out there, please lets have one about Gazza!
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on 1 April 1999
George Best, growing up for me, was the Micheal Jordan of football,and I'll always remember him for that.I think people after reading this candid look at his life, will grow to appreciate him not for his disappointments but for his amazing God given talents that brought so much joy to so many people.After all,Pele did call him the greatest player in the world.I think the pressures of fame and success ultimately proved his downfall as I believe he escaped to the bottle. I hope people will remember this man for his triumphs and not his downfall as I don't think we will ever see an inside forward quite like him again.
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on 30 October 2000
Long before the days of sarongs and stress clinics there was one true football character, the first soccer celebrity, the pioneer of the Beckham's and Owen's, the godfather of rock 'n' roll football, the soccer icon; George Best.
George's life is celebrated and chronicled in a new biography by Sunday Times Football correspondent Joe Lovejoy entitled Bestie. It provides a detailed and articlate account of the life of a legend- the booze, the birds and the football are all covered and the only surprise is that it takes just 372 pages to do it.
George Best is an ideal topic for a biography as there are endless topics and incidents to cover in a life packed full of drama. Lovejoy guides us through the rollercosrter that starts in Belfast going via Manchester, London, America returning to England's capital. Lovejoy's affectionate tone suggests that like any true football fan of his or any era they are totally in awe of the genius that was and still is George Best. This lead his manager of many years Sir Matt Busby to say to his assistant ' Don't coach hiom, he's genius'. As expected the book is full of superb football anecdotes including Best the perfectionist who whilst still at school in Belfast, worrying about being a one footed player reverted to only using his left in one game and scored 11 times.
Lovejoy's affectionate narration is supported by contributions from his peers and friends in the game such as Mike Summerbee, Dave Sadler and Rodney Marsh but it's the second half of the Sixties where Bests genius was arguably at its peak. Under the virtual parental guidance of manager Sir Matt Busby, Best and Manchester United flourished, blossomed and dominated the English and European game just as they are doing today. But this era was somewhat different with Best, Law ans Charlton being made legends.
So with all this success so soon it was probably only a matter of time before it all went wrong. Not before the Best of the late Sixties revelled in his unparrelled notoriety, being hailed as the fifth Beatle and adorning the bedroom walls of both sexes Best was now the first pop star footballer. As Manchester United declined so did Best. This occured in the early Seventies when United became an average First Division side and George's playboy lifestyle took over. Over the next 15 years Best retired, came back, left the club again, went to America, came back to Fulham, got married, played in England again, was declared bankrupt and jailed. But to Best all this is a little blurred. Football became secondary as the alcohol, gambling and the Miss Worlds took priority.
At about the same time as George's appetite for booze became almost intolerable to those close to him, one of those closest to him contracted the same disease. His mother Ann Best tee total till the age of 40 died because of booze some five years later in 1978. His Mothers death leads to an extremely touching chapter where both George and her clearly bessotted husband Dickie describe those last painful years of her life. This chapter is delicately dealt with by Lovejoy and would befit any book but provides a touching alternative to all of George's high jinx.
You can't help but feel sympathetic to the flawed genius as via Lovejoy's descriptions he seems such a genuine man who reacted in the only way he saw how when he had fame thrust upon him. Unlike the Owen's of today Best had no-one to learn from, he had to make his own mistakes but no doubt he had fun making them.
Lovejoy's account is unparalled in its excellence in the Football literature genre, where often the offerings are painful to read this isn a pleasure. It packs no punches giving a thoroughly detailed account of a life definitely lived. It dismisses the myth that Best was merely a boozing womaniser who treated football as a sideline but as a football obsessed genius who liked a drink and liked the ladies. For a first book this is definitely a great debut.
Review by Mark Stanford
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on 10 January 2016
Very good book that doesn't gloss over besties many flaws. I've read a few books on George Best and this is probably the best one.
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on 9 October 2014
A well written book with warts and all about a brilliant footballer who should have played for a lot longer.
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on 7 December 2000
what more can you say about the most naturally gifted footballer ever??. a great book and a great footballer heres to you georgie.
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