George Best 50 Years Teammates On His Debut


Reds recall Best debut

50 years ago on Saturday, George Best made his United debut during a 1-0 win over West Brom at Old Trafford, the first of his 470 matches for the club.

Here, we gather the thoughts of the men who knew him best, offering a unique insight into the career of the Belfast Boy…

Paddy Crerand
United’s No.4 against West Brom recalls an ice-cool debutant…
“The summer after his debut, in 1964, we were in Majorca and came across Graham Williams, the West Brom and Wales left-back who had marked George on his debut. Graham’s a lovely fella, a real nice guy. He’s funny, too. He asked me to introduce him to George because he had never seen him from the front! That sums up George’s impact: there he was, a kid making his debut, and he made that kind of impression on an international defender in his very first senior game.  George was terrific. I would think he was the best I played with. Just a truly great player.”

Harry Gregg
The Northern Irishman recalls a young Best nutmegging him in training…
“I went to The Cliff, where youngsters from England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland were having trials. I played in a five-a-side game against kids aged 14 and 15 years old – remember, before my injury, I’d been one of the best keepers in the world – and this skinny kid put the ball through my legs. I thought he’d slipped, but I was amazed when he did it again. I told him that if he did it for a third time I would break his neck! George had unbelievable ability, he was so gifted it was frightening.”

David Sadler
Another 17-year-old on the day, Sadler had made his own debut a few weeks earlier…
“All of us who knew George knew he was an exceptional talent with a heart as big as a lion, though there was concern about his build. When it came to his debut, all eyes were on George and there was a fair buzz about the place as everybody was talking about United uncovering this good, young Irish player. If George was nervous, he certainly didn’t show it and it was not apparent in the build-up to kick-off. Nobby Stiles was pacing up and down while I was on and off the toilet because of nerves. However, with George, it was as though he was going for a stroll in the park rather than playing football in front of 50,000 at Old Trafford.”

Tony Dunne
The dependable full-back slotted in behind Best against West Brom…
“George was very slim and lightweight, whereas Graham Williams was as tough as they come, but George was not intimidated by him. It was difficult for George, as Williams tackled hard, but he didn’t let it affect him. I was blessed George played in front of me for much of my career. He was the greatest player I ever played alongside and I was the lucky one to have him as a team-mate. It was the greatest moment of my footballing life to play in the same side as George. When I joined United, I dreamed of how good a player I might become. After seeing George, though, he quickly took that dream away.”

Phil Chisnall
United’s inside-left on the day remembers a ‘greyhound’ skipping past his opponents…
“George played without fear, which was exceptional for somebody of his age often appearing in front of a 65,000 crowd. He would only be 17 years of age, but he would beat two or three opponents as though they weren’t there… If you were good enough, though, Matt Busby would put you into the team – I was only 19 when I got my chance. The only worry about George was that he was slight. He was like a greyhound, but strong for a little lad. He was like Lionel Messi, who – despite also being small – can handle the physical side of the game.”

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