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Manchester United legend George Best really did play for Glentoran

Proof at last that the Belfast Boy once starred for Oval club - even if it was a cameo

Businessman David Chick has been reminiscing about a lingering question regarding the career of George Best.

Did Irish League club Glentoran once refuse to sign the young player who became a legend because they decided he was too small to make the grade?

David (73) knew the Manchester United legend when they were boys. He is president of the club today and can turn up the photograph I reproduce to prove that the late George did, in fact, appear for Glentoran in a celebrated friendly match at the Oval.

"The occasion was our centenary in 1982," explains David, who was chairman at the time

"I was negotiating with Ron Atkinson, the Man United manager, to bring a local player called Tom Connell - who had done well at Old Trafford - home to the Oval.

"Part of the deal was that United would play the Glens in Belfast as part of our centenary celebrations."

Atkinson kept his promise and brought a full-strength team to the Oval in August '82 to face the Irish League side which included George whose days at United were glorious but sadly long over. In fact, this friendly, which United won 2-0, was the first time he had played against his old mates.

And that's when my picture was taken - on a sunny summer afternoon. Yes, that's Norman Whiteside of United on the left.

"He had just returned from the World Cup finals with Northern Ireland at which he made history as the youngest player," my colleague Jim Gracey, now Group Sports Editor of the Belfast Telegraph, who was at the match, reminds me.

And the lad in the middle is David Chick's son, Stephen, just 11 then and now the owner of the Ballyrobin Hotel at Aldergrove, not far from the International Airport.

By the way, that centenary was well celebrated. Liverpool (1-1) and Tottenham Hotspur (3-3) came as guests too to pack out the Oval that memorable August.

If there is any debate still going on about George and the Glens, the answer is that he did sign forms once upon a time for the Oval club. But only for one match against his old team.

The day Cleghorn became Carroll and Wonderful Things happened

Once upon a time there was a young singer in Belfast called Ronnie Cleghorn.

Ronnie started his career in entertainment as a roadie to a mime act called The Recordites in which George Carroll and Syd Dodsworth mimed to pop records of the day with Ronnie putting the records on the player.

Then, one day, Ronnie decided to push on with his career as a balladeer, only Cleghorn wasn't a good showbiz name. He borrowed Recordite George's surname for luck and so Ronnie Carroll was on his way to stardom, especially when he had a No 1 UK hit with Roses are Red. Ronnie is still out there in his 80s singing as smoothly as ever. His other hits were Walk Hand in Hand and Say Wonderful Things.

I'm reminded of how Ronnie, who was once married to Millicent Martin of That Was the Week That Was fame, got his name today by the death of George Carroll at 81. This Carroll was a great entertainer too.

He appeared in three pantomimes at the Opera House with his friend, the late Frank Carson. Syd Dodsworth, the other half of The Recordites, is still around.

Belfast Telegraph


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