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Best's pal Summerbee didn't go to the hospital because 'that wasn't the George I wanted to remember'

By Nevin Farrell

They played for rival teams but shared a love of the good life.

Now, fascinating new details have emerged about the friendship between two football legends - our own George Best of Manchester United and Mike Summerbee of Manchester City.

As the 10th anniversary of George's death at the age of 59 approaches, Summerbee has been speaking about the good times he had with his best friend, which included George being his best man at his wedding to Tina.

The footballing duo also attended the 1966 World Cup Final together, and opened a fashion boutique in Manchester called Edwardia.

Tales of the duo's night-time carousing around Manchester's bars are well-known, but other small details have emerged in a Daily Mail article.

Less than a year after they met, for example, Best drove them to Wembley - picking up a speeding ticket on the way - to be in the crowd for the 1966 World Cup Final. And once, when he was suspended, Summerbee took Best's father Dickie to Anfield to watch United play Liverpool - from the Kop.

Every other Friday, meanwhile, Best and Summerbee would stand on the terraces together and watch Stockport County play.

"We would stand behind the goal and leave 10 minutes before the end," Summerbee said.

"We would sign a couple of autographs but that would be it. No bother."

Saturdays would be different, of course. A friendship that grew quickly and cared little for the fact they played on opposing sides of Manchester's football divide had at its geographical heart the restaurants, bars and clubs of the city.

Even then, though, a night out often wouldn't commence until Best and Summerbee had popped into Arturo's, a restaurant where they knew their respective managers - Joe Mercer and Sir Matt Busby - would be dining together with their wives.

"The two managers lived on the same street and they were close," recalled Summerbee. "So we would go to where they ate and let them see us there, having a meal and drinking Coke. The perfect professionals!

"The wives would ask if we were being looked after at our digs and then I would say 'night boss, night boss' - because I called Sir Matt 'boss' too - and as soon as we were out the door we were like: 'Yes!', and off we'd go into the night."

Recalling George being his best man, Summerbee said: "He was brilliant that day, so humble and respectful, but I was the only groom whose bride spent most of the day staring at the best man." Best's battle with the booze is well-known and Summerbee explained why he chose not to visit his friend as he spent his final days in a London hospital in November 2005.

"That wouldn't have been George Best, and I wanted to remember George Best. I don't regret it," said Summerbee. "I paid my respects at the funeral in Belfast and that was a beautiful occasion in its way. It brought Ireland together for a day. I just want to remember him as the great athlete and a great friend."

But Summerbee also prefers to remember George's legendary footballing skills.

"It was only the people who went to Old Trafford regularly who really understood it," he said.

"They saw something they will probably never see again.

"He used to walk on to the field doing his laces or pulling his socks up. He never wore shinpads or did any stretches. Him and Denis (Law) were like skeletons, but they both had elbows like razor blades.

"I can still picture him going round that poor goalkeeper in the 1968 European Cup Final at Wembley. I was there that night, in the crowd. That was George, my mate, on his stage."

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph