Mike Preston was just seven years old when he met George Best. The once-in-a-lifetime moment came about when his father Derek, a Manchester-based photographer who had built a friendship with the legendary footballer, needed a young boy to pose in an advertisement.
At the time he was not aware of the significance of that day. It is only now, after he discovered hundreds of never-before-seen pictures of the former Manchester United star, that the father-of-two says he fully appreciates how special it was.
Mike says the discovery has inspired him to set up a website — The Best Photographs of the 60s — featuring his father’s work with the Belfast Boy because it brought up that wonderful childhood memory.
He also said he wanted to share that memory as well as dozens of other moments with the Best family so they could have more keepsakes of the man revered by millions of football fans around the world.
Mike said: “Dad took pictures of George with the family and I think they would absolutely love them if they don’t already have copies.
“We knew my father had kept a few pictures of George but nothing to the extent we found. There is such a vast quantity.
“There are literally hundreds of photographs and negatives.
“I think they (the Best family) would absolutely love them.”
The precious images were unearthed following the death of Mike’s father in October. They had lay hidden in a wardrobe at the family’s Worsley home for more than three decades.
The 45-year-old, who lives in Astley, also uncovered a number 11 Northern Ireland football shirt worn by Best during the 1970s which he plans to auction.
Mike said he knew his father had a friendship with Best but never realised the level of trust that must have existed to allow him to take such candid shots.
“There was some really special pictures among the ones we found,” he said.
“There are some which you normally would not see — a professional footballer playing in the streets with kids. They (the kids) must have just shouted at him to kick a ball and he must have just gone across and done it.
“That’s just the sort of lad he was, he was such a genuine person. I think my father and George formed quite a good relationship. I think George obviously trusted him.”
It was this trust which led to Derek being chosen by Best to be the official photographer on a number of commercial shoots.
Derek photographed a 1970s ad campaign called Best Crisps and also shot all the pictures for Best’s clothing boutique in Manchester. He also shot the advert for Stylo footballing products which featured a young Mike.