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Surgeon who carried out George Best transplant dies aged 88

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Specialist: Prof Roger Williams

Specialist: Prof Roger Williams

Specialist: Prof Roger Williams

The surgeon who treated Northern Ireland football legend George Best during his battle with alcoholism has died at the age of 88.

Professor Roger Williams CBE had been a member of the pioneering team that carried out the world's first liver transplant at Addenbrooke's Hospital in England in 1968.

His skills as one of the UK's most distinguished liver specialists were later brought to bear on the Belfast-born star, whose troubled relationship with booze was ultimately to cost him his life.

An obituary in The Times newspaper traced the distinguished surgeon's relationship with the mercurial former Manchester United player.

"Despite never having seen Best perform on the field, he and Best became close, with the tall, slim and well-spoken Williams becoming the compassionate face describing for the cameras the slow demise of Britain's (sic) first soccer superstar.

"In 2002 he gave the footballer a lifesaving liver transplant at the Cromwell Hospital, waiving his fees for the bankrupt player, but the benefits were short-lived."

"We tried very hard with George and he did very well," Williams later explained, but he admitted that Best had not always followed his advice.

In 1966 the surgeon established the Institute of Liver Studies at King's Hospital in London.

He formally retired in 1996, but later set up a new liver disease institute at University College, also in London.

Two years later he initiated the first programme of adult-to-adult living donor liver transplantation in the country.

Roger Stanley Williams was born in Southampton, Hampshire, in 1931.

He was the only child of Stanley Williams, an estate agent, and his wife Doris (nee Clatworthy), who ran a sailmakers in nearby Hamble.

Professor Williams is survived by his widow Stephanie and three adult children.

Belfast Telegraph