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George Best's name change: A fascinating little morsel of trivia for a Bestie anorak like me


George Best in his Manchester United days

George Best in his Manchester United days

The birth certificate

The birth certificate

Best playing football as a child

Best playing football as a child


George Best in his Manchester United days

As a lifelong, dyed in the red wool devotee of all things George Best and Manchester United, I thought I knew everything there was to know about my absolute idol.

I worshipped him as a young supporter, and also as an older reporter, lucky to get to know him in later life. Why, I once even interviewed him naked!

Most women who've heard that tale say they find that understandable as they'd happily have shed their clothes for the chance. They are even more envious when I tell them it happened when he emerged from the shower after a famous guest appearance for little Tobermore United in an Irish Cup game in the Eighties to uninhibitedly fill the notebooks of myself and my late colleague, Alex Toner of the Daily Mirror, who'd been a pal of George in his heyday.

So, armed with more than just the bare facts, having read every book and acres of newsprint charting his life and times, enough to go on Mastermind with George as my specialist subject, what an eye-opener to learn after all these years that my hero entered the world as Ronald Samuel! It was a chance discovery in a little backstreet bar on Spain's Costa del Sol, a coastline George was more than familiar with as a bolthole from his goldfish bowl existence in Manchester and London.

Alley Cats, in Los Boliches, is a floor-to-ceiling monument to Man United and George, so you can see the attraction of dropping in to watch a game on my visits down there.

On this occasion, Billy, the landlord, from Cork, couldn't wait to show off the latest addition to his George Best alcove, a framed copy of the Belfast boy's birth certificate.

And there it was on official watermarked paper... name of child... Ronald Samuel. Born May 22, 1946 at the Royal Maternity Hospital. Some mistake, surely? But no, the other columns authentically listed dad Dickie, mum Anne and the original family home, before Cregagh, at Jocelyn Street, off the Woodstock, finally followed by a June 6 amendment to George. Even the surviving family can't explain the riddle of the name change so it will remain the mystery that could have changed the course of football history. Somehow, Ronnie, Ronnie, or Sammy, Sammy, they call him the Belfast Boy, wouldn't have had the same ring.

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But, given the custom of naming children after famous footballers, maybe Ronaldo's folks knew something we didn't?

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