Belfast Telegraph

'He didn't like it': How George Best fulfilled promise by nutmegging Johan Cruyff AND Johan Neeskens in 1976

George Best and Johan Cruyff graced the same pitch in 1976.
George Best and Johan Cruyff graced the same pitch in 1976.

When George Best came up against two fellow footballing legends in Rotterdam in 1976, he showed the swagger that set him apart.

The last time Northern Ireland played at De Kuip was the night Bestie ended a three-year pause by returning to the international fold, much to the delight of his team-mates.

As will be the case when the Netherlands host the GAWA tonight, the hosts were much-fancied to ease to victory.

But Bestie was never going to let that happen.

Not only did he help inspire Northern Ireland to a 2-2 draw but he also managed to live up to a pre-match promise by putting the ball through the legs of both Johan Cruyff and Johan Neeskens, two players frequently named among the best ever.

"That was Bestie," says Sammy McIlroy after his attacking partner had predicted he would nutmeg Cruyff in a media interview before the game.

"It's amazing that he did it to players of that calibre. They didn't like that and it rattled the crowd as well."

Derek Spence was the man who netted an 88th minute equaliser for Northern Ireland and, speaking to BBC Radio Ulster, he backed up the thought that it was a premeditated embarrassment handed out by his side's number seven.

"Undoubtedly he nutmegged Neeskins because I saw it with my own eyes," he said. "It wasn't a fluke either because he had already nutmegged the whole of the coventry team in a practice match on the Wednesday.

"He did about 20 nutmegs on them because I was counting. He did Neeskins and then he did Cruyff. I didn't see the Cruyff one but he definitely did it becaue it was confirmed him the Dutch player years later. They used to take the mickey out of him for it. He didn't like it, by the way, because he was up there alongside Bestie.

"He was an inspiration on that night. If somebody can step up tonight and give that inspiration like Bestie, it would be fantastic?"

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