George Best & Bobby Moore were footballing icons in the sixties and seventies. Bobby picking up the World Cup in 1966 for England and George Best an instrumental part of the great Manchester United side that won the European cup in 1968. Best is still seen by some as arguably the greatest player to grace the British game and Bobby Moore the greatest leader. These two footballing giants are still spoken about today, with after dinner stories from ex-pro’s, articles in the press, books and TV documentaries still written and produced celebrating them, such was their impact on the game.
The two friends, both former footballers of the year, ended up playing together towards the end of their career at Fulham in the late seventies. Also enjoying an Indian summer out in America. The pair joining different club sides as soccer took off in the United States. Also, both struggled to find a role for themselves once their playing days were over. This say’s as much about our society as it does the them. Both sadly died in their fifties, for different reasons but all to young and are missed by many who saw the pair play or knew them personally. One other thing the two had in common, apart from being great footballers, was being accused of theft!
George Best & the beauty queen
In 1974, George Best unsurprisingly, got involved with the current Miss World. The relationship ended very quickly and acrimoniously with arrests and charges of theft laid at Best’s door. This didn’t help his growing ‘bad boy’ reputation. But was he guilty? The Marjorie Wallace Affair click the link for full story
Bobby Moore Bracelet capper
Bobby Moore was one of the most respected footballers in the World. The quintessential ‘English gentleman’. In May 1970 during a pre-World Cup tour in Columbia, South America with England he was accused of stealing an expensive bracelet and was arrested. The whole globe switched on to find out more about Moore. But was he guilty? The Bogotá Bracelet scandal (revisited) click the link for full story
It was in the sixties and seventies, that football found its glamour with television and newspapers coming to treat the game as a branch of show business. These two footballers were just as likely to be seen at the time in the company of actors Kenny Lynch and Sean Connery or Jimmy Tarbuck, the comedian, as with other players. It was when the game was “discovered” by the entertainment business the seeds of the troubles that eventually beset both Moore and Best were planted. No one was prepared, there had to be casualties. These two were the first. At the beginning of new year in January 1971 they suffered unrelated individual misdemeanours with their club sides which were seen as turning points in their careers.
Video: Bobby Moore – Blackpool nightclub incident
On 2 January 1971. West Ham were drawn away to play Blackpool at Bloomfield Rd in the FA cup. It was close to freezing as the players took the train to the north-west on Friday the day before the match. ’Once we had settled at the hotel we learned that the referee was going to call off the game,’ recalled a young Clyde Best. That was the cue for senior West Ham players Bobby Moore, Jimmy Greaves, Brain Dear, younger Clyde Best and club physio Rob Jenkins to order a taxi, ignoring a club curfew. They went out for a drink together, ending up at Brian London’s (former Boxer) 007 nightclub. All returned before midnight, under the influence but not the worst for wear. However, next day the referee passed the pitch fit to play. West Ham got heavily beaten 4-0 as witnessed by BBC ‘Match of the Day’ viewers.
It is believed a disgruntled West Ham fan had witnessed what had happened in the nightclub and went to Ron Greenwood’s (Manager) Upton Park office to lodge a complaint on the Monday morning after the game. Shortly afterwards the Fleet Street papers had the story plastered all over the back pages. Bobby Moore was due to be surprised and honored by ITV’s ‘This is your life’ TV programme on the Wednesday, insiders thought it might be postponed given the negative publicity. However it went ahead. But the next day, Ron Greenwood (West Ham Manager) was furious, about the nightclub incident, getting the guilty players into his office, wanting to sack all five of them but the Board of Directors persuaded him that fines and suspensions would be sufficient. Nineteen-year-old Clyde Best who only drank orange juice was the only one to escape punishment.
The Bobby Moore and Ron Greenwood relationship would never recover. Bobby saying “After that, things were never the same between myself and West Ham. I had claret-and-blue blood, but I could never forgive the club for the way they treated me.”
Video: George Best – The Islington siege
On the Friday 8 January 1971 George Best missed a training session with Manchester United, then the train to London and subsequently the Saturday 9 January league match against Chelsea. Nobody knew where George Best was. Eventually turning up at a girlfriend’s (Sinead Cusack) flat in Islington, North London. Once discovered the property came under siege from the media and general public, waiting to catch a glimpse of the superstar footballer. Best was caught in a goldfish bowl, not the only time this would happen to him. Helped by the local constabulary, George had to ring friends to get him out and back to Manchester. There he met with Manager Sir Matt Busby to discuss his behaviour and was subsequently fined. It wasn’t the first time and not the last, he would just disappear.
The difference between them
There was a character difference between Mooro and Georgie. Best was frequently irresponsible and would never deny it. He would not only fail to keep important appointments. But would casually neglect to make even a phone call of apology. No one who knew him well was astonished that he missed Manchester United’s training session on that Friday before the Chelsea game. Still absent when the team left by train for London.
Moore is a different case entirely. His real self is as remote, as unreachable as Best’s, but he was in no way as haphazard. He liked to enjoy life but was so calculating that his presence in a Blackpool night-club, a few hours before a vital Cup-tie, must feed the growing belief that West Ham had long ago superseded as an influence in his career.
They both enjoyed a pint. But Bestie made drink another career with disastrous effects to his health. Mooro struggled with cancer, earlier in his footballing life. Eventually the illness taking him from us far too early. Both these guys had plenty of charm and charisma. Moore had that certain presence which marked him out as a leader. Once Best asked Busby to make him captain. Busby’s answer was your ‘not responsible enough’. ‘Make me captain and I will be’ was Best’s reply. Bobby had a lot more dignity than George. Professional footballers looked up to Best as a player. They looked up to Moore as a man.
After dinner speakers
Comicus provides several footballers, pundits & commentators who played and worked with George Best & Bobby Moore such as Chris Kamara, Glen Hoodle, Sir Geoff Hurst, Trevor Brooking, Harry Redknapp, Alan Mullery, Lou Macari,Kevin Keegan, Sammy Mcllroy, Teddy Sheringham, Garry Richardson, Jim Rosenthal among many others for speaking engagements. All recall their playing careers, stories of these two football legends along with a strong insight into the modern game. Contact the office for more details 0344 800 0058 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Matthew Willetts MA is the Director of Comicus who has over 35 years experience in television, film, theatre, and comedy club/cabaret entertainment, working as a performer, screenwriter, producer and agent. He lectured at Southampton Solent University in Comedy, Screenwriting, Television, Theatre & Radio. Matthew can sometimes be seen and heard on TV & Radio and often quoted in the national press and media publications. As well as speaking regularly at festivals and industry conferences, he has been a judge at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Montreux Television Festival.