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Last Round Knockout – Part 2

December 10th, 2005 by · No Comments · Features, Football

The Forwards

Picking a boozers forward line just has to start with the incomparable, in every sense, George Best. Although essentially over by the time he reached 26, his career included 2 Championships [and player of the year] and the 1968 European Cup [and European player of the year]. It also featured the less tangible, but more lasting, iconic moving images that make him instantly recognisable even to those who never saw him play in the flesh.

By 1982 he was turning out for the Ford Open Prison team, banged up for drink driving and assaulting a policeman. Some say he never reached his prime and his best was ahead of him when he retired. Some wonder how he might be remembered if he had ever graced a World Cup, a stage where the only players that compared, Pele, Maradona and Cruyff, made their mark on the collective consciousness of the world. I?m not sure it would have made any difference. Through all the guff, crocodile tears and rose tinted memorials spouted over the last weeks it should be remembered that by 24 he was already skipping training for all day drinking sessions. He really didn?t ?retire?, he was dropped for being a liability. By his mid 20s his top flight career was already finished.

It?s OK to dream away a few hours imagining what might have been but it?s not right to view George Best in any way as a victim of media pressure, a victim of genes, a victim of more hardened players. Everyone comes to crossroads in their lives and George always, but always, went head on, full speed, to destruction. Even his closest drinking partners weren?t safe from his gift for destruction. George Carman QC, who Best admired for his ?hollow legs? wasn?t safe. His affair with Carman?s wife led to the memorable scene of one of the most feared members of the Queens Council marching into a regular drinking haunt and announcing to all ?George Best, you BlackHeart, you f**ked my wife? while being restrained by Best?s cronies. Best says in his biography that he thought he would get away with it because, as he popped out for a quick one, he knew where Carman was. Sitting at the next bar stool.

How touching then, that amongst all the detritus of the obituaries it was Jimmy Greaves, a man who saw the road ahead and turned on his heals, revealed everything you need to know about Best. Whilst the two discussed his recent, life saving, liver transplant George had no reservation in declaring that ?the doctor says that if I carry on drinking I’ve got another five years ? tell you what Greavsie, that’s plenty long enough for me?. Finally, one for the stats fans, towards the end he was reputed to be downing 4 bottles of white wine a day, chased by assorted brandies.

So if the rest weren?t fit to lace his drinks, who could possibly partner the man up front. Well, all those bizarre comments and the shakes, seen during his short career as a TV pundit, started to make sense earlier in the year when it emerged that Malcolm ?Super Mac? McDonald, was admitted to a detoxifying clinic. Apparently the 48-year-old former Newcastle and Arsenal centre-forward, one of the most accomplished forwards of his day, had been discovered in a comatose state in a bed and breakfast in the North East of England. He was surrounded by empty whisky bottles. The PFA, with characteristic subtlety and compassion, publicly announced that ?He was away on a bender when he was taken to hospital?. In their defense they are meeting the clinic’s ?325-a-day costs. Bless em.

The Special Reserves

Well that?s our Boozers 11. It?s always tough to leave a player out of the first team, so here?s a chance to raise a glass to the bench, and in one case stool, warmers.

The Addict

Not content with drunken fracas with night club bouncers and upsetting American tourists at airports, John Terry is still at it in his Bentley Continental. He was recently exposed in the Sunday tabloids for picking up young girls at pubs for a bit of vacuum action in the front seat.

The Bus Stop Boxer

Lee Bowyer, a player with plenty of ?previous? was described by a witness as being ?absolutely hammered? during a night out in the Leeds city center Majestyk nightclub. The night ended with the hospitalization, and near death, of an innocent bystander.

The Blamer

Anyone who watched Arsenal during the torrid times before George Graham came to instil some discipline on the team, though not on himself, couldn?t help wondering what was wrong with Charlie Nicholas. It later emerged that he was often seen struggling to get into his Jag at North London train stations after nights out in Essex. After being released by Graham he told the tabs that if he?d signed for Liverpool, when he left Celtic as the hottest young player in Scottish football, things would have been so different. Not his fault then.

The Abstainer

Jimmy Greaves was, for a while in the 1960s, one of the finest footballers in the world. He claims that he can?t remember too many of his goals now, the price he has paid for his drinking. Yet there is no bitterness in the man, only gratitude for his gift and relief for having survived. His goal scoring record, despite his habit, still takes the breath away. He scored 357 league goals in 516 games, 44 international goals in 57 games, was the youngest British player to score 100 league goals [age 21], the youngest English player to 200 [age 23], set Spurs all time season scoring record with 37 in 41 league games, and was Division One top scorer in six seasons. He even came out of retirement in 1978 to play midfield for Barnet in the Southern League. He scored 25 goals and was named player of season.

The Waster

Gary Charles, a hugely promising defender, capped by England, has his career cut short thanks, in part and ironically, to a dreadful tackle by Paul Gascoigne in the first minutes of an FA Cup Final. Charles was recently found drunk and incapable at the wheel of his car while sitting in what could be described as his own ?waste?.

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