Monday, 28 May 2018

Dean Court Days - George Best arrives at Dean Court

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Michael Dunne is an avid AFCB fan who has published a biography on Harry Redknapp this summer with Pitch Publishing called 'Dean Court Days'. Michael, editor or All Departments podcast, has kindly asked Pitch Publishing if Cherry Chimes could run some extracts of the book this summer and we are going to start with the arrival of George Best at Dean Court on 26 March 1983. Many thanks to Michael and Pitch Publishing.

The front cover of the Newport match programme
had a picture of George Best on it. There was no
mention of the transfer in the programme, such was
the last minute nature of it. 
Following a 0-0 draw with Huddersfield at the start of March 1983, reports began to emerge that Bournemouth were about to sign George Best, still considered by many to be the greatest British footballer of all time. At 36 and in the grip of alcoholism, Best was a shadow of the player who had put fear into the hearts of defences across Europe in the 1960s, but his fading skills and box office appeal were enough to briefly bring the crowds back to Dean Court. 

After stating on television whilst in Southampton that he ‘could be signing for a club just a bus ride away from here,’ Best was unveiled to a stunned local press at Dean Court on transfer deadline day. Bournemouth had officially bought Best from the San Jose Earthquakes, then known as the Golden Bay Earthquakes, of the NASL, although the Ulsterman had not played for the Californian club in almost two years.

How much Bournemouth had paid to secure Best’s registration was never revealed, although when Best’s girlfriend and former Miss World Mary Stavin joined a crowd of 9,121 to watch him make his debut for the Cherries, the gate money from an attendance double the average at Dean Court would have helped offset some of the fee.

After making his debut in a 2-1 defeat at home to Newport County, Best was granted a leave of absence prior to the match against Orient on Easter Saturday after his former landlady from his early years at Manchester United passed away. He was expected to return in time to feature in the Cherries’ line-up. On the morning of the match, however, it became clear that Best was not going to appear. Managing Director Brian Tiler was prompted to take the unusual step of producing a poster saying ‘George Best won’t be playing today’ which was put up outside Dean Court in order to ensure fans looking forward to seeing the former European Footballer of the Year were informed of his absence before paying their money at the turnstile.


Tiler could not have been accused of giving Best licence to do as he pleased, as his widow Hazel explained many years later. 'I remember Brian going up to London to fetch George Best back to play for the Cherries,' said Mrs Tiler. 'When he got to the Barbican, where George was living at the time, there was no sign of him. So Brian was driving round with Mary Stavin looking for him. They tracked him down to one of his favourite pubs, but George escaped through a toilet window. Then Brian caught up with him at another pub, but by this time it was obvious George was in no fit state to play the following day.’

Despite his drink-fuelled absences, Redknapp does not recall any problems with Best when he did join up with the squad. 'George was great,' says Harry. 'He came to training; he was just fantastic. I still don't think I've seen a better player in this country. He was one of the lads. Came in, trained every day. The lads couldn't believe they had got him here to play. I think he absolutely loved it here. George was enjoying his life, still playing. Obviously he'd lost that pace and everything that he had which was a shame. He was nowhere near the George that we knew in his prime, but it was great just to have him around for that spell. I think any way the club could make a few quid at the time they would do it. George came in, gates went up home and away so I think commercially it was quite a good move for the club.’

George Best wasn't listed to be among the starters for AFCB against
Newport County, but he ran out wearing the number seven shirt.
The full team on the day was: Leigh, Heffernan,
Sulley, Spackman, Brignull, Impey, Best, Beck, Lee,
Nightingale, Dawtry, Sub: Graham, while Morgan didn't play.
If you want to pick up a copy of 'Dean Court Days' just click on the link and order your copy now! Look out for the next extract on Dean Court Days next Monday.

Michael will be organising a book signing soon and Harry Redknapp is also likely to want to sign some copies too. We'll keep you informed. 

TalkSport listening - Sports Bar

Tomorrow night Cherry Chimes will be on the airwaves of Talk Sport's Sports Bar programme at 11.00-11.30pm talking about the past season and this summer's transfer talk.

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