In November 1979, Hibernian shook the football world by paying Fulham £25,000 for George Best. He made his debut in a 2-1 defeat at Love Street, but the following week an astonishing crowd of 20,622 turned up at Easter Road for his home debut against Partick Thistle.
Hibs’ usual home gates at that time were around 6,500. Their average first team wage was £175. George was getting an amazing £2,000 a week! I was keen to have him come through from Edinburgh to appear on Sunday Scotsport and left messages for him to phone the office.
The first surprise was that he returned the call, agreed to come through by train with wife Angie, walked up from Queen Street to our studio in Cowcaddens and did a delightful 15 minutes with me — names, games, video clips, the future.
Afterwards he stayed and joined us for our usual post-programme cup of tea. Did he need a taxi back to the station? No thanks, we’ll just walk. He turned down the offer of payment with the memorable quote ‘Happy to help the Hibs.’
George, who would be included in my top 10 all-time greats, played 13 league games and three Scottish Cup ties before heading for America to play for San Jose Earthquakes.
George’s last game for Hibs was on 14 October 1980 and I guess I didn’t think I’d see him again, but the following year when I was in Los Angeles doing some interviews for my Radio Clyde programme ‘Meeting Place’, I noticed that San Jose were visiting the famous Coliseum to play Los Angeles in the North American Soccer League.
I sought George out when the game was over, which was easy, for the players had showered and changed, and both dressing-room doors were thrown open for unrestricted press, radio and TV interviews.
To my delight, George remembered me and the first question he asked was ‘How are the Hibs doing?’