The story of legend George Best's 325-day stay in Edinburgh with Hibs 40 years on
Tales of booze, bedlam and 'Blondie'
EVEN in the annals of his own hegemonic hell-raising, the story of George Best’s short stint at Hibs is the stuff of folklore.
The feted winger shimmied into town in the winter of 1979 bringing a dash of glitz and glamour to the Capital still reeling from industrial disputes and the three-day week.
But it all came to a predictably abrupt end just 22 games and three treasured goals later in a in a blur of buck’s fizz with a rugby great and, legend has it, Blondie star Debbie Harry.
In the famed words of a goggle-eyed bellboy stumbling on another of Best’s notorious blow-outs: “So George, where did it all go wrong?”
Then chairman Tom Hart reportedly shelled out the £2,000 needed to bring Best to Leith from Fulham from his own pocket.
His arrival was greeted with fever pitch and flashbulbs as fans and photographers alike flocked to see the man Pele described as the greatest.
Best’s time in the Capital saw early promise lose out to premature demise, punctuated by brilliance - in-keeping with his wider career and life.
Ever the showman, when Rangers came to town and one fan hurled a beer can at him, Best picked it up and appeared to take a swig to cheers from all around the ground.
“I can’t remember much about the night before"
Then came that ill-fated all-nighter in the American Bar of the North British Hotel, now the Balmoral, on the eve of a crucial cup game.
It was here he bumped into French flanker Jean-Pierre Rives and teammates determinately drowning their sorrows after getting beat at Murrayfield.
Best had been drinking champagne mixed with orange juice - because it sounded healthy - all afternoon.
Talk of a mystery blond with Best as being singer Debbie Harry have since been dispelled but what cannot be disputed is, in Best’s own words, “bedlam” ensued.
He later recalled: “That was it. The next thing I know it’s Sunday and Hibernian have come to pick me up and to take me to the game.”
It was 10am and Mr Hart had taken it upon himself to phone in an alarm call to be told his star player was still in bed having been partying all night.
“The trainer took one look at me and said ‘you can’t play today, can you?’ I told him I couldn’t and that was that.
“I can’t remember much about the night before, not even if I got to bed, but I know Rives could drink as well as he played. They all could and they could hold it as well.”
One version has a legless Best being carried through the hotel lobby, another him pointing to his blond companion in bed and asking: “What would you rather do, spend the afternoon with her or play Ayr United?”
And with that, Hibs and Best parted ways, the former with a 2-0 win, the latter driven to the airport hungover.