Now I yield to nobody in my admiration for George Best's genius as a footballer, or - on the few occasions when I met him when he had yet another book to plug - his genial, unassuming nature when sober.
One of the few advantages of being an old fart as a sports reporter is that I saw Best play throughout the 1960s when I lived in Manchester and from the evidence of my own eyes, no British player of the past 40 years has come within touching distance of his brilliance. Wayne Rooney has a long, long way to go.
But the latest outpourings of collective grief are out of kilter with the reality of Best?s short life. His death on Friday unleashed yet another burst of lachrymose, Princess Diana-style emotion that seems to be the norm now in this country.
We had the obligatory sanctimony from that fanatical football fan Tony Blair and TV shots of spotty teenagers blubbing into their red scarfs, mourning someone who last played top-flight football on January 1, 1974.
The scenes at Villa Park on Saturday before the Charlton game were a case in point. No criticism of Aston Villa is intended in the following observations and indeed, both sets of supporters behaved respectfully towards Best?s memory.
Yet it was clear that the minute?s silence decreed by the Premier League wasn?t wholly supported inside Villa Park. As the players gathered for the tribute, the man on the public address began with the words ?Following a directive from the Premier League . .? The Villa players didn?t wear black armbands but the Charlton side did.
There was no discretion allowed by the almighty Premier League. All matches under their jurisdiction were preceded by a tribute to Best, in some cases cut short because of the moronic behaviour of some fans.
I don?t see why it had to be such a sweeping diktat. Last week, 31- year- old John Jones, a British soldier, was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq. Sergeant Jones, who lived in Castle Bromwich, left a widow and young son. He was also a devoted Villa fan.
I would have thought that a minute?s silence might have been more appropriate at Villa Park for Sergeant Jones than one for someone who had no connection with Villa Park, who hadn?t played there for more than 30 years, who was an acknowledged wife-beater, who spent one Christmas in prison for assaulting a policeman and who eventually drank himself to death.
John Jones gave up his life for his country and Aston Villa FC acknowledged that in Saturday?s matchday programme. A contribution was also made by the club to the Army Benevolent Fund.
On balance, I think that was enough of a tribute to Sergeant Jones but he wasn?t famous so didn?t get the Full Monty in his memory.
When that great racehorse Best Mate died so tragically last month, there would have been a case for honouring a sporting legend at Villa Park.
After all, Best Mate had won the Cheltenham Gold Cup three years in succession, he raced in Villa?s colours and his owner, Jim Lewis, is a regular at the ground. I recall the happy scenes when Best Mate was paraded around the touchline in 2004.
Given this nation?s sentimental attachment towards animals, there was a case for a tribute from the crowd when Best Mate died so sadly during a race. But the club drew the line at that, understandably so.
So where do we now draw the line in terms of expecting the crowd to observe a minute?s silence? Will the Premier League?s three-line whip extend to the death of one of their head honchos?
Does a minimum of 50 caps qualify for the compulsory minute?s silence? The Premier League have made a rod for their own backs.
When Bobby Moore and Brian Clough both died suddenly of cancer, there was no edict from the Premier League. It was left to the discretion of the clubs. Both arguably left a more lasting stamp on the English game than George Best, bewitching though his skills were.
I suspect Best would have been amused that in death, he suddenly became valued by the football establishment. Heaven knows, he was up before the beaks at Lancaster Gate for enough misdemeanours while sharing his genius with us all.
Part of his appeal was that he was judged to be cool, the supreme anti-establishment footballer.
He would surely have laughed at one irreverent comment at Villa Park on Saturday. One Villa fan said: ?Why stop at one minute?s silence? We usually have 90 of them when we kick off here.?
Cavalier Lara record-breaker who gives pleasure to rivals
Brian Lara?s feat of becoming the greatest run-scorer in Test history is a rarity ? someone who usually bats like a millionaire yet remains remarkably consistent.
Lara is the most thrilling, audacious batsman since Viv Richards was intimidating all bowlers in the mid-Seventies. Just ask any of his playing contemporaries. Whatever their nationality, they will tell you that Lara is the batsman above all that they watch for sheer pleasure and to wonder at his shimmering brilliance.
Such batsmen are prey to vicissitudes in form, periods when their genius deserts them. Lara is the nearest yet to an exception. Of course, he?s had his troughs but just when you think his unique touch and kestrel?s eye have deserted him for good, he comes roaring back. Against Australia he struggled in the first two Tests before scoring 226 to set the record.
Write Lara off at your peril. Even at the age of 36. And consider the most relevant statistics of his new eminence. He has played magnificently for the past decade against the best team in the world, with nine centuries against Australia. Three of them were double hundreds. Another ? the 153 not out in 1999 that won the Barbados Test singlehandedly ? is judged one of the great innings of Test history.
Lara passed Allan Border at the weekend ? in 35 fewer Tests, needing 52 fewer innings. Border was a wonderful batsman, full of dedication and guts, but he was no genius. Against the best side around at the time, Border scored only three centuries against the West Indies. Compare Lara?s record against the recent Aussie sides.
This isn?t the time to consider Lara?s destructive influence on West Indies teams, times when his ego, desire for the captaincy and unprofessionalism in training left him open to accusations of selfishness. He can?t be absolved of such a charge. But if you want to spend your last few hours on this mortal coil wanting to be dazzled by any modern cricketer, Brian Lara?s your man.
He holds three batting records. Highest firstclass score, highest Test innings and the greatest number of runs in a Test career. Yet the imperishable memory of Lara?s batting remains the phenomenal bat speed, astonishing knack of picking up the ball so early, his wristy strokeplay and that effervescent pull shot off his hips.
He needs only four more hundreds for another Test record ? most centuries. Someone who plays with such dash and daring while racking up a record number of runs is a phenomenon.
With Test cricket being played at such a fast, aggressive lick, it?s only fitting that cavalier Lara has eclipsed the admirable, puritan Border.
Brave Dunn is the genuine article as battle to recapture form begins
On many occasions, when a professional footballer tells you how lucky he is, you just know that they?re churning out a platitude, because it?s expected of them.
But there are laudable exceptions. Birmingham City?s David Dunn is a point in case.
He made his comeback to the Blues? first team last Saturday and his relief at getting through the first hour was heartfelt.
Dunn could have been forgiven for thinking that he?d never get back. Saturday was only his 39th first-team start since signing for the Blues in the summer of 2003 for a cool #5 million.
Back and hamstrings have been the problem, but he knows what the fans have been thinking. What a waste of money. Perhaps the next few paragraphs may change a few sceptics? minds.
Dunn?s operation that fused his spine marked him out as a guinea pig among footballers. It was a very tricky exercise.
The spine had to be stabilised which in turn would ease the strain on the hamstrings that kept twanging on the park.
To ease the rehabilitation, Dunn had to spend eight weeks in bed. Two months of lying there, watching TV, making do with two hours? sleep at a time. Because he wasn?t doing anything to use up energy, sleep was fitful. He also had to get used to sleeping on his back, rather than his side and front. Try altering your position of sleeping, if you think that?s not a problem.
When visiting the specialist in Birmingham he had to be driven by ambulance from his mother?s house in Blackburn because the slightest jarring movement in a car would jeopardise his recovery rate.
Coming from a close family, the one consolation for Dunn was hat he could re-forge those close relationships but he lost his beloved grandmother during that painful period of rehabilitation. He took to walking the streets of Blackburn towards midnight, in the company of his grandfather.
?I was shuffling around like some weirdo and I didn?t want anyone to see the state I was in, so late at night was the best time to try to tire myself to help me get some sleep.
?I had a lot of good chats with my grand-dad on the streets and that helped me realise how lucky I am to be playing football for a living.?
When Dunn finally reported for pre-season, he was, in the words of his manager Steve Bruce, ?like a bag of bones.?
He?d lost a stone and a half.
At his best, Dunn is a solidly-built, speedy midfielder, and he knows there?s a still a lot of hard work ahead before opponents are bouncing off him again.
?It could be up to ten games before I?m really match-fit and I just hope the Blues? fans understand that I can now run around pitches till the cows come home, but I am still waiting to be at my sharpest in match situations.
?But the manager?s been there for me and I owe him and the club for these lost couple of years.?
But he is still only 25 and he has played for England. David Dunn has missed the sheer joy of being fit enough to play professional football, but it?s a measure of his popularity with the media corps of this area that he?s always put on a brave face when talking to us. It?s not being partisan for football reporters to hope Dunn comes through.
And for once I can believe a footballer who earns a handsome living when he says: ?If I wasn?t a pro, I?d be playing in a park on a Sunday morning because I love the game so much.?