George Best only played 42 games for Fulham, but that was more than enough time for the former United star to electrify Craven Cottage...
The best part of three years after the last of his last Old Trafford goodbyes, 200 miles away, down by the River Thames at Fulham’s picturesque Craven Cottage, George Best entranced a new set of supporters with his trademark effortless grace. True, it was a short-lived affair - a mere 42 games and 10 goals - but for those lucky enough to have seen Best's mojo burst briefly into life once more, the experience remains indelible.
Best was still just 28. At an age when most players hit their peak, he was seemingly finished with English football. As Sir Matt Busby’s magic touch had worn off, so Best had fallen out of love with his job. Having appeared in three friendlies for Dunstable Town (one against the Reds) as a favour for ex-United youth team-mate Barry Fry, he’d also played three matches on loan at Stockport County in 1975, and kept his hand in over the English summer of 1976 in the North American Soccer League with Los Angeles Aztecs.
Fulham board member and soon-to-be chairman Ernie Clay envisaged the ringing of cash tills aplenty if he could persuade Best to hitch a ride with the steady, if unspectacular, Second Division team for the 1976/77 season. England's World Cup-winning skipper Bobby Moore, captain in the FA Cup final defeat against West Ham 16 months earlier, was still on board. Rodney Marsh, a Best-lite for the Manchester City faithful in their title triumph of 1967/68 had also returned from America to the surrounds where he had begun his career.
Best - still under contract at United, was given clearance by FIFA just 48 hours before his debut - and declared himself up for the task: “I may have lost a little pace, but none of my passion for football.” The passion of the fans to see him had clearly not diminished either - 21,000, more than double the previous gate, turned up for his debut against Bristol Rovers on 4 September 1976. He didn’t disappoint. Just 71 seconds had elapsed when he scored the only goal from close range. Next, Best bagged a beautiful effort in a League Cup tie at Peterborough United, audaciously chipping the keeper from 45 yards.