Yesteryear legends would have been stars of modern day game

File photo dated 01-07-1968 of Footballer George Best of Manchester United

Footballer George Best of Manchester United in July 1968 - Credit: PA

I’m always being asked if the players during my playing career and the players I admired as a kid growing up, could play in the modern game as the speed, fitness, and recovery is now far more advanced.

Personally, I have no doubt that the star players of yesteryears would have been even greater providing they accepted the modern-day approach and the knowledge and expertise which forms part of the player's daily preparation leading into match days and the understanding of the recovery programme implemented for every individual player at all levels  

George Best  

The greatest player I can remember watching on Match of the Day when growing up was George Best.

He was an absolute genius and possessed skills arguably better than Lionel Messi.

Unfortunately, the understanding of the importance of fitness, preparation, and recovery when George Best played was limited.

File photo dated 29-05-1968 of Manchester United's David Sadler (left) and George Best celebrate win

Manchester United's David Sadler, left, and George Best celebrate winning the European Cup in May 1968 - Credit: PA

There were no Academies so no real football education from an early age so many of the greatest players fell into bad habits and probably fell short of their true potential.

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Imagine George Best in the modern game with a background of football support and football education.

There’s no doubt he would have been even greater and would have played at the very top level for many years.

When I was growing up I was lucky to watch - on TV - several players that come into the elite category and there is no doubt in my mind they would easily fit into the modern game as their exceptional natural ability enhanced by the modern game approach and professional understanding would have made them even greater.

Handling some of these great players who usually have a strong mentality and fitting them into a modern game approach that is far more rigid and disciplined than back in their day would not be easy and a challenge for any manager.

The question is with the discipline and dedication required to be successful in the modern game would we have witnessed watching these exceptional players or would they have fallen by the wayside if they were not understood and managed correctly? We will never know.

Rodney Marsh, Stan Bowles, Peter Osgood, come to mind, all great players who possessed a very strong mentality with exceptional ability. Could they have played in the modern day game?

You then look at the ball winners (hard men) Ron “Chopper” Harris, Graham Souness, Nobby Stiles, Tommy Smith, Roy Keane to name a few.

I can remember talking with Sir Alex Ferguson one day. He told me he had to plan the season ahead knowing he would be without Roy Keane and Paul Scholes for a number of games as they were so competitive he knew they would get sent off at least once a season.

He didn’t want to take away their extreme competitive edge as in his words: “They wouldn’t have been the same players.”

He went on to explain that at The Cliff training ground he thought it would be a good idea to have some pool tables put into the building to help the players relax between morning and afternoon training sessions.

This backfired as the pool games became so competitive it ended up with the players almost fighting among themselves so the pool tables were removed.

Could these players play in the modern game? I’m sure they could. 

Stay strong, stay safe and look after each other.