AS the George Best obituaries are being dusted off and polished up, how many of them, I wonder, will end with the words: "we may never see his like again."

Anyone tipped to be the next Best in the last 30 years has usually been put down with the observation "not fit to lace George's drinks."

Following Brian Clough's failure to appear on John Inverdale's show the previous week, Best was unable to fulfil his advertised appearance on Parkinson last Saturday. The reasons are probably not unconnected.

Cloughie appeared to be on the mend but has had a relapse, while for Best there can be little hope. Going back to Ireland to recuperate was probably not a good idea.

Middlesbrough once tried to sign Best, but of course he failed to show up, reinforcing his reputation at the time of being an unreliable drunk who had wasted a talent second only to Pele's.

We look now at a Manchester United so dominant in England, yet wonder how a team with Andy Cole in it could possibly hold a candle to one which boasted Best, Law, Charlton and Crerand.

Given the looks to match his talent, Best had the world at his feet and had a level of superstardom thrust upon him which outstripped anything a British sportsman had experienced.

In these days when we are besieged by task groups, select committees and bungling bureaucrats, it would not be a bad idea for some bright spark to do some research into the link between sportsmen with a cavalier approach and drink.

Footballers of a similar bent who spring to mind include Stan Bowles and Alan Hudson, (Maradona went down a different route), cricket had Colin Milburn and golf had John Daly.

Ian Botham enjoyed a tipple, of course, as did another cavalier all-rounder, the Australian Keith Miller. But in their case it was more like the old rugby players' approach to drinking - a beery night with the boys and no lasting damage was done.

George Best, sadly, has done himself irreparable damage and while the obituaries will be full of adulation they will also be tainted by the suspicion that the pleasure he gave could have lasted so much longer.

AFTER a fairly quiet weekend, apart from the latest round of Scalextric in Brazil (thank goodness someone beat Schumacher), we're in for a real bonanza over the next few days.

There's the Grand National, the Masters, the FA Cup semi-finals, the final round of Six Nations rugby matches and Naseem Hamed's world title defence in Las Vegas.

I can't tip coal, but I notice that trainer Martin Pipe has declared ten horses for the National, so with stable jockey Tony McCoy choosing to ride Blowing Wind that must be worth a flutter.

The Masters I expect to end the same as the Players Championship two weeks ago, with Tiger Woods first, Vijay Singh second and no-one else in the hunt, unless Jose Maria Olazabal rediscovers his putting touch.

If Tiger doesn't win it will probably be because his contract with Nike prevents him from using the new Titleist Pro V1 ball, which his rivals claim is putting 20 yards on their drives.

In the FA Cup it's Wycombe to beat Liverpool (just joking), and Arsenal to put an end to this tedious nonsense about Tottenham winning it whenever the year ends in one.

Who would predict anything where the French rugby team are involved? They plucked one of the greatest sporting performances of the last decade totally out of the blue when they beat the All Blacks in the 1999 World Cup semi-final.

But they surely can't stop England now, and the remarkable Jonny Wilkinson will comfortably gather the eight points he needs to pass Rob Andrew's record of 396 points for England.

When you consider that Jonny is not 22 until next month, you realise he won't just break Rob's record he will probably treble it.

As for Naseem, like all the best British boxers his talent has not been acknowledged in the United States, and his determination to prove himself should see him home against Marco Antonio Barrera.

JUST before West Ham knocked them out of the Cup I commented that indiscipline was threatening to knock Sunderland's excellent season off the rails.

More specifically, I added that Kevin Phillips would not do his England chances any good by continually getting booked for dissent and a couple of weeks later he admitted as much himself. So what happened last Saturday? Yes, he was booked for dissent. In the words of Captain Mainwairing: "Stupid boy."

THE fake Arab businessman who pulled off the sting against the Countess of Wessex was, in fact, the same News of The World reporter who famously duped Douglas Hall and Freddie Shepherd. Will people never learn? It's enough to give you the sheikhs