Jimmy Greaves obituary: Goalscoring genius for Tottenham, Chelsea and England


reaking down his football career to the four seasons, Jimmy Greaves once likened his decade at Tottenham to his “summertime”.

From the hat-trick on debut against Blackpool through to the FA Cup win in his first season followed by Spurs becoming the first English team to win a major European trophy, it was Greavsie at his pomp.

For Glenn Hoddle, a young fan of the club, it lay in the expectation with the ball at his feet: “When he was in possession, the stadium changed. He was electrifying and what a finisher, right foot, left foot. Magnificent player.”

Eighteen months on from celebrations to mark his 80th birthday – ranging from a documentary on BT Sport to calls by one national newspaper for a knighthood for arguably the greatest English-born striker – Greaves passed away in the early hours of Sunday morning.

His records were a match for the greats of the past and present: 422 goals in 602 games, 266 of which were scored for Spurs and 132 for Chelsea. Even a supposedly unsuccessful spell with AC Milan warranted nine goals in 14 games before Spurs paid a then club record £99,000 to bring him back to London.

His record of 366 goals in Europe’s top five leagues stood for nearly half-a-century before being surpassed by Cristiano Ronaldo for Real Madrid in 2017. That he did so on often mudbath pitches made it all the more remarkable.

For England, his record was no less impressive – 44 goals in 57 appearances, including one on debut, putting him fourth in the all-time list behind Wayne Rooney, Sir Bobby Charlton and Gary Lineker.

The son of a London Underground driver, Greaves began his career as an apprentice at Chelsea where he made his debut as a 17-year-old, his last game coming for West Ham, close to where he was born in Manor Park with Britain already at war with Germany.

Bizarrely, though, for many he was defined for the one match he missed – the 1966 World Cup final. England’s first-choice striker throughout the tournament, a gash to his shin saw him miss the ensuing match. Sir Geoff Hurst was brought in, went on to score a hat-trick and Greaves could only watch suited from the sidelines.

For a country in euphoria, he was a torn figure. He recalled many years later: “I danced around the pitch with everyone else in this moment of triumph and great happiness, deep down I felt my sadness.

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