Jimmy Greaves: the greatest striker England has ever seen

© Provided by The Week

Premier League clubs Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea put their rivalry aside to lead the tributes to former player Jimmy Greaves, who died yesterday at the age of 81. 

On a day to “remember footballing royalty”, it was an emotional occasion at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, said The Guardian’s Jacob Steinberg. Before kick-off a number of Spurs legends lined the pitch as a minute’s applause was held and fans also raised flags and banners to honour the legendary striker. 

Born in 1940 in Manor Park, east London, Greaves started his illustrious career with the youth and senior teams at Chelsea before also playing for AC Milan, Tottenham and West Ham United. 

He is the record scorer in the English top flight with 357 goals, the BBC reported. With 266 goals in 379 matches he is Tottenham’s all-time leading scorer and his 41 goals in 1960-61 remains a record in a season for Chelsea. At international level Greaves is England’s fourth-highest goalscorer with 44 goals in 57 matches. 

Greaves was also part of England’s 1966 World Cup-winning squad. Injured in the group stage, he was left out of the starting XI for the final and was replaced by Geoff Hurst. The rest is history as Hurst went on to score a hat-trick against West Germany at Wembley.

Describing Greaves as the “finest marksman this country has ever seen”, Tottenham said in a statement: “Throughout his wonderful playing career, Jimmy’s strike rate was phenomenal. Football will not see his like again.”

Former Spurs striker Gary Lineker said Greaves was “a giant of the sport”. He tweeted: “Quite possibly the greatest striker this country has ever produced. A truly magnificent footballer who was at home both in the box and on the box. A charismatic, knowledgeable, witty and warm man.”

“Sporting celebrities come and go,” said The Guardian’s Barney Ronay. “But Greaves was something different.” 

© Provided by The Week Jimmy Greaves has died at the age of 81

John Ferguson/WPA Pool/Getty Images

‘Loquacious and mischievous’

For a while his life was dominated by addiction to alcohol, said Ronay. “Greaves suffered, as did those around him.” But when Greaves retired from playing football in 1980 he then went on to forge a second career as a newspaper columnist and TV personality. 

From 1985 to 1992 Greaves and fellow ex-pro Ian St John, who passed away in March this year, presented the Saint and Greavsie show on a Saturday lunchtime. At its peak the popular football programme attracted almost six million weekly viewers. 

Saint and Greavsie “made football fun again”, said Rob Bagchi in The Telegraph. Both magnificent footballers, the duo were “loquacious and mischievous” and they “pioneered a format of ex-professionals talking candidly, engagingly and playfully about football – everything from Sky’s Soccer Saturday, shaped by Jeff Stelling, to the Gary Lineker incarnation of Match of the Day and its Sunday sibling owe St John and Greaves a debt”.

Greavsie was loved as a broadcaster, not just a footballer, said Sky Sports’s Adam Bate. “Upon his passing, the outpouring of emotion has been as remarkable as the statistics that will ensure his name is remembered long after we are all gone. That emotion is because of Jimmy Greaves, the broadcaster and the man, as well as Jimmy Greaves, the goalscorer”.

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