- Feb 1, 2005
One of the greatest finishers of all time, Greaves was a phenomenal striker, scoring on his debut for Chelsea in 1957. He finished as top League goalscorer twice whilst at Chelsea in 1959 and 1961 and his 41 league goals in the 1960-61 season remains a club record. [ar]
In 1960 he became the youngest ever player to score 100 league goals in English football at the age of 20 years 290 days (and at 23 was the same age as Dixie Dean when he scored his 200th).
He briefly joined the Italian side A.C. Milan in 1961 and scored 9 goals in 12 games but failure to settle led to a quick departure. Bill Nicholson then signed him for Tottenham Hotspur for £99,999. The unusual fee was intended to relieve Greaves of the pressure of being the first £100,000 player.
He played at Spurs from 1961 to 1970, scoring a club record of 266 goals in 379 matches, including 220 goals in the First Division. Greaves finished as top League goalscorer in four seasons (1963, 1964, 1965 and 1969), an achievement that established Greaves as arguably the most consistent striker in English football history. His record of finishing top goalscorer in six seasons has never been matched.
Greaves won his first England cap in 1959, and went on to play 57 times and score 44 goals, five less than Bobby Charlton but at a much higher rate. He remains third in the all-time list of England goalscorers, behind Charlton and Gary Lineker. Greaves also holds the record for most hat-tricks for England - six in all.
In the 1962 World Cup finals match against Brazil in Chile, a stray dog ran on to the pitch and evaded all of the players' efforts to catch it until Greaves got down on all fours to beckon the animal. Though successful in catching the dog, it managed to urinate all over Greaves' England shirt. The Brazilian player Garrincha thought the incident was so amusing that he took the dog home as a pet.
Greaves was the first-choice striker for the England team during the 1966 World Cup but suffered a leg injury during a game against France and had to be replaced. That replacement, Geoff Hurst, scored the winner in the quarter final against Argentina and kept his place all the way to the final, famously scoring a hat-trick as England won the tournament.
One of football's most famous photographs shows the elation on the England bench as the final whistle was blown, except for Greaves, in his suit and tie, looking astonished at what had happened. Greaves has always maintained that he felt nothing but delight at England's win and celebrated as much as the other non-playing members of the squad. He also maintains that he never felt he had a divine right to be in the side once he regained his fitness. However, his reaction at the time of England's success became well-documented - he packed his bags and headed on holiday with his wife while the rest of the squad attended an official banquet.
I never saw Jimmy play so I hope some of our older posters can give us a flavour of the player behind the stats.
Over to you.