View from the terraces

Jimmy Greaves: the greatest striker England has ever seen 

World of football pays tribute to the legendary goalscorer and broadcaster 

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

Emotions were high at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, on a day to “remember footballing royalty”, said The Guardian’s Jacob Steinberg. Before kick-off, other Spurs legends including Glenn Hoddle, Ossie Ardiles and Gary Mabbutt were invited to line up beside the pitch for a minute’s applause as fans 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 playing for AC Milan, Tottenham and West Ham United. 

He remains the record scorer in the English top flight, with 357 goals, the BBC reported. With 266 goals in 379 matches, he is also 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. But after being 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.” 

Jimmy Greaves has died at the age of 81

John Ferguson/WPA Pool/Getty Images

‘Loquacious and mischievous’

For a while, Greaves’ life was “dominated by addiction to alcohol”, said Ronay. “Greaves suffered, as did those around him.” But after retiring from playing football in 1980, he went on to forge a second career as a newspaper columnist and TV personality, and gave up the booze. 

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 Saturday lunchtimes. 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” . 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, agreed 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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