Jimmy Greaves – Tottenham Hotspur Legend (Inside-forward)[1961-1970]
James Peter Greaves was a superb master of his trade – scoring goals. Jimmy Greaves had the natural instinct of a goalscorer and came to life when the ball arrived in the opponent’s penalty area as he worked to create another goal scoring opportunity. Supporters remember their first sporting hero and think that they’ll never see another player like him, but in this case it’s true. There will never be another striker to match, or come near, the talent of Jimmy Greaves.
Greaves’ Goalscoring Record for Tottenham and England:
League Appearances: 322 – 220 goals
FA Cup: 36 app. – 32 goals
League Cup: 8 app. – 5 goals
Europe: 14 app. – 9 goals
England Internationals: 57 app. – 44 goals
Jimmy Greaves was a prolific goalscorer throughout his career. As a schoolboy, he was pursued by all the top clubs in London and chose Chelsea where he scored a fantastic number of goals for the youth teams. He made his League debut for Chelsea at White Hart Lane in August, 1958 at the age of seventeen. As with every debut during his career, he scored and earned Chelsea a point in a 1 – 1 draw.
Greaves went on to score 124 League goals for Chelsea before his transfer to AC Milan in June, 1961. His spell in Italy, however, was not a happy time for Greaves as he failed to settle and found it difficult to adapt to the strict Italian training regime. Despite all his problems and difficulties, he continued to score regularly for AC Milan in the defensive minded Italian League, including his customary debut goal. In total he scored 9 goals in 14 appearances.
Some time after his departure to Italy, Bill Nicholson, the Tottenham manager, became aware of Greaves being unsettled at AC Milan and of his desire to return to English football. Nicholson watched the situation, determined to sign Greaves and add the natural goalscoring skill to his already talented team which had won the League and FA Cup ‘Double’ the previous season and who were involved in a campaign in the European Cup. After protracted negotiations, Greaves signed for Tottenham for a transfer fee of £99,999 as Nicholson didn’t want him to have the added pressure of being the first ‘£100,000 player’.
Jimmy Greaves made his Tottenham debut at White Hart Lane against Blackpool in Novemeber, 1961 and scored a hat-trick to set his Spurs’ goalscoring record on track. In that first season, he scored 21 League goals from 22 appearances and 9 FA Cup goals as Spurs retained the trophy. In the Final at Wembley against Burnley, Greaves scored the opening goal after three minutes, just as he had predicted.
The following season he set a new club record of 37 League goals and scored twice in the European Cup Winners’ Cup Final against Atletico Madrid as Spurs became the first British club to win a European trophy. Greaves’ record stood at Tottenham until Clive Allen broke it in 1986-87. Jimmy Greaves was Spurs’ leading goalscorer in each season he played for the club and helped them to FA Cup success in 1967.
1966 World Cup Disappointment
Greaves had made his England debut in 1959 and was a regular member of the team, winning 57 caps. His greatest disappointment came in 1966 when he missed out on playing in the World Cup Final. He had missed part of the previous season through illness but recovered in time to claim his place in the England squad. He was selected for the opening three group matches but was injured in the third game. Geoff Hurst replaced him and scored the only goal in the next game and although Greaves recovered from the injury he was unable to regain his place in the team.
Transferred to West Ham United
Over the next few seasons he continued to score regularly for Spurs but in 1969-70 as Bill Nicholson rebuilt his team he dropped Greaves and a number of senior players after an unexpected FA Cup defeat at Crystal Palace. Although the other players regained their places and went on to be part of Spurs’ successful team at the start of the 1970s, Greaves never again played for Tottenham. In March, 1970 he was transferred to West Ham United as part of the deal which brought Martin Peters to White Hart Lane.
Jimmy Greaves’ last appearance for Tottenham was in the FA Cup Replay at Crystal Palace on 28th January, 1970. His last League appearance was on 17th January, a 1 – 2 defeat at Sunderland. The previous weekend he had scored his last goal for Spurs at White Hart Lane in a 2 – 1 win over Derby County. No-one present at White Hart Lane that Saturday would have realised that they were witnessing the end of an era – the final goal scored by Jimmy Greaves for Tottenham Hotspur. Greaves scored twice on his West Ham debut and despite scoring for West Ham on his return to Spurs on the opening day of the following season, he retired at the age of thirty one in May, 1971.
Jimmy Greaves did make one more appearance at White Hart Lane. In 1972 he was awarded a Testimonial match, the first Tottenham player to be honoured such a way. He played for Spurs against Feyenoord and turned back the clock to score one final goal at his old club as they recorded a 2-1 victory. Such was the high regard in which Greaves was held by supporters that 45,799 were present to mark the occasion for a Tottenham ‘Legend’.
A Favourite Goal:
Like all goalscorers, Jimmy Greaves is remembered for this goals. Greaves was all about goals, so what were his best goals? My top three are:
- v Manchester United in a 5 – 1 win at White Hart Lane in October, 1965. Greaves collected a pass from Dave Mackay, midway into the United half, with his back to goal. He turned and set off at pace, heading directly for goal weaving his way past various United defenders to score a wonderful goal.
- v Leicester City at White Hart Lane, Greaves scored a hat-trick in a 3 – 2 win in October, 1968. This goal was very similar to the first as he collected the ball near the half-way line and took on the Leicester defence in a mazy dribble around five defenders and past a young goalkeeper called Peter Shilton, before planting the ball into an empty net.
- v Blackpool on his debut, his first goal for the club – he reacted so quickly to a cross played in to the centre of the penalty area. Surrounded by defenders, in a split second, with an acrobatic leap he volleyed the ball and it was in the roof of the net.
“I hit it just right and it was thrill to see it go in.”
Greaves speaking in 1961 after the match against Blackpool
Greaves overcame many personal difficulties to make a career in television as a football pundit and now as a very entertaining after dinner speaker, recalling the stories of his time in football. He has a natural charm and friendly disposition with a twinkle in his eye to which people are drawn and a talent for telling a good yarn.
Tottenham Hotspur Hall of Fame
There were two issues from Jimmy’s playing days that had not been resolved. The first was addressed three years ago when he received a World Cup winner’s medal for his part in the 1966 England team. In those days only the eleven players on the field received medals. The other matter is still outstanding and should be dealt with as quickly as possible. Jimmy Greaves has never been inducted into the Tottenham Hotspur Hall of Fame. Whatever difficulties exist between the club and the player should be resolved so that Jimmy Greaves can take up his rightful place. When the event is held the club may have difficulty acquiring a venue large enough to entertain all the supporters who would want to be present to honour James Peter Greaves, Tottenham Hotspur’s master goalscorer.
Jimmy Greaves was a natural goalscorer who remained calm and ice cool in front of goal, showing no nerves. When presented with a goal scoring opportunity he preferred to pass the ball into the net, no pace just perfect placement. While he may have been criticised for a lack of work rate, it only took one touch from him in front of goal to score a winning goal. Spurs have never seen a goalscorer like him, he was pure class.
Jimmy Greaves – a true Tottenham Hotspur ‘Legend’
What was Jimmy Greaves’ best goal?