Disappointment For Jimmy Greaves At 1966 World Cup


The 1966 World Cup was a moment of triumph for England but for Jimmy Greaves it was a time of great disappointment for him personally.

On his appointment as manager, Alf Ramsey had predicted that England would win the World Cup in 1966. Jimmy Greaves was England’s leading goalscorer at the time but in the 1965-66 season he was struck down with hepatitis and was out of the Tottenham team for three months. He returned to play for Spurs at the end of January and regained fitness to be included in the England squad for the World Cup Finals.

He scored 6 goals for Spurs in the second half of the season and showed he hadn’t lost his goalscoring touch by scoring 4 goals for England against Norway in one of their final warm-up matches ahead of the tournament.

1966 World Cup

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In the group stages England were drawn against Uruguay, Mexico and France with all of the games to be played at Wembley. England won the group and Jimmy Greaves started all three games. He failed to score and in the final group game, a win over France he sustained a cut on his shin which required 14 stitches and forced him to miss the infamous quarter-final tie against Argentina.

Geoff Hurst came into the team and scored the only goal of the game. With Greaves still out Hurst retained his place in the semi-final win over Portugal. Jimmy Greaves was fit to play in the Final and Alf Ramsey had a decision to make. The manager opted for Hurst and with no substitutes, Jimmy Greaves was left sitting on the sidelines among the reserves.

It was a devastating blow to Jimmy Greaves. He was missing the biggest game of his career.

As a teenager, I had always maintained that Jimmy Greaves would score a hat-trick in the World Cup final. Now he wasn’t going to have the chance and had to sit and watch as Geoff Hurst scored the hat-trick which helped England to the 4 – 2 win over West Germany after extra time.

Famous Photograph

They say “a picture is worth a thousand words” and the famous photograph at the top of this article says it all. The England bench are celebrating the team’s win in the Final with a dejected, be-suited Greaves standing alongside, illustrating how Jimmy Greaves was feeling at that time.

After the World Cup Greaves returned to his goalscoring ways with Tottenham and helped them to an FA Cup success the following season. Something, however, had gone out of Greaves on 31st July, 1966 and he played only three more games for England. The following year he decided to opt out of playing for England, not wanting to turn up for the squad if he wasn’t going to be playing.

Over the next few seasons Greaves gradually fell out of love with football and retired prematurely in 1971 at the age of 31 and I believe that such was the disappointment in 1966 that it had  a bearing on Greaves’ problems and difficulties when his playing career was over.

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As a non-playing squad member in 1966, Greaves didn’t receive a World Cup winner’s medal but in 2009 he was presented with a medal after the Football Association led a campaign to persuade FIFA to award medals to all the winners’ squad members.