|Murky grey skies and a steady drizzle had
not deterred Christmas shoppers, thronging Tottenham High Road. Trolley
buses and cars inched along the congested road, past the brightly
decorated shops, past the Edmonton Regal cinema where Sophia Loren and
Peter Sellers starred in a re-run of "The Millionairess".
Traffic crawled past Berry’s, the music store, as The Shadows'
"Frightened City" echoed out onto the damp pavements. It would
be quicker to-walk the half mile or so to White Hart Lane.
Traditionally, the last couple of Saturdays before Christmas would mean
a reduction in football attendances. Not this Saturday. Not Saturday,
16th December 1961. This would be a day Spurs fans would probably
remember for the rest of their lives.
Only a couple of weeks earlier, Spurs manager, Bill Nicholson, had rescued former Chelsea goal scoring phenomenon, Jimmy Greaves from his ill-fated sojourn at AC Milan. The transfer fee of £99,999 had been negotiated to take the pressure off Greaves being England's first One Hundred Thousand Pound player. The previous week at Home Park, Plymouth, Jimmy had made his debut in the famous white shirt, appearing in a Combination match. The Plymouth crowd was over twelve thousand, and their Chairman, Ron Blindell, through the loudspeakers said: "On behalf of Plymouth Argyle, Devon, Cornwall and last, but not least, the whole of England, I say to you welcome. We are glad to have you back". Jimmy duly scored in a 4-2 win. He was glad to be back and so were Spurs. The anticipation on that damp and drizzly pre Christmas Saturday was intense. Spurs were at home to Blackpool. It would be Jimmy's home league debut. Over forty two thousand fans squeezed into the Lane. In every first appearance Greaves had made with new club he had scored. Chelsea's juniors, third, reserve and first teams.
Young England, England U23's and full national team. Reserves for Spurs, and now Blackpool ? No problem ... the fans did not have to wait long as a long and high throw-in from Dave Mackay on the left towards the near-post was headed back across the Blackpool penalty area by winger, Terry Medwin. In a white blur, Greaves launched himself into a vertical scissors kick. The ball nearly broke the roof of the Park Lane goal net. Blackpool keeper, Tony Waiters, had not moved and the fans were sent into orbit. The crowd went into hysterical delirium. If the Spurs fans went wild, then his second goal kept it going, as Greavsie headed home from close range.
In the second half he completed his hat-trick with a typical slide-rule header. Greaves was back alright ... in a marriage to Spurs that must have been made in heaven. His goal exploits became legendary, his famous baggy shorts hiding an incredible lower torso and upper thigh strength that enabled him to drop his shoulders and glide past defenders as if he was on roller skates. His anticipation, control and acceleration would leave the opposition scratching their heads in disbelief.
After winning FA Cup Final and Cup Winners Cup medals in 1962 and 1963 he was hit with a serious bout of hepatitis. Overlooked by Alf Ramsey for the latter stages of the 1966 World Cup Finals was a psychological blow, but his prolific partnership with Alan Gilzean saw another Cup Final winners medal against his old club Chelsea in 1967. The late sixties though, saw him struggle for form and in 1970 he was transferred to West Ham, plus part exchange for Martin Peters. Never a great header of the ball, it was ironic that like his first ever goal for Spurs against Blackpool, his last goal was a close range glancing header against Derby County. True to legend, he scored on his debut for West Ham.
His battle against alcoholism has been well documented and now of course he has become a well known figure in the media. Never losing his sense of humour, looking back on his career he once said ... "I think Chelsea fans considered my time at Stamford Bridge the best of my professional football career. Spurs fans though, think my best years were at White Hart Lane. I must confess that West Ham fans agree !!"
Greavesie ...... the legend lives on !
Vaya con Dios mi amigos ............. "Argentine" Pete Hanscomb.
The Spurs programme of
the day got this one wrong. The goal
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