|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 ...
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
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
pictured was actually Greavsie’s second goal for Tottenham !!