the great greaves

This article originally appeared in the MEHSTG fanzine in 2002

 


Never the most athletic of players, Jimmy Greaves never had to be. His work was in and around the box, where he came alive. His goal-scoring is renowned the world over and that is why he didnít keep up in training or chase players down. He even enjoyed a ciggie in the dressing room !! But his strike rate was phenomenal. Scoring on every major debut he made, Greaves immediately set himself high standards, which he maintained throughout most of his career. A hat-trick in his first match against Blackpool immediately won the Spurs fans over and his consistent scoring throughout his nine year stay brought him 220 goals in 330 League matches.

He had been a child prodigy at Chelsea, scoring against Spurs in his first match, before taking the trail to Italy to play for AC Milan. It was not a happy time for Jimmy and he was relieved when Bill Nicholson wanted to return him to his native London. Coming into a Tottenham team that had won the Double and were one of the most impressive teams in Europe did not phase him, as he was always confident in his own ability. To ensure that more pressure was not heaped on Greavesí shoulders, Nicholson paid AC Milan £99,999 for him to avoid him becoming the first £100,000 player.

Greaves slipped into the Tottenham team like a foot into a comfortable slipper. He linked with his England forward Bobby Smith and later with Alan Gilzean to form deadly partnerships, but he was more than capable of doing things himself. The lightning reflexes that could steer a ball into the goal from almost any angle and any range were amazing. His capacity to hit the target was like radar and his talent for being in the right place at the right time was like that of a master chronologist.

But there was more to his game than just scoring goals. He tells the apocryphal tale of the day he tackled Tommy Smith and how it was one of the biggest mistakes of his life !! But chasing back wasnít his game. His was chasing the glory of goals, which came in abundance. His contribution to the team was not diminished by any perceived lack of team play. His team-mates realised they were in the presence of a true goal-scoring legend. He didnít care how they went in, as long as they went in. Goals in cup finals, goals in the league, goals in friendlies. Goals anywhere, as long as he scored. Goals could have been his middle name.

His famous goals against Manchester and Newcastle Uniteds in the mid-60s are often on TV, with his weaving runs through the defence making the monochrome images shimmer, almost with excitement, because you know what will happen, as so many opponents knew back then. Those memories are burned into the memory banks and we will never see another like Jimmy Greaves in the flesh.

The Funky Phantom

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