By Andrew Warshaw
September 20 – The football world is paying tribute to former England striker Jimmy Greaves, one of the game’s greatest goal scorers and personalities who has died aged 81.
Greaves was Tottenham Hotspur’s all-time record scorer and played in England’s three group games at the victorious 1966 World Cup, only to be replaced by hattrick hero Geoff Hurst in the final after suffering an injury – the one enduring life-long disappointment of an otherwise stellar career.
Tottenham said that Greaves, who started his career at Chelsea and also played for West Ham United and had a short spell overseas with AC Milan, died at his home in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Greaves, who suffered a severe stroke in 2015, scored 266 goals for Tottenham in 379 games between 1961 and 1970 and his 37 league goals in the 1962-63 season remains a club record. Another landmark was his 357 goals in the English top flight which remains unsurpassed 50 years since he retired as a professional in 1971. He also scored 44 goals in 57 internationals for his country including a record six hat tricks.
“The finest marksman this country has ever seen,” Tottenham said in a statement. “He possessed immaculate ball control, great balance and such composure in front of goal that he rarely spurned an opportunity. Football will not see his like again”.
Co-incidentally, on the day Greaves’ death was announced, Spurs met Chelsea in the English Premier League with fans of both clubs paying their respect with a resounding one minute’s impeccably observed collective applause prior to kick-off.
Among the scores of tributes from across the country was the following from Hurst.
“One of the truly great goal scorers, terrific guy with an absolutely brilliant sense of humour, the best. It has been a difficult time for him, he can now rest in peace. You hear the term genius, and it is the one word which applies to Jimmy.”
This correspondent remembers watching Greaves on numerous occasions, bamboozling opposition defences with his trickery, dribbling skills and sublime finishing, often finding spaces that didn’t appear to be there.
The boyhood hero of so many fans, among his many feats for Tottenham was scoring in the 1962 FA Cup final when the club beat Burnley to retain the trophy – in those days as big an achievement as winning the league title. He also netted twice in the European Cup Winners’ Cup final the following year when Spurs became the first British team to win a major European trophy.
Greaves struggled with alcoholism before becoming tee-total and moving into television where he became a household name as a presenter with a quick wit and infectious personality.
Former teammate Martin Chivers, one of those who paid tribute to Greaves at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium on Sunday, summed up his ability.
“You’d have to look at Messi, how he jinks in and out. Jimmy was like that,” Chivers said. “I would remember passing to him but very rarely did I get it back!”
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