22 April, 2009

'Jimmy' Greaves


James Peter 'Jimmy' Greaves is an English former football player, England's third highest goal scorer, and more recently a television pundit and is considered to be one of the finest goal scorers of his generation.

Greaves was a phenomenal striker, scoring on his debut for Chelsea in 1957. He finished as top League goal scorer twice whilst at Chelsea in 1959 and 1961 and his 41 league goals in the 1960-61 season remains a club record. Despite this, they never won any major trophies while he was playing for them.

In 1960 he became the youngest ever player to score 100 league goals in English football at the age of 20 years 290 days (and at 23 was the same age as Dixie Dean when he scored his 200th).

He briefly joined the Italian side A.C. Milan in 1961, after reportedly turning down a huge offer from Newcastle United and scored 9 goals in 12 games but failure to settle led to a quick departure. Bill Nicholson then signed him for Tottenham Hotspur for £99,999. The unusual fee was intended to relieve Greaves of the pressure of being the first £100,000 player.

Greaves enjoyed a legendary career at Tottenham. He played at Spurs from 1961 to 1970, scoring a club record of 266 goals in 379 matches, including 220 goals in the First Division. Greaves finished as top League goal scorer in four seasons (1963, 1964, 1965 and 1969), an achievement that established Greaves as arguably the most consistent striker in English football history. His record of finishing top goal scorer in six seasons has never been matched.

With Spurs, Greaves won the FA Cup in 1962 and 1967, scoring against Burnley in the former final. He also won the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1963 - scoring twice in the famous 5-1 defeat of Atlético Madrid, ensuring that Spurs became the first British club to win a European trophy. Today he is considered one of the best players in the history of Tottenham Hotspur.

Greaves won his first England cap on May 17, 1959 against Peru, scoring England's only goal in a 4-1 defeat. He went on to play 57 times and score 44 goals, five fewer than Bobby Charlton but at a much higher rate. He remains third in the all-time list of England goal scorers, behind Charlton and Gary Lineker. Greaves also holds the record for most hat-tricks for England - six in all. At the 1961 British Home Championship, Greaves achieved the remarkable feat of scoring seven goals in three games as England won the title.

In the 1962 World Cup finals match against Brazil in Chile, a stray dog ran on to the pitch and evaded all of the players' efforts to catch it until Greaves got down on all fours to beckon the animal. Though successful in catching the dog, it proceeded to urinate all over Greaves' England shirt. The Brazilian player Garrincha thought the incident was so amusing that he took the dog home as a pet.

Greaves was the first-choice striker for the England team during the 1966 World Cup but suffered a leg injury during a game against France and had to be replaced. That replacement, Geoff Hurst, scored the winner in the quarter final against Argentina and kept his place all the way to the final, famously scoring a hat-trick as England won the tournament.

One of football's most famous photographs shows the elation on the England bench as the final whistle was blown, except for Greaves, in his suit and tie, looking astonished at what had happened. Greaves has always maintained that he felt nothing but delight at England's win and celebrated as much as the other non-playing members of the squad. He also maintains that he never felt he had a divine right to be in the side once he regained his fitness. However, his reaction at the time of England's success became well-documented - he packed his bags and headed on holiday with his wife while the rest of the squad attended an official banquet.

Greaves played only three more times for England after the 1966 World Cup, scoring a single goal. His final cap came against Austria in May, 1967.

In November 2007 it was announced that Greaves, along with the other 10 reserves from the 1966 squad, will be awarded medals by FIFA.

In 1970, Greaves joined West Ham United. He scored on his debut, (as he had for every team he played for, including England at full and under 21 level), with two goals against Manchester City on March 21. Two months later, on May 28, he finished sixth in the 1970 London to Mexico World Cup Rally with co-driver Tony Fall. He retired in 1971 having played 516 Football League games and netted 357 goals, an all-time record for the top flight.

Greaves made a comeback at the age of 38, playing for Barnet in the then Southern League, playing from midfield he netted 25 goals and was their player of the season. He then went on to make several appearances for semi-professional side Woodford Town before retiring.

In the mid-1970s Greaves battled a well-documented alcohol problem, finally quitting drinking in February 1978. He became a popular television presenter and football pundit, striking up a memorable partnership with Ian St. John. Together they hosted a popular Saturday lunchtime football show called Saint and Greavsie from 1985 until the programme was axed in 1992.

Greaves also worked frequently for TV-am as a TV critic and was resident team captain on ITV sports quiz Sporting Triangles as well as co-hosting the popular Saturday morning kids TV show, The Saturday Show. He briefly had his own talk show and has been a columnist for The Sun newspaper for many years. He also answered readers letters in Shoot magazine in the 1980s and 1990s. In 2002 Greaves was made an Inaugural Inductee to the English Football Hall of Fame. He released his autobiography, Greavsie, in 2003 and is in demand as an after-dinner speaker. Greavsie has written 18 books in partnership with his life-long friend, the journalist and author Norman Giller.

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