Beginnings at the Bridge
Jimmy Greaves was born in Essex on the 20th February 1940 and the talented striker didn’t take too long to kick start his record breaking habit of scoring goals. Aged 15, Jimmy was snapped up by Chelsea and he was quick to make his mark in the youth ranks scoring a phenomenal 173 goals in two seasons under the tutelage of youth team coach Dick Foss. During this period, Jimmy helped the blues to reach the 1958 FA Youth Cup final which he scored in both legs of the final but couldn’t prevent his Chelsea team from avoiding a 7-6 defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers.
On the 24th August 1957, aged just 17, Greaves made his first team debut for Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and Jimmy didn’t waste any time finding the net as he scored the only Chelsea goal in a 1-1 draw against London rivals Tottenham Hotspur. The predatory forward continued as he’d started, ending his debut season as the club’s top scorer with 22 goals in 37 appearances. Under the pupillage of Ted Drake, Jimmy continued his superb strike rate and went on to became the youngest player to pass the 100 goal mark at the age of just 20 years and 290 days.
Jimmy racked up a total of 132 goals in his four seasons at Stamford Bridge which made him Chelsea’s second highest ever goal scorer at the time, which prompted the attention of Italian giants AC Milan who bought the English goal machine for £80k in April 1961.
Ciao San Siro, arrivederci San Siro
At just 21 years of age, young Jimmy was set for a big adventure in Serie A with the famous Rossoneri, but it didn’t quite go to plan. Suffering from homesickness, playing out of position on the pitch and regular clashes with strict new manager Nereo Rocco off the pitch all had a significant impact on his time in Italy. A serious car accident and being harassed by the English and Italian press also didn’t help the situation which led to Greaves being transfer listed.
After just four months, 13 matches and 9 goals for AC Milan, Greaves would return to English football with Tottenham Hotspur in time for Christmas. Both Chelsea and Spurs had offers accepted from AC Milan but Greavsie decided to move to the League and FA Cup holders for the sum of £99,999. What a present that turned out to be for the White Hart Lane faithful. However, his goals in Italy did contribute towards AC Milan lifting the Serie A title that season so it wasn’t a complete disaster.
Legend in the making
Just like his debut for Chelsea and AC Milan, Jimmy made a scoring start to his Tottenham Hotspur career when he bagged a hat-trick in a 5-2 victory against Blackpool at White Hart Lane. Full of confidence, the goals just kept coming for the prolific striker and he played a major role in the cup run which saw Bill Nicholson’s Spurs side retain the FA Cup in 1962, with 9 goals from Jimmy.
The following season, he was instrumental in Tottenham’s European Cup Winners Cup campaign which saw Spurs beat Athletico Madrid 5-1 in the final which made Tottenham Hotspur the first British team to win a European trophy. In 1967, he was back at Wembley again lifting the FA Cup for the second time as the competitions top goal scorer with six goals in eight games. In that final, Tottenham beat Greavsie’s first club Chelsea 2-1.
His time at White Hart Lane came to an end in 1970, when the 30 year old marksman left Spurs in a part exchange deal with West Ham United’s Martin Peters. In his 9 years at Tottenham Hotspur he’d amassed an incredible 266 goals in 379 appearances making him the clubs all-time top goal scorer which he still holds today. This includes 15 hat tricks which is another club record he holds.
As standard, Jimmy scored on his West Ham United debut when he bagged a brace against Manchester City at Maine Road in a 5-1 win. Unfortunately, his time at the Boleyn Ground didn’t continue in the same vein as Ron Greenwood’s Hammers narrowly avoided relegation that season, whilst off the pitch Jimmy was fighting the demons of alcoholism. Despite this, Jimmy Greaves still scored 13 goals in 40 games in all competitions for the Irons.
His final game in the top-flight was on 1 May 1971 in a 1–0 home defeat to Huddersfield Town bringing an end to a glittering career which saw the record breaker score 357 goals in the First Division and 366 goals in total. A true goal machine!
World Cup Winner
Jimmy made his international debut for England U-23s when he was just 17 years old. He was capped 12 times for the U-23’s and scored 13 goals which earned him his first full international cap. He made his England debut away to Peru at the age of 19 and characteristically scored on his debut as he scored England’s only goal in a 4-1 defeat.
He represented England at two FIFA World Cup’s, Chile 1962 and England 1966. During the 1966 finals, Jimmy played in all three group games against Uruguay, Mexico and France but injury prevented England’s top scorer from taking part in the quarter final against Argentina. His replacement Geoff Hurst scored the only goal of the game and kept his place to the final where he famously scored a hat-trick. Jimmy Greaves was actually fit to play for the final but Sir Alf Ramsay decided to keep a winning team. He was later awarded a World Cup winners medal by FIFA after the FA led an appeal to give all squad players a medal.
He is still England’s fourth-highest international goal scorer with 44 goals in 57 appearances for the Three Lions.
After football Jimmy Greaves will be fondly remembered for co-hosting the popular Saturday lunchtime football show ‘Saint and Greavsie’, which he co-hosted with close friend Ian St John. He will especially be remembered for his famous quote ‘It’s a funny old game’.
Jimmy Greaves was finally announced as a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2021 New Year Honours list for his services to football.
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