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Greaves, Jimmy (1954-1961)


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Jimmy Greaves (1954-1961)

Written by Lauren in February 2008

greaves%201957.gif James Peter 'Jimmy' Greaves (born 20 February 1940 in Poplar, East London. Greaves signed for Chelsea as a 14 year old boy playing for Dagenham Boys Club by Jimmy Thompson, who was a club scout at the time, and even from that early age, he lit up the youth team. Greaves scored 114 goals in one season for the juniors to show what an eye for talent and youth Chelsea really had in the 50s and 60s.

Two years later, as a 16 year old, Greaves signed a four year professional contract – he later went on to say 'It was a lovely club to play for. I know it sounds far-fetched but at the time I would have played for them for nothing. I just loved football.'

At the age of just 17 years old, young Jimmy Greaves made his debut for the first team and scored (something he later went on to repeat for every club he played for) against Tottenham Hotspur. Jimmy scored five goals in the resulting seven games, before enduring a situation that he would not be in many times throughout his career – a dry spell! Rested for six games to get the hunger back by the uncompromising Ted Drake, worked a treat, with Greaves putting four past the Portsmouth goalkeeper on Christmas day 1957 to take his tally to 10, where he would later go on to end the season with 22 goals from 35 starts – absolutely fantastic for a 17 year old, but only a mere taste of things to come. Greaves scored 13 hat-tricks in his four year stint at Chelsea, six for England (two being four goal hauls) and 12 for Spurs, which are all still records. The year after Greaves left Chelsea, the young Bobby Tambling stepped up to the plate scoring 22 goals himself.

greaves%20scores%20vs%20wolves%20august% The 1958/59, 1959/60 and 1960/61 seasons ended with Greaves scoring 32, 29 and then 41 leagues goals respectively, the latter being still unbeaten as a top flight record to this day, an absolutely fantastic achievement by a young 21 year old. 124 league goals in 157 league appearances is just one of the remarkable achievements by the starlet.

Even with a striker on 41 goals (43 in all competitions), Chelsea slipped to a lowly 12th as the defence shipped in 100 goals. However, Jimmy still always maintained that ‘the side I played for at Chelsea had more potential than any I played for, but I think we lacked direction in those days. He was a nice man, Ted Drake, but I think if Bill Nicholson had had that team, it would have really got somewhere. I mean, we had the England Goalkeeper, Reg Matthews, and followed him by another one, Peter Bonetti. Peter Sillett – could do a job, Peter Brabrook was as quick as anyone in the country, Les Allen, Barry Bridges, Frankie Blunstone – and we’d nearly all come through the youth scheme.'

Greaves also recalls a match, which shows how this was evident: "I scored a hat-trick and we were 3-0 up (against Preston in 1959). I was a bit of a lad back then and said to the others, "I've done my bit. I've finished for the day, you lot have a go."

greaves%20with%20england%20caps%20in%201 However, Preston scored 3 goals past the dodgy Chelsea defence, which forced Greaves to forego his passive nature in the second half, and amazingly he scored a 4th! However, Preston pushed forward and got yet another equaliser. But, almost predictably, Greaves, as a 19 year old scored the 5th and won the game for Chelsea. A feat which he repeated nearly a year to the day later, in a 7-1 drubbing of WBA.

Greaves was a phenomenal striker, at only 5’8, he knew he was not accomplished in the air. He finished as top League goalscorer 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).

greavsie%20at%20milan%201961.gif A natural left footer most of his goals were close range. Having scored 124 League goals in only four seasons at Chelsea, Greaves moved to Milan – he never wanted to leave Chelsea and begged them to let him stay but Chelsea were keen to get the money for him. At the start of the 1961/2 season, after just a few months abroad where he never settled, Greaves came back to England when Tottenham manager Bill Nicholson paid a British record fee of £99,999 (one pound less than 100,000 so as not to put too much pressure on him) to take Jimmy Greaves to White Hart Lane in December 1961. Chelsea had also bid to have him back but refused to beat the Spurs offer which Jimmy found hurtful.

He admitted to not being ambitious and would have gladly gone back to Chelsea.

He was a Tottenham legend. Greaves won his first England cap in 1959, and went on to play 57 times and score 44 goals, five less than Bobby Charlton but at a much higher rate. He remains third in the all-time list of England goalscorers, 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%20dropped.gif Greaves was the first-choice striker for the England team during the 1966 World Cup but suffered a leg injury (a badly cut shin) during a game against France and was 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. Greaves was subsequently left out of the last matches. 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 said 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. In November 2007 it was announced that Greaves, along with the other 10 reserves from the 1966 squad, will be awarded medals by FIFA.

greaves%20west%20ham%20circa%201970.gif 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 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. Greaves made a comeback at the age of 38, playing for Barnet F.C. 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 F.C. before retiring.

saint%20and%20greavsie.jpg In 1985 he partnered Ian St John on ITV on Saturday afternoons at 12.30pm in Saint and Greavsie. It didn’t feel like a proper Saturday if a football fan missed it, Greavsie being the laid back member of the team. ‘It’s a funny old game’ he said practically every week until 1992. The other constant joke in his repertoire related to the shortcomings of goalkeepers from ‘chilly Jockoland’.

After Saint and Greavsie ended he had a lame early evening chat show on TV which didn’t last long. He also had a stint writing for the Sun.

‘I was born with an instinctive, natural gift for sticking the ball in the net, and I wasn't interested in doing much else,' Greaves once said. The majority of his 357 goals in 514 League games were scored from close range, usually with his left foot.

Other Greavsie quotes are:

‘Football tactics are rapidly becoming as complicated as the chemical formula for splitting the atom.’

‘The thing about sport, any sport, is that swearing is very much part of it’.

‘We are really the victims of our own problems.’

‘We signed to play until the day we died, and we did.’

greaves%202007.jpg Married since 1958 he is now a grandfather and in demand as an after-dinner speaker. 'When I'm allowed to, I play a bit of golf, do a bit of gardening, walk the dogs. I try very hard to make as much space for myself as possible. I live in a beautiful village, Little Baddow. Got 200 acres of woodland at the bottom of the road, golf course beyond. If you were parachuted into there, you wouldn't know you were in Essex. Because everyone has a weird idea about Essex. I love it. Been there since 1981.'

Greaves famously battled against alcoholism and has subsequently written 2 books, ‘Greavsie’ and ‘The Heart of the Game’

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