KEIR RADNEDGE COMMENTARY —- Jimmy Greaves, who has died at 81, will go down as one of the greatest natural goalscorers in the entire history of English football.
The former Chelsea, Milan, Tottenham and West Ham inside forward was England’s fourth highest marksman (44 goals), Tottenham’s record-holder (266), the all-time top scorer in the English top-flight football (357) and managed a record six hat-tricks for England.
Those 44 international goals came in only 57 matches.
Later Greaves overcame alcoholism to become a popular TV personality, reinventing himself as a popular and irreverent television football personality in partnership with ex-Liverpool star Ian St John.
Greaves suffered a minor stroke in 2012 and a severe stroke in 2015. He was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours list in 2020.
Greaves’ 41 goals in 1960-61 remains a record in a season for Chelsea, and he also holds the Spurs record with 37 in 1962-63.
A Tottenham statement read: “We are extremely saddened to learn of the passing of the great Jimmy Greaves, not just Tottenham Hotspur’s record goalscorer but the finest marksman this country has ever seen.
“Jimmy passed away at home in the early hours of this morning, aged 81. Football will not see his like again. He possessed “immaculate ball control, great balance and such composure in front of goal that he rarely spurned an opportunity.”
Greaves scored a hat-trick on his Spurs debut against Blackpool in December 1961, in the FA Cup final win in 1962 and twice in the Cup Winners’ Cup win in 1963 as they became the first British club to win a European trophy.
Chelsea said they “mourn the loss of a truly remarkable player and one of our own”.
He scored nine goals in 14 Serie A games for Milan, including on his debut, but did not settle in Italy and returned to London with Tottenham.
He left Spurs in 1970 to join West Ham before retiring at the end of the 1970-71 season at the age of 31.
He originally missed out on a 1966 World Cup winners medal because he was injured during the group stage but remains fourth on the list of all-time England goalscorers, behind Wayne Rooney (53), Sir Bobby Charlton (49) and Gary Lineker (48).
Greaves made his debut as a 17-year-old in August 1957, scoring against Spurs at White Hart Lane. He scored 124 league goals in four years at Stamford Bridge and in 1960, aged 20 years and 290 days, he became the youngest player to score 100 league goals.
The young Greaves was one of English football’s early exports when he left Chelsea for Italy and AC Milan in June 1961 but it was a move he made reluctantly and briefly, scoring nine goals in 14 games before returning to London five months later.
He later said: “I always felt I went to Milan a boy and came back a man thanks to all the physical treatment I withstood from their defenders.”
Greaves never got on with disciplinarian coach Nereo Rocco and Spurs manager Bill Nicholson paid £99,999 so as not to saddle Greaves with the weight of being the first £100,000 footballer.
He stepped straight into the double-winning team with aplomb, winning the Cup-winners Cup in 1963 – scoring twice in a 5-1 defeat of Atletico Madrid – and the FA Cup twice. He scored in a 3-1 win over Burnley in 1962 and played in the 2-1 win against Chelsea in 1967.
Greaves is survived by his wife Irene, four children and 10 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.