DAVID PLEAT: Jimmy Greaves was a jovial, proud Englishman who made football on Saturday lunchtime enjoyable but who never trivialised the game… as Ossie Ardiles said, he will find thousands of friends waiting for him in heaven
- Jimmy Greaves was a nightmare to mark or play against on the football pitch
- He was in love with football despite his 1966 World Cup disappointment
- Alongside his friend Ian St John, he made football on TV on Saturdays enjoyable
- Of all his clubs, he was probably most revered at Spurs, who he joined in 1961
Imagine a player coming towards you as though he were on skates with a mesmerising wand of a left foot as he glides past statuesque opponents and finishes with a precise placement into the corner of the net. A nightmare to mark or play against.
Then imagine a jovial, happy and smiling proud Englishman sitting alongside his friend Ian St John, making football on TV on Saturday lunchtime enjoyable but at the same time never trivialising the game. That was Jimmy Greaves.
Jimmy joined Tottenham in 1961, the season after the greatest Double side of all had won the league and Cup. Between 1962 and 1964 Jimmy maybe had some of his best days. In 1962 Tottenham beat Leicester to win the FA Cup, something they would repeat with Jimmy in the team again against Chelsea in 1967.
Tottenham and football legend Jimmy Greaves has passed away at the age of 81
He was a jovial, happy and smiling proud Englishman sitting alongside his friend Ian St John
Personally, I recall the excitement of playing for Exeter against the great Tottenham in the League Cup at White Hart Lane in 1968.
We had the temerity to take the lead at 2-1. Maybe we were congratulating ourselves but Jimmy had other ideas. Before long he had scored a magnificent hat-trick and we could only look on in admiration as Spurs eventually beat us 6-3.
From his days at Chelsea as a 17-year-old making a goalscoring debut against Tottenham of all people in 1957, every knowledgeable person within the game had heard of his quality. He was a prolific goalscorer and his exploits continued unwaveringly.
Jimmy, a little like Gary Lineker later on, was never one to get many headed goals or show great bravery. But his gifts were instinctively unique. He could turn on a six pence on the edge of the box and hit the net. He could also dribble, a dying art among strikers, and defenders could not cope with his guile.
Of all his clubs, he was probably most revered at Tottenham and for sure he was the greatest
It was a huge disappointment to him that he did not get Sir Alf Ramsey’s nod for the 1966 World Cup final. But as a proud Englishman he desperately wanted the team to win after losing out to Roger Hunt.
It has been suggested by some that Jimmy was never in love with football. But that is remarkably untrue. Why else was he playing for Barnet when he was 40 years of age?
Of all his clubs, he was probably most revered at Tottenham. We can talk about other Spurs strikers like Bobby Smith, Robbie Keane, Clive Allen and Harry Kane. But for sure Jimmy was the greatest. And what a nice man.
With that in mind, I like Ossie Ardiles’ comment that when Jimmy gets to heaven he will find thousands of admirers and friends waiting for him.