The Trustees of the Tottenham Tribute Trust are all deeply saddened at the passing of Jimmy Greaves on Sunday, 19th September 2021
A Club legend, who through your donations, we were privileged to be able to support in the aftermath of his well documented and devastating stroke.
James Peter Greaves MBE was born in Manor Park on 20th February 1940. From humble beginnings he went on to become arguably the greatest English striker the beautiful game has ever produced.
He began his professional career at Chelsea and ironically made his first team debut at White Hart Lane in a 1-1 draw in August 1957. The then teenager marked the occasion with a goal. A feat he would repeat at every club he played for.
His ability to find the net with what looked like relative ease alerted clubs and he made the then unusual journey to mainland Europe when he signed for AC Milan in the summer of 1961. He reportedly tried to pull out of the move but despite his unhappy state, he still scored on his debut in a 2-2 draw at the San Siro against Botafogo.
Prior to the end of that magical year of 1961, Greaves was rescued from his Italian turmoil by Bill Nicholson who brought him back to London to join the then double winners. The deal was set at the famous fee of £99,999 in order to protect the star forward from becoming the first £100,000 player and the associated pressure that such a hefty fee would inevitably bring. How times have changed!
The scene of his professional debut four years earlier was the setting for his eagerly anticipated Tottenham debut. Blackpool were the visitors and the home fans were not disappointed as the debutant left with the match ball as his hat trick helped his new employers to a 5-2 win. White Hart Lane had a new hero.
In his first season at the Club, Spurs retained the FA Cup with Greaves needing only 3 minutes to score the opening goal in our 3-1 win over Burnley in the Final.
Another season meant another trophy, as was the norm back then, and Greaves helped himself to a brace as Tottenham became the first British side to win a European trophy by brushing Atletico Madrid aside 5-1 in Rotterdam.
Although Greaves didn’t score in the final when Tottenham next lifted a cup, (1967 FA Cup final v his former side Chelsea) he was a key member of that side.
He left for West Ham in March 1970 as part of the deal that saw Martin Peters join us. He again troubled the scorers on his debut with two in a 5-1 victory over Manchester City but the good times didn’t last as he wasn’t happy at Upton Park and played his last game for the Hammers in May 1971.
Greaves had set a number of Club records during his time at Tottenham which still stand over 50 years later.
His 266 goals in 379 appearances have never been beaten. He scored fifteen hat tricks in his nine years in N17.
In addition he has scored more top flight goals in English football than any other player. 357. Quite phenomenal.
On the international stage, he made his debut in May 1959 and scored England’s only goal in a 4-1 defeat in Peru.
His record for the Three Lions reads as 44 goals in 57 appearances and he stands in 4th place in the list of most goals scored for England but to put his tally into context, the number of appearances from those above him needs to be read:
- Wayne Rooney. 53 from 120 games
- Sir Bobby Charlton 49 from 106 games
- Gary Lineker 46 from 78 games
Incidentally Harry Kane is 5th in the list with 40 goals from 63 games at the time of penning this article.
The tail end of Jimmy’s career saw him playing non league football.
In the final leg of his public career, Jimmy proved to be as successful off the pitch as he was on it as a new generation were treated to his infectious personality as he formed a popular partnership with Ian St John which treated ITV viewers to his irreverent and witty take on football maters of the days during the 1980s and early 1990s.
His one man shows, often lasting three hours at a time, saw the audience clasped in the palm of his hands as he recounted tales of his playing days.
A colourful character in whatever he chose to do, he fought well documented battles with alcohol and suffered every parent’s worse nightmare as he lost a son (Jimmy Junior) as a baby.
He is survived by his wife Irene and four children.
Anyone lucky enough to have seen him play were adamant that Greaves’ ability to beat men and score goals without breaking sweat, and seemingly without over exerting himself in training, meant he was the finest striker this country has ever produced. It is difficult to argue with the stats.
We find ourselves in one of those rare instances where the entire football world is united in its grief by mourning a senior member of the Spurs family.
Having made his professional debut at White Hart Lane for Chelsea against Spurs in August 1957, it was poignant that James Peter Greaves MBE passed away on the day his two former sides met on the same site 64 years later. It’s a funny old game.