Jimmy Greaves, feted as one of England’s greatest strikers and a member of the squad that won the 1966 World Cup, has died at the age of 81.
“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,” read an official club statement. “Jimmy passed away at home in the early hours of this morning, Sunday 19 September.”
Greaves is widely recognised as being one of the most naturally-gifted goalscorers of his generation. He made his name at Chelsea, scoring 132 goals for the club in 169 matches between 1957-1961 prior to moving to Serie A side Milan for a brief spell, but it was at Tottenham where he made his greatest impact.
After joining as a spindly 21-year-old for a fee of for a fee of £99,999, the 5ft 8in Greaves went on to score 266 goals in 379 appearances, going on to become Spurs’ all-time record goalscorer and a member of the famous Bill Nicholson side that won the Cup-Winners’ Cup in 1963, making Spurs the first British club to lift a major European trophy.
At international level Greaves scored 44 goals in 57 appearances – including six hat-tricks – having made his debut in May 1959. He scored England’s only goal in a 4-1 defeat to Peru.
Going into the 1966 World Cup, Greaves was a key part of Sir Alf Ramsey’s plans and played in all three group games but picked up an injury in the last of those, against France, and lost his place to Geoff Hurst, who went on to score a hat-trick in the 4-2 final victory over West Germany.
Greaves played his final game for England in May 1967 and remains the country’s fourth all-time record scorer, behind Gary Lineker, Sir Bobby Charlton and Wayne Rooney.
Greaves was bitterly disappointed at missing out on a World Cup winner’s medal and badly affected by the death of his four-month-old son, Jimmy Jnr, in 1961. He later struggled with alcoholism and battled for years with his addiction. In 2003, he told told the Guardian: “I lost the 70s completely. They passed me by. I was drunk from 1972 to 1977. I woke up one morning and realised that it was a different world. I’d been living in it, but I hadn’t been aware of it.”
Following a spell at West Ham United, Greaves retired from football in 1980 and reinvented himself a hugely popular TV pundit as one half of Saint and Greavsie, the popular weekend football show which he presented alongside the former Liverpool and Scotland striker Ian St John and in 1982 he was chosen as a pundit for ITV’s coverage of that summer’s World Cup. Greaves also was a newspaper columnist and after-dinner speaker.
Greaves was finally presented with a World Cup-winner’s medal in 2009 following a long campaign by fans. But in 2014 he sold the 18-carat medal in a sporting memorabilia sale at Sotheby’s auction house in London for £44,000 and struggled to fund his medical care later in his life.
Then in May 2015, Greaves suffered a severe stroke that left him in a wheelchair and he revealed the following February that doctors had told him he would never be able to walk again.