The latest edition of Lazy Fan’s GOAT series, in which various Lazy Fan writers are bringing to you those who they feel are the greatest of all time at their respective club’s, see’s Sol analyse Tottenham Hotspur and the club’s legend, Jimmy Greaves.
For the previous edition on Bobby Moore and West Ham United, visit here.
Jimmy Greaves, a Spurs legend
Tottenham Hotspur’s all time leading goalscorer, England’s fourth all time leading goalscorer (boasting the best goals per game ratio out of England’s top 5 goal scorers) and leads most hat tricks scored for England, ladies and gentleman I introduce to you: James (Jimmy) Peter Greaves; a true legend of the beautiful British game.
It’s easy for non-Spurs fans and England fans alike to forget about Greavesie and his contribution to both club and international football throughout his fifteen-year career – however such a great of the game can not be forgotten in history but instead should be applauded for his achievements and thanked for his service; before it’s too late to do so.
Jimmy begun his footballing career with West London rivals, Chelsea, in 1957 before heading off to Italy to join Serie A giants, AC Milan. However it wasn’t a long stay in the Italian capital, with Jimmy Spurs bound after only 12 appearances and 9 goals for Milan.
His dissatisfaction with life in Italy is thought to be the style of football being experimented with at the time, a style which would see much success come Italian clubs way – ‘‘Catenaccio’.
The term which translates to mean ‘The Chain’, was a tactical system enveloped by Nereo Rocco, the AC manager. This negative, defensive style football, had little emphasis on attacking and as Italian journalist, Gianni Brera comments on Rocco’s football: “The perfect game would finish 0-0.”, it was not appealing enough to keep Greaves in Italy.
Capital to Capital
Poetically it was Tottenham’s greatest ever manager, Bill Nicholson, who brought Jimmy to Spurs in December 1961 for a fee of £99,999. This was a fee which Nicholson negotiated to alleviate the pressure’s that were to come with Greaves being labeled as Britain’s first £100,000 player – a vision for man management far ahead of its times from Nicholson.
This Spurs side which Greaves walked into, had the summer before, become the first English side to complete the domestic double in the 20th century, picking up the FA cup and First Division title.
With Greaves’ scoring a hat-trick on his first-team debut against Blackpool on the 16th December 1961, including a spectacular bicycle kick, it seemed as though Spurs had found the man to make it back to back titles.
However, in Spursy fashion, failure to beat Ipswich town cost them the title. Yet, Greaves’ 21 goals in 22 appearances since joining mid way through the season was just a glimpse of what was to come from the great.
His ability to score with both feet, his head and take players on in the 1960’s was frighteningly refreshing to an English game which was being scrutinised in the continent for not being adaptive enough. With one of the forefathers of modern football above him, success was only a question of when not if for Jimmy Greaves.
Come the end of Greaves’ first season at Spurs, he’d scored in a 3-1 FA Cup final win over Burnley at Wembley and featured in a European cup semi-final. Yet it was to be the ’62-63 season where Greaves came to light. The Spurs legend scored twice in the 1962 FA Charity shield match as Spurs won 5-1 over Ipswich, before going on to score 37 goals in 41 league games and becoming the division’s top goalscorer, a feat he’d go onto replicate for six straight years.
No goalscorer could get near him, and no defender likewise to stop him.
It was to be another season of firsts for Spurs and Greaves, as they beat Atletico Madrid 5-1, Greaves scoring twice as Spurs picked up the European Cup Winner’s Cup and became the first British team to win a European trophy – by no means a small achievement from the Lillywhites and their white-hot goal scorer Greaves.
Spurs would go on to enjoy more success in the FA Cup, picking up the trophy in the 1966-67 season – but that was to be it in terms of silverware.
In an age where Pochettino argues trophies merely inflate egos, it is perhaps best to judge Greaves on his scoring records compared to his fellow forwards in the football world.
He is still, despite leaving the club near on five decades ago, Spurs’ all time leading goalscorer, with 266 in 379 games, a goals per game ratio of 0.7 (by far the best out of Spurs’ top five leading goal scorers).
By his own admission, Greaves didn’t score too many spectacular goals nor spend lots of time practicing his finishing, but instead relied on his incredible dribbling ability and a natural instinct when it came to finding the net – an incredible admission given his ability to score and his statistics standing the test of time.
Perhaps if he were to of played in the 1966 World Cup final and was immortalised such as Sir Geoff Hurst, who took Greaves’ place in the squad after Jimmy picked up an injury in the group stages, his status as legend and influence upon the British game would be more widely heralded.
The boy born in in Essex in 1940 was given a testimonial game by the club in 1972, a 2-1 win over Feyenoord at White Hart Lane and was then inducted into the clubs hall of fame in 2015 – something which would’ve occurred a few years earlier if not for bad health.
There are great parallels between the Spurs side of the early sixties under Bill Nicholson and Greaves up front, as to the Spurs squad of modern day, under Pochettino and with perhaps the current best striker in the world, Harry Kane.
Albeit the Spurs side of the sixties enjoyed far more silverware success than that of the modern day, it will not be surprising to see Kane surpass the records set by Greaves – but to call Kane the GOAT before he has done so, or won anything of merit with the Spurs badge on his chest, would be presumptuous and incredibly naive.
With the sort of character Kane has given to the public eye since lighting up the premier league in 2014 – I do not doubt Greaves’ records are a personal target for him as he will want to stamp his greatness as Spurs’ all time leading goalscorer before he bows out from North London or football in general.
With the naivety of so called football fans declaring the game didn’t exist before the heartbreak of Italia 90′ or the large injection of capital that came from Rupert Murdoch and Sky’s involvement in the formation the Premier League in 1992 – they are painting the history of football with a very thick brush, and in doing so much of the beautiful art is being lost.
Don’t let fickle fans with short attention spans and a lack of football purism dictate which era’s of football deserve respect and our attention.
Yes tactics evolve, the game has become quicker and nicer on the eye for those in the stands, but stats speak volumes and for Greaves to hold accolades, such as Tottenham’s leading goalscorer, for nigh on five decades is a testament to the great he was, and still is and he should rightfully be remembered as such – even if Kane does go on to surpass him.
Enjoy some of Greaves’ best goals as a Spurs player below, and keep your eye’s out for more of Lazy Fan’s GOAT series.