The highest goal scorer in the history of the English top flight, all-time record goal scorer for Tottenham Hotspur, Jimmy Greaves’ name will forever be firmly engraved in the football history books as one of the most prolific centre forwards of all time. Here, we take a look at the illustrious career of Jimmy Greaves and his remarkable rise to the top.
Born in Manor Park in 1940, the footballing story of Jimmy Greaves begins in 1955, where still a schoolboy at the age of 15, he began the start of his journey by signing for Division One champions Chelsea, initially as an apprentice, while still studying for qualifications at school. Under the watchful eye of youth team coach Dickie Foss, the impact Greaves made was instantaneous.
Managing a Chelsea youth record of 114 goals in the 56-57 season, including an FA Youth Cup final goal, he was already destined for greatness. Unsurprisingly, a professional contract followed for the Blues man in the summer of 1957, which little did he know, was the trigger to kick-start an unforgettable career for the youngster.
His Unprecedented Rise at Chelsea
Aged 17, a professional debut for Greaves ironically came against Tottenham, and he managed to earn a 1-1 draw for the Blues with a goal on his first appearance for the side. Already, the notable control, strength, and maturity of this young striker was beginning to impact fans and the media. The form continued, with the Englishman managing a top scoring 22 goals in 37 matches for his side, including a Boxing Day quadruple against Portsmouth.
It was at this point that Greaves began to take his career to the next step. Finishing as the Division One top scorer with 22 goals in 58/59, then 37 the season after, goals were coming at an alarmingly fast rate. Another season of 30 goals followed before a world class 43 goal campaign capped off what was an almost unbelievable start to this man’s career.
13 Hat-tricks along the way ensured Jimmy Greaves became the youngest player in the history of top flight football to reach the milestone of 100 league goals, at the age of 20 years and 290 days. Although milestones were being reached with an amazing sense of ease, trophies on the other hand, were not.
Early cup exits, as well as mediocre League placings led to the inevitable end of the first stage of Greaves’ journey. Chelsea Chairman Joe Mears agreed to sell him as not only did the club need money, but Greaves needed to transform his career to a new level.
His Milanese Adventure & Return to London
The fashionable city of Milan was the destination for with the Italians paying £80,000 for Greaves’ services, although however attractive this destination may have been, it was not the desired choice of the up and coming star.
The apprehensive start to his spell at the San Siro set the tone for the transfer. Despite scoring on his debut, his poor relationship with head coach Nereo Rocco undeniably marked the beginning of the end for his short-lived stay in Milan.
Scoring 9 goals in 12 games was by no means embarrassing, but unhappiness and a lack of real backroom support from the start led to this predictable and underwhelming ending. It was time for him to come home.
Next stop, White Hart Lane. Signing for an unheard of fee of £99,900, Greaves joined Spurs in December 1961, as a result of their First Division and Cup double in the previous season. Here, Jimmy Greaves began to build his dynasty. Starting with a hat-trick on debut, he played in all seven FA Cup games, scoring nine goals, on route to a final at Wembley, in which he opened the scoring against Burnley, helping the side to a 3-1 final win and more importantly, his first piece of silverware. In addition, a third placed league finished topped off what was a wonderful opening season at Tottenham.
Season number two began with a 5-1 Charity Shield win over Ipswich, as Greaves went on to hit 37 goals in 41 league games, and inevitably, finish top scorer. However, it was the European Cup Winners Cup which marked an unforgettable and magical season for Spurs. A run which included beating Rangers, and Greaves getting sent off in the first leg of the semi-final, was not enough to prevent a rampant and hungry Tottenham side. Facing Atletico Madrid in a historic final, Greaves hit the net twice, with the other strikes coming from John White and Terry Dyson in a 5-1 battering of the Spanish giants. History had been made!
Tottenham were the first side to claim European silverware in the history of the sport, and that man Jimmy Greaves had been a massive part of it. Trophies were coming at a fast rate, and Spurs were quickly stamping their authority as a European giant too.
As an Englishman, an international cap may be the proudest moment one can have. Greaves received his first in 1957, but it was the 1966 World Cup that captured an all-time high for the British game, but a bitter sweet feeling on a personal note for England’s star striker. After featuring in all three group games, in the third, he was on the receiving end of a brutal studs up challenge from France’s Joseph Bonnel on his chin, leaving a permanent scar that needed 14 stitches at first.
For England, his replacement Geoff Hurst would write his name down in International history books, scoring the winner against Argentina in the quarter final, and an unforgettable hat-trick in the winning final. Although fit, Jimmy Greaves would not feature due to the form of Hurst. Understandably for the greater good, Greaves was still a part of a World Cup winning side, despite not receiving a medal until 2009, after only the eleven outfield starters were given one at the time.
Still, in reality, it was a glittering international career for Greaves, who scored 44 goals in 57 matches, and still stands as England’s fourth highest all-time scorer. He still holds the record for the most hat-tricks scored by an Englishman too – 6 in total.
The Twilight Stages of his Career