Sun 19 September 2021, 10:00|Tottenham Hotspur
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. Jimmy passed away at home in the early hours of this morning (Sunday 19 September), aged 81.
Throughout his wonderful playing career, Jimmy’s strike rate was phenomenal. His Spurs return was 266 goals in 379 appearances between 1961 and 1970 – 220 goals in 321 league games, 32 goals in 36 FA Cup ties, five in just eight League Cup ties and nine in 14 European matches.
The 37 league goals that he netted in the 1962/63 season remains to this day our record by any player in a single season.
A member of England’s 1966 World Cup-winning squad, Jimmy also scored 44 goals in his 57 senior international appearances, with 42 of those caps – and 28 goals – won while a Spurs player.
Born in East Ham on 20 February, 1940, Jimmy’s career started in the junior ranks at Chelsea where he turned professional in May, 1957. He scored on his Blues debut – something which would become a familiar trait throughout his playing days – ironically against Spurs at White Hart Lane on 24 August, 1957, in a 1-1 draw.
He remained at Stamford Bridge until June, 1961, when he moved to AC Milan, and his 41-goal haul in the First Division in 1960/61 still stands as Chelsea’s record for a single season.
It was only a brief sojourn to Italy, however. Nine goals in 14 Serie A matches was an impressive return but he never really settled at Milan so Bill Nicholson moved swiftly to secure his services and he joined Spurs in December, 1961.
Although we had just won the ‘Double’, there’s no question that Jimmy’s arrival in N17 made us an even better team. He was a natural goalscorer, always in the right place at the right time to add the finishing touch to another well-worked move, while he could also create his own goals, as he did on numerous occasions by gliding past defenders and passing the ball into the back of the net. He possessed immaculate ball control, great balance and such composure in front of goal that he rarely spurned an opportunity.
It was no surprise when he hit the target on his Tottenham debut against Blackpool on 16 December, 1961, scoring a hat-trick to give an indication of what was to follow during the course of the next nine years.
Within a few months of arriving at the Lane, Jimmy won his first senior medal as we retained the FA Cup, and he scored the opening goal in our 3-1 win over Burnley at Wembley. The following season, the goals flowed at an incredible rate. His brace in the European Cup Winners’ Cup Final helped us to a 5-1 demolition of Atletico Madrid, as we became the first British club to win a European trophy.
When Jimmy topped the First Division goalscoring charts in 1964/65 with 29 goals, he became the first player to do so in three consecutive seasons and he broke the 20 league goals barrier in three other campaigns for us. His final honour for us came in the 1967 FA Cup Final, playing his part in our 2-1 win over his former club Chelsea.
He left Spurs in March, 1970, to join West Ham United, before retiring at the end of the 1970/71 season at the age of 31. In October, 1972, a crowd of 45,799 gathered at White Hart Lane to pay tribute to Jimmy in his Testimonial match against Feyenoord.
He was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours list at the end of 2020.
Football will not see his like again.
We extend our sincere condolences to his wife Irene, their four children, 10 grandchildren and great grandchildren.