My first memory of Jimmy Greaves was when he played for Chelsea in the late 1950s. Even to a youngster like me, it was obvious that he was supremely gifted and able to play football at a different level to most others. When he left Chelsea in 1961 to join AC Milan, it was a ground breaking move for him and also for Milan. He really didn’t settle there very well and within a short period of time he returned to England on being transferred to Tottenham Hotspur for £99,999. The famous Tottenham manager Bill Nicholson didn’t want Jimmy burdened with being the first £100,000 player.
I will remember the excitement of his first match for Spurs which was for the reserve team a few days after his return from Italy. The crowd at that match was of a size that exceeded most clubs’ first team matches. When he made his league debut the following week, in December 1961, against Blackpool, he proceeded to mesmerise the crowd and scored a hat-trick. From then until the mid-1960s, he had a wonderful career with Spurs which was unfortunately blighted when playing for England in the early stages of the 1966 World Cup. He sustained an injury and, as a result, he was not selected to play in the 1966 Final.
The bitter disappointment of missing out on being a World Cup winner in 1966 seemed to put a dampener on his career and although his performances were wonderful to watch, it was never bright morning again. A spell at West Ham followed his transfer from Spurs in 1970 and then he retired. Unfortunately, this period coincided with a descent into heavy drinking and then alcoholism, after which his life deteriorated. Following his ultimately successful battle with alcohol he rebuilt his life in his role as Greavsie in Saint and Greavsie, which was the most popular football show of its type in the 1980s and 1990s.
For all of us who were privileged to see Jimmy Greaves in action, we will all remember the grace, elegance and speed that he had, which made him the outstanding striker and goal scorer of his generation and who has not been equalled either before or since. And for all those who have come to our office in Grosvenor Street, you will have noticed that we have a meeting room named Greaves, a singular honour and a mark of our affection for the best goal scorer that any of us have ever seen.
Written by Paul Bobroff, Partner at Buchler Phillips and Former Tottenham Hotspur Chairman.
Image sourced from Tottenham Hotspur’s website.