Tottenham Hotspur legends: Jimmy Greaves

As a footballer, you are lucky if you are fondly remembered at a club for either your skill as a player or your many years of faithful service.

Jimmy Greaves demonstrated both during his eight-and-a-half seasons at Tottenham Hotspur and is well worth his status as a White Hart Lane legend.

A natural finisher in the purest sense, Greaves netted 266 times in all competitions for the North Londoners and holds the record as the Lilywhites’ highest-ever goalscorer as well as having the most goals to his name in English top-flight history.

He appears fourth on the England national team’s all-time list with 44 goals from just 57 caps and it is a mark of his outrageous talent that he is also considered a hero at local rivals Chelsea.

The forward started his career with the Blues and had already fired his way into the Stamford Bridge history books by the time he made the switch to Italian giants AC Milan in June 1961.

Fearing homesickness, Greaves in fact tried to back out of the deal but the Serie A outfit refused to annul his contract.

His time on the continent was difficult and although he managed a more than decent record of nine goals in 12 league appearances, he suffered from low morale and was duly transfer listed.

Tottenham swooped for his signature just six months after he had departed Chelsea, paying £99,999 for the hitman, a fee designed to relieve him of the pressure of being the country’s first six-figure footballer.

Any fears over the money spent on Greaves were allayed on his debut, as the striker bagged a hat-trick in a 5-2 win over Blackpool on his way to a 30-goal haul that term, despite joining midway through the campaign.

The pacey attacker was instrumental as his team reached the FA Cup final and he opened the scoring at Wembley to set Spurs on their way to a 3-1 triumph over Burnley, the first of his two victories in that competition, the second of which would come in 1967.

The 1962-63 season was arguably Greaves’ finest in a Tottenham shirt; as well finishing as runners-up in the First Division, the club became the first British side to win a European trophy when they defeated Atletico Madrid in the Cup Winners’ Cup.

Their star man scored twice in the final and 44 times in all that year, including an extraordinary 37 in the league.

As the decade progressed manager Bill Nicholson refreshed the side with a number of new faces and allowed some old ones to depart, but Greaves stayed put and continued to find the net with alarming regularity.

It was in the 1969-70 campaign, a poor one for the Lilywhites as a whole, that he finally started to slow down and lost his place in the side following an FA Cup defeat to Crystal Palace.

Whilst never making it back into Nicholson’s starting XI, he did still finish as Spurs’ top scorer with 11 in 33 matches.

If there is one stain on his Tottenham legacy, it would be the slightly acrimonious nature of his departure at the end of that term.

Greaves joined West Ham United as part of a swap deal that saw Martin Peters go the other way and later claimed that he never wanted to leave White Hart Lane.

Indeed, it is thought that the manner of his sale that summer was a major factor in why he rarely attended matches after his retirement, as well as his reluctance to be admitted into the club’s hall of fame.

His switch to the Hammers saw Greaves increase his drinking and the goalscoring machine’s powers faded, although he did still enjoy some success lower down the English footballing pyramid.

Despite beating his alcoholism in 1978, recent health problems have mounted up for the England great and a stroke in 2015 left him in a wheelchair.

Nonetheless, it has been good to see his relations with Tottenham thaw in the past couple of years and as well as finally accepting his well-deserved hall of fame entry, he visited the training ground towards the end of 2017 to meet the current squad hoping to emulate his achievements.

Greaves was a classic all-round striker; a fine dribbler who was able to create goals for himself and also possessed the vital knack of being in the right place at the right time.

With that in mind it is remarkable that he did not play more for his country and the man himself may have a tinge of regret with regards to his exploits on the international scene in spite of his excellent goal tally.

He failed to score at the 1966 World Cup and after being injured in the group stages, his replacement Geoff Hurst went on to become a national hero with a hat-trick in the final as Greaves watched on from the bench.

At Spurs, though, he is rightly considered the best of the best, the very definition of a club legend.

Watching modern football it seems that many forget that the game was around before the advent of the Premier League in 1992 and as such his achievements are often unfairly overlooked.

Pound for pound, Jimmy Greaves is undoubtedly the finest goalscorer in Tottenham’s history and arguably the greatest England has ever produced.