Jimmy, Jimmy.

Growing up in as staunch a Millwall home as you could find, two things were always said of Jimmy Greaves by my football loving parents. One, that Jimmy Greaves was the best goal scorer they had ever seen and two, he would have scored all four goals in the final against West Germany in the 1966 World Cup Final, and in 90 minutes too. I always suspected that last statement was a slight dig at Geoff Hurst’s West Ham connections, they being our rivals in football terms. All joking aside, my old man really rated Jimmy, so I knew Greaves was good.

I never really saw him play, as he was finishing his career in the lower leagues, as I was slowly going football crazy in the early to mid 1970s. So, my personal exposure to the man was really on his Saint & Greavsie TV programme, that he fronted with Liverpool legend Ian St John from the mid 1980s

He was born James Peter Greaves in Manor Park in February 1940 and raised in the Hainault area of Essex. Dad James was a tube driver and mum was Mary. Jimmy attended Southampton Lane primary school and then finished his education at Kingswood in Dagenham.

He was simply a football prodigy and was quickly picked up whilst a young schoolboy for Chelsea. Aged 15, he scored 51 goals in his first full youth season in 1955/56, then went on to double that, the season after, this time hitting 122 goals . He then turned pro in the summer of 1957. Naturally he scored on his full team debut and would soon be talked about in the same way as a young Duncan Edwards, who had made a similar impact as a teenager whilst playing for Manchester  United as one of the ‘Busby Babes.’ 

Jimmy went on to score 22 goas in 37 games, despite being rested by the manager Ted Drake, who was trying to protect him from the media spotlight that was quickly growing on Jimmy.

Away from the pitch, he married Irene Barden in 1958. That year, he was top scorer in the league with 32 goals in 44 games and in 1960/61 he scored his league 100th goal, aged just 20. He had made his full England debut against Peru in 1959, scoring in a 4-1 defeat. Despite that, he was named a member of the 1962 World Cup squad and played in all four of England’s games.

Yet, despite all his goals at club level, Chelsea were seen as an inconsistent team and Greaves was known to be thinking of a move. By the end of the 1960/61 season, the club reluctantly agreed to sell him. As a parting gift, he scored a hat trick in his last game for the club, his 13th for them overall and those goals took his tally to 41 in 40 games that season.

He was sold to AC Milan, in the June of 1961 for £80,000 on a three-year contract at £140 a week. However, even before he left, he was getting cold feet about the move, but he eventually went through with it, naturally scoring on his debut. As he feared, he struggled to fully fit in, out in Italy, finding it especially tough working with the head coach Rocco and before long, AC Milan agreed to sell him. His old club Chelsea came straight back in for him, but there was also a bid of  £96,500 for him from Tottenham Hotspur, and it was Spurs that won the day, getting their man for £99,999. 

He grabbed a hat trick on his Spurs first team debut versus Blackpool and then scored nine goals in the clubs FA Cup run that year. In the 1962 final, Spurs beat Burnley 3-1, with Greavsie scoring the first goal after 3 minutes. In the next season, after picking up the Charity Shield, Spurs finished second in the league with Greaves hitting 37 goals in 41 games. They also won the ‘62/63 Cup Winners Cup beating Atletico Madrid in the final 5- 1, with Jimmy scoring two and therefore becoming the first British team to win a European trophy.

His incredible goal scoring exploits, made him a certainty for the 1966 World Cup which was to be played in England. He played in all three group games, including against France, where he picked a very nasty shin injury which required 14 stitches . West Ham striker Geoff Hurst took his place in the quarter final against Argentina and scored the only goal of the game. Then, after England beat Portugal in the semi-final, and with Greaves now fit again to play, England manager Sir Alf Ramsey decided to keep to a winning side and Hurst stayed in the team. With no substitutes at that time, that was that . Hurst of course, went on to score a hat trick as England ran out winners 4-2 over West Germany

Jimmy – ‘I danced around the pitch with everyone else (at the end) but even in this moment of triumph and great happiness, deep down I felt my sadness. Throughout my years as a professional footballer, I had dreamed of playing in a World Cup Final. I had missed out on the match of a lifetime and it hurt.’

He never really recovered his career with the national side and  finished his England career in May 1967, after scoring a total of 44 goals in 57 games. On a happier note, Spurs won the FA cup again, in the 66/67 season beating Chelsea 2-1. Jimmy left Spurs in March 1970 to join West Ham in a part exchange deal for Martin Peters, which valued Jimmy at £75,000. He, of course,  scored twice, on his debut , but in truth, the move never really worked out. 

Though not part of the England 1970 World Cup squad in Mexico, Jimmy did in fact end up in the country, coming fifth on the London to Mexico World Cup Rally, driving a Ford Escort, alongside Tony Fall.

Back at West Ham the following season, Jimmy struggled to motivate himself in a team, which apart from a few players, he didn’t really rate. He was also beginning his descent into alcoholism. To the question, did the missing of the World Cup final a few years earlier play a part in his increased drinking, Jimmy said no, but others thought it had to have had some effect. Most days, he was straight in the pub after training. He retired in 1971 and left having scored 357 goals in his first division career.

Said to be consuming 20 pints of lager and a bottle of vodka a day, he quickly put on weight, as he drifted away from football completely. Bizarrely at the same time, he somehow came close to being elected as a council officer for the  Conservative Party in his local Hylands ward in 1974.

Then the game slowly called him back, as he tried to break free from his alcoholism. He turned out first for Brentwood, then Chelmsford City , then Barnet and finally Woodford Town in 1979. During this time, he was also receiving help from Alcoholics Anonymous and spent time on an alcoholic’s ward in a psychiatric hospital.

I was drunk from 1972 to 1977. I lost the 1970s completely.’

He finally remained sober at the end of this time at Woodford Town and stayed that way till the end.

After finishing playing, Jimmy wrote a newspaper column for The Sun and worked as a TV pundit from 1980, appearing on the panel for the 1982 world Cup for ITV. Then in 1985, he started the much-loved Saint and Greavsie slot alongside Ian St John on a Saturday lunch time . The half hour programme which went out at midday, attracted 5 million viewers,  and Jimmy’s phrase of ‘It’s a funny old game Saint’ became universally heard all over the UK. The duo remained popular up until Sky Television began to dominate football broadcasting in this country. His ‘joking’ style was said to be at odds with the way the presentation of football was going, and though he continued until 1998 at Central Television, Jimmy had in effect retired from the mainstream channels. 

In 2009, he was given a World Cup Winners medal from FIFA, along with other squad members who missed out when England won the trophy in 1966. He later sold the medal for £44,000.00 in 2014.

In his regular life, Jimmy found plenty of work with his ever entertaining, after dinner speaking engagements and despite filing for divorce during his drinking days, Jimmy and his wife Irene never finalised any paperwork, and instead renewed their vows in 2017. The pair had five children, though sadly they had lost their first-born James, known as  Jimmy junior, aged just 4 months, with Pneumonia.

From 2012, Jimmy’s health began to suffer, and he had a severe stoke in 2015. He was awarded an MBE in 2021 and he died aged 81 in the September of that year on the morning when Chelsea were due to play Tottenham in the premier league. Talk about meant to be.

Harry Kane –  ‘First and foremost our condolences to Jimmy’s family and close ones and friends. Obviously, a sad day.
Jimmy was an incredible player, an incredible goal scorer. A legend for club and country. A sad day, but hopefully we can put on a great performance for him.

Gareth Southgate  -‘Jimmy Greaves was someone who was admired by all who love football, regardless of club allegiances. I was privileged to be able to meet Jimmy’s family last year at Tottenham Hotspur as the club marked his 80th birthday. My thoughts are with them and I know the entire game will mourn his passing. Jimmy certainly deserves inclusion in any list of England’s best players, given his status as one of our greatest goal scorers and his part in our 1966 World Cup success. 

His place in our history will never be forgotten.’


The Mumper of SE5



THE SPEAKEASY Volume Two by Mark Baxter (The Mumper)

Illustrations by Lewis Wharton

Foreword by Rhoda Dakar

Available to ORDER here



Further styles added to the SALE



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