London clubs Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, and West Ham United lead the way as the footballing fraternity pay their tribute to legendary England striker Jimmy Greaves, who died at the age of 81.
Both Tottenham and Chelsea play against each other at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday in what was a very poignant occasion, with Greaves having started his career at Chelsea before establishing himself as Tottenham’s all-time top scorer.
Players and fans from both teams held a minute’s applause prior to kick-off, while a number of Tottenham legends were also present to honor the memory of the club’s greatest player. Among the legends in attendance are Osvaldo Ardiles, Glenn Hoddle, Ledley King, and Michael Dawson.
Chelsea ran out 3-0 winners at the end of the match after an impressive second half performance, however the result was a mere footnote on the day those associated with both the Blues and Spurs are honoring the memory of one of their legendary players.
West Ham, another club whom Greaves had represented in his career, held a minute’s applause of their own at the London Stadium prior to their 2-1 defeat at the hands of Manchester United, while a similar tribute was also on show at the Amex Stadium before Brighton & Hove Albion’s 2-1 win over Leicester City.
Italy’s AC Milan, another one of Greaves’ former clubs, posted a message of condolences on their social media channels prior to their 1-1 draw away at Juventus that commemorated the legendary striker.
A number of footballing personalities also pay their respects towards Greaves, who holds the record of most goals scored in the English top flight with 357 goals to his name.
Tottenham captain Harry Kane, second in the club’s all-time top scorers chart behind Greaves, had this to say to Sky Sports, as quoted from BBC Sport, “Jimmy was an incredible player and goalscorer and a legend for club and country. It’s frightening really how good a player he was. For someone like me to look at his numbers and one day go on to break those numbers would be incredible.”
The likes of Gary Lineker, Hoddle, Ian Wright, Ardiles, Alan Shearer, and Mauricio Pochettino among others also posted their tributes for Greaves in social media.
Sir Geoff Hurst, the hero of England’s 1966 FIFA World Cup triumph, hailed Greaves as “one of the truly great goal scorers with an absolutely brilliant sense of humor.”
Hurst, who scored a hat-trick in the 1966 World Cup final, had taken Greaves’ place in England’s starting lineup for that historic match after the latter had suffered an injury in the tournament’s group stages.
Born in 1940, Greaves started his career at Chelsea in 1957 as a 17-year old, as part of Ted Drake’s talented group of youngsters. The young striker scored in his debut, interestingly against Spurs at their old home ground that is White Hart Lane.
Greaves scored 41 goals in the 1960/61 season, a Chelsea record for the most goals scored by a single player in a season, something that is yet to be rivaled by the likes of Gianfranco Zola, Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba, Diego Costa, and Eden Hazard. In just four years at West London, Greaves found the back of the net 124 times, which inevitably attracted the attention of everyone in Europe.
AC Milan was Greaves’ next port of call, albeit the striker was reluctant to join the Rossoneri. Despite this, Greaves retained his prolific form, scoring nine times in 14 games in 1961, before returning to London with Tottenham only five months later with the Lilywhites paying £99,999 for his services.
It was with Tottenham that Greaves wrote himself even further into English football folklore. Rising up as the North Londoners’ all-time top scorer with 266 goals from 379 games in all competitions, Greaves won Spurs the 1962 and 1967 FA Cups and the 1963 European Cup Winners’ Cup, the latter being the first time an English team had won a European trophy.
Greaves established himself in the England national team ranks during his tenure at Tottenham, appearing in the 1962 FIFA World Cup before playing in the 1966 edition of the tournament. A tackle from France’s Joseph Bonnel meant that Greaves would have to miss the knockout stages with a leg injury. Hurst filled in for Greaves in the knockouts and eventually scored that historic hat-trick that earned England their first and so far only World Cup title.
As back then only the starting 11 of the final received their World Cup winners’ medal, Greaves missed out on his deserved honors before a rule change from FIFA saw the other members of England’s winning squad of 1966 receiving their medals in 2009, Greaves included.
Greaves left Tottenham for West Ham in 1970 and while his best playing years were behind him, the striker was still able to find the back of the net twice in his debut, in a 5-1 demolition job of Manchester City at Maine Road. The 70s also saw Greaves descend down into alcoholism, which saw his career faltering as well. Greaves went out of the English top flight altogether in 1971, before winding down his career in the lower leagues with Brentwood, Chelmsford City, Barnet, and Woodford Town, retiring as a sober man at the latter in 1980.
In his post-playing career Greaves worked as a pundit for ITV, a columnist for The Sun, and was indicted into the Tottenham Hall of Fame alongside Steve Perryman in 2016. By then he had suffered two strokes and was wheelchair-bound, and just before his death Greaves was awarded the Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) by Queen Elizabeth II earlier this year. Alongside Ron Flowers who was also awarded the same honor in the same year, Greaves was the last surviving member of the 1966 World Cup squad to be honored by the Queen.