Spurs announced that their all-time record goalscorer and one of their greatest players in the club’s history passed away in the early hours of Sunday morning. The 1966 Engand World Cup squad member was in poor health since suffering a stroke in 2015, after which his speech was limited and required care four times a day.
Nicknamed ‘Greavsie’, he was the greatest goalscorer of his generation, scoring 447 goals across his club career including an unrivalled 266 for Tottenham, 132 strikes for fellow London club Chelsea and 44 goals in 57 games for England.
During his career at Tottenham, Greaves won the FA Cup twice during the 1960s and helped Spurs to the European Cup Winners’ Cup in the 1962-63 season. His contributions to football also earned him an MBE in December of last year, thanks to a Sportsmail campaign to award him the gong.
He leaves behind wife Irene, four children Lynn, Mitzi, Danny and Andrew along with 10 grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Tottenham and football legend Jimmy Greaves has passed away at the age of 81
The Spurs legend (left) was known as one of the greatest goalscorers in English football history
Greaves (left) leaves behind wife Irene (right), four children Lynn, Mitzi, Danny and Andrew along with 10 grandchildren and great grandchildren
Greaves’ beloved Tottenham announced his passing via social this on Sunday morning
A statement from Tottenham read: ‘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.
‘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 statement ended: ‘Football will not see his like again.’
A message posted by Greaves’ Twitter account reads: ‘Rest in peace Jim. The greatest English goalscorer that ever lived. We will miss you always and remember the incredible fun we had for twenty years during our theatre shows.’
Born in Newham, east London, Greaves was scouted by Chelsea as a schoolboy before joining as an apprentice in 1955. He became a goalscoring phenomenon at youth level, scoring 51 goals in his first season at the club, and went on to net in the Blues’ FA Youth Cup final defeat in 1958, a year after becoming professional.
Greaves was in poor health after suffering a stroke in 2015 and required care four times a day
Greaves (left, with Tottenham and England striker Harry Kane) was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours list at the end of 2020 after a Sportsmail campaign
As well as a successful playing career, Greaves (left) co-presented popular Saturday lunchtime football show ‘Saint and Greavsie’ alongside Ian St John (right)
GREAVSIE IN NUMBERS
114 – goals scored for the youth team after signing for Chelsea in 1956.
17 – Greaves’ age when he made his first-team debut for Chelsea, scoring in a 1-1 draw with Tottenham.
100 – number of league goals Greaves had scored by the age of 20. He remains the youngest player to reach the landmark.
99,999 – the fee in pounds paid by Tottenham to sign Greaves from AC Milan in 1961.
132 – goals for Chelsea in 169 games.
44 – goals scored for England in 57 matches. He is still fourth on the all-time list behind Wayne Rooney (53), Bobby Charlton (49) and Gary Lineker (48).
6 – hat-tricks scored for England still stands as a record today.
41 – number of goals for Chelsea in 40 league games during the 1960/61 season is still a club record at Stamford Bridge.
266 – goals for Tottenham in 379 appearances means Greaves remains Spurs’ record goalscorer.
His goalscoring rate continued in the step up to men’s football, scoring 22 goals in 37 matches during his debut season in the First Division. His numbers went up to 41 goals in 40 top-flight matches come the 1960-61 season, with his overall Chelsea numbers sitting at 132 goals in 169 games.
It was during his time at Chelsea where he earned his first England cap, making his debut in May 1959 against Peru, scoring a consolation in a 4-1 defeat. His most memorable England moments during his early international years included back-t0-back hat-tricks against Northern Ireland and Luxembourg, as well as another treble in a 9-3 victory over Scotland at Wembley in April 1961.
That 1960-61 season for Chelsea sparked a £80,000 move to Italian side AC Milan and despite a three-year contract worth £140 a week and a £15,000 signing on bonus, he was unhappy in Italy and his poor morale there sparked a £99,999 move back to Tottenham, despite interest from the Blues, his former club.
His nine goals in 12 Serie A matches earned him an Italian top-flight winners’ medal but his form in England resumed where he left it, scoring 30 times in 31 games in his first season at White Hart Lane as Spurs defended the FA Cup title they won as part of their historic double the season before.
The following season saw even more goals fly in, with Greaves scoring 44 goals in 49 matches as Tottenham finished as First Division runners-up, but added the European Cup Winners’ Cup and the Charity Shield to Spurs’ trophy cabinet.
After several more goals for Spurs, Greaves was called up to Sir Alf Ramsey’s 1966 World Cup squad and started the tournament for England, but was injured in the group stages and lost his place to Sir Geoff Hurst, who kept him out of the team right up to the final, where he scored a hat-trick in the 4-2 win over West Germany.
Greaves began his playing career at Chelsea and became a goalscoring sensation in England
A stint at AC Milan was followed by a wonderful career at Tottenham for Greaves (right), where he became Spurs’ all-time record goalscorer with 266 goals
Greaves was part of Sir Alf Ramsay’s 1966 World Cup-winning squad but was injured early in the tournament
After breaking Tottenham’s goalscoring record by netting 266 goals in all competitions, he joined West Ham for two seasons before retiring in 1970. He returned to football four years later to play non-league football with the likes of Brentwood, Chelmsford City, Barnet and Woodford Town, as he battled alcoholism in the final years of his career.
After his playing days came to an end, Greaves became a columnist for several national publications, before stepping into TV punditry for ITV in time for the 1982 World Cup.
His greatest stint on the screen saw him present football Saturday lunchtime football show Saint and Greavsie alongside Ian St John between October 1985 to April 1992.
Greaves married Irene Barden at Romford register office in March 1958 and while they separated during his fight with alcoholism, they reunited after three months and their divorce was never finalised.
Greaves (right) married Irene Barden (left) at Romford register office in March 1958
The former football suffered two strokes in 2012 and 2015, the latter left him unable to speak
His health started to deteriorate in 2012 when he suffered a mild stroke in February 2012 whilst having surgery on an artery in his neck, before a more severe one in 2015 left him unable to speak.
In late 2019, Sportsmail began a campaign to get Greaves a gong which became successful in late 2020 when he was named on the Queen’s New Years Honours list, which Irene described as coming ‘too little, too late’.
Former footballers have paid their respects with Tottenham and England striker Harry Kane tweeted: ‘RIP Jimmy Greaves. A true legend and one of the great goalscorers.Thoughts are with his family and friends.’
Former Three Lions defender Rio Ferdinand posted: ‘Big loss to the footballing world.. sending my condolences to the Greaves family. First autobiography I ever read! Inspiration.’
Arsenal legend Ian Wright commented: ‘The first footballers name I ever heard from my teacher. ‘No Ian! Finish like Jimmy Greaves!’ May he rest in peace.’
Former footballers paid tribute to Greaves’ life and career on social media on Sunday morning
Former Tottenham player Graham Roberts said: ‘So sorry to hear the death of the greatest striker of all time in England and my friend @jimmy_greaves and sorry to his wonderful family and my good pal Danny.
‘Very sad day for all and today let’s all show Jimmy our love from both clubs. Rip you great man.’
Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville tweeted: ‘RIP Jimmy Greaves’ while co-pundit Jamie Carragher added: ‘RIP Jimmy Greaves the best goal scorer we’ve seen & the part of the best football show we’ve seen. #Legend.’
England’s official Twitter account tweeted: ‘We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Jimmy Greaves at the age of 81.
Members of the broadcast and football punditry community also paid tribute to Greaves
‘Jimmy was part of our World Cup winning squad and scored a remarkable 44 goals in 57 games for the #ThreeLions. All of our thoughts are with his family, friends and former clubs.’
Piers Morgan posted on his Twitter account: ‘RIP Jimmy Greaves, 81. One of the greatest England footballers, brilliant broadcaster, fantastic bloke. Sad news.’
Spurs fan David Lammy, the Labour MP for Tottenham, tweeted: ‘Man so sad (Jimmy Greaves) has left us.
‘What a superb goal scorer, character and all round footballing legend. One of a kind. Sincere condolences to his family and loved ones.’
A HISTORY OF BRAIN ILLNESSES IN FOOTBALL
Jimmy Greaves suffered two strokes towards the end of his life in 2012 and 2015, an illness caused by the lack of blood supply to part of your brain.
Greavsie is one of several former footballers to be diagnosed with a brain injury in recent years, including Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Last month, Terry McDermott, who won three European Cups and five league titles in a glittering career with Liverpool, revealed he is the latest football icon battling dementia.
McDermott’s tragic revelation comes just days after Manchester United icon Denis Law admitted he is battling with Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia.
Law is the sixth member of the United squad who won the European Cup in 1968 to have been diagnosed with the degenerative disease.
Sir Bobby Charlton’s family announced that he has dementia in November, just two days after Nobby Stiles, a fellow suffered, passed away.
Tony Dunne, Bill Foulkes and David Herd were also diagnosed before their deaths.
Former West Bromwich Albion striker Jeff Astle died aged 59 in 2002 from a degenerative brain disease due to heading the ball and his wife Dawn has been an indefatigable campaigner for finding links between heading the ball and neurodegenerative diseases.
Neuropathologist Dr Willie Stewart and Glasgow University have established former players are 3.5 times more likely to die of neurodegenerative diseases than the general public.
Sportsmail has been campaigning for football to properly tackle its dementia crisis since last year.
England became the first country to impose heading limits on professional players when they were restricted to 10 ‘higher force’ headers per week in training. That has been put in place for 2021-22 as a response to the dementia crisis.
The first adult football match with heading restrictions will take place later this month as researchers try to discover whether the game can function without it and reduce the risk of dementia for players.