IT’S good to know Jimmy Greaves is reported to be on the mend after a recent health scare when he suffered a stroke.
He was one of the finest goalscorers of his generation for both Chelsea and Spurs, as well as England, deserving a prominent position in any all-time British football Hall of Fame.
If under-pressure Andre Villas-Boas could have Greaves in his forward firing-line now – instead of the blank-shooting dud Fernando Torres – then life would be so much less stressful.
Looking at Greaves as he is now – rotund, jolly, balding – it is hard to credit that he was a thoroughbred of a footballer.
He enjoyed the happy knack of being in the right place at the right time – his finishing was not just clinical, but so fast that goalkeepers had only a split-second to react.
There is a superb selection of his goals on YouTube, and what comes over is his God-given balance and the way he tucks the ball away, some of the goals coming on mudheaps that passed as pitches in those days.
My favourite Greaves goal – in fact, arguably my favourite of any goal – was the one that he scored for Spurs at White Hart Lane in 1969 against Newcastle, netting with aplomb after a gliding run that took him deeper and deeper into the heart of the defence before rounding a hapless defender (if memory serves a static Ollie Burton) before finishing the move off with aplomb by rounding the keeper.
It was thankfully captured for posterity on that night’s Match Of The Day.
Greaves hasn’t had an easy time of it, missing out in the 1966 World Cup final, and then facing an even bigger battle, the hardest of the lot against the demon drink.
He became a popular tv analyst – the best of them all, actually – never sitting in po-faced judgment like some who think they are presiding at some kind of soccer crimes tribunal rather than providing entertaining television.
But it is as a footballer that Greaves should be remembered, and he happened to be in his prime at the same time as another accomplished performer Denis Law, then the unquestioned king of Old Trafford.
Greaves was always this column’s favourite of the two players.
Law was good and a far better header of a ball than Greaves, though the Scot could be fiery and some of his dust-ups with the opposition saw in trouble with officialdom.
Law, of Manchester United, and Ian Ure, of Arsenal, were sent off for scrapping in 1967 on one infamous occasion – there was no throwaway three-match suspension in those days.
Ure and Law were left kicking their heels – rather than each other – for six weeks as the soccer authorities cracked down.
They were different times in those days, and better, with true legends like Greaves around.