Charlie Hurley versus Jimmy Greaves? Who won………
The following is an edited version from the authorised biography of CHARLIE HURLEY: “The Greatest Centre Half the World has Ever Seen”. Written by Mark Metcalf the book was published by Sportsbooks in 2008. It is on sale in the Sunderland club shop and in Waterstones in the city centre. This article appeared in the Sunderland Sports Echo dated 1 December 2013.
Charlie Hurley was in his final season when Sunderland played away to Tottenham Hotspur in November 1968. He was up against the greatest ever English goalscorer, Jimmy Greaves, who is the only player to have finished as top scorer in the League on six occasions, twice with Chelsea and four times with Spurs.
Greaves “scored four as Sunderland were well beaten by five goals to one. An injury to Martin Harvey on 73 minutes when the score was only 2-1 was the key to such a heavy defeat. This took Greaves record to ten goals in nine games in matches against Sunderland since 1964. However a little look behind the figures shows that until that November 1968 day Greaves didn’t do that well when Hurley played for Sunderland.
Hurley had previously faced Greaves just three times before then and he’d scored just the once. In the other five games when Hurley was missing through injury Greaves had scored five times. In 1968 Hurley was coming to end of his top flight career and Greaves exploited his increasing lack of pace including scoring a goal that for many years was endlessly shown on TV replays, running through from the half-way line to take the ball round Montgomery and finish in fine style. Hurley had the satisfaction of playing Greaves just once more, at Roker Park in February 1969 and he again failed to score – it was some record to prevent a genius like Greaves from scoring in 3 out of the 5 games you’d faced him at centre-half.
Hurley has no doubt that “the best sniffer ever was Jimmy Greaves, better than Denis Law. I did well against Greaves, mind. He played at Roker Park one time and we won 3-2 and he scored two that were both disallowed for offside, and I said to him afterwards ‘Tough luck there Jim’ and he said ‘Charlie boy if I’d been at home I’d have got them both’. What a good player, great touch and a decent bloke as well. Law, he must have scored half his goals from within 6 yards, he poked his goals in, no runs and dribbles, and he was brave mind around the box.”