Only one player has finished top scorer in England's top flight on six occasions. The following
is from Golden Boot book by myself and Tony Matthews. Reproduced with permission of
Tony Matthews, who wrote the piece on Greaves for the book.
1958-59 - finished 14th
32 goals (out of 77) 22 home, 10 away. Percentage: 41.4%
Finished joint top scorer with Bobby Smith (Tottenham Hotspur)
1960-61 – finished 12th
41 goals (out of 98) 28 home, 13 away. Percentage: 41.8%
Runner’s-up David Herd (Arsenal) and Gerry Hitchens (Aston Villa) both with 29
1962-63 – finished 2nd
37 goals (out of 111) 27 home, 10 away. Percentage: 33.3%
joint runner’s-up Joe Baker (Arsenal) and David Layne (Sheffield Wednesday) both with 29
1963-64 – finished 4th
35 goals (out of 97) 20 home, 15 away. Percentage: 36%
Joint runner’s-up: Andy McEvoy (Blackburn Rovers) and Fred Pickering (Blackburn Rovers & Everton) both with 32
1964-65 – finished 6th
29 goals (out of 87) 20 home, nine away Percentage: 33%
Joint top scorer with Andy McEvoy (Blackburn Rovers)
1968-69 – finished 6th
27 goals (out of 61) 18 home, nine away. Percentage:
Runner-up Geoff Hurst (West Ham United) with 25
Without a shadow of doubt Jimmy Greaves has been one of the greatest goalscorers in Football League history.
Quick over the ground and blessed with an incredibly cool assurance and superb balance, he had unnerving anticipation in and around opposing penalty areas when chances presented themselves and above all, he simply knew where and when to find the back of the net!
He would ghost past a defender, sometimes two, even three as if they were not there and then smartly tuck away his shot... brilliant.
Like so many of his generation, Greaves (J.P. to his pals) was born in the East End of London on 20 February 1940, at a time when Germans and the Allies were blinking at each other during the worst winter for 100 years.
He became an avid Spurs supporter, preferring to make the trek from the East End to White Hart Lane rather than walk to the nearer Upton Park at a time when West Ham were nothing more than Second Division nonentities.
In the late 1940s/early ‘50s, Spurs were exciting to watch, their push and run football bringing them successive Second and First Division championship victories.
In the autumn of 1954, Greaves almost joined the Tottenham ground staff but with the threat of relegation looming, manager Arthur Rowe had second thoughts about signing an ‘untried’ youngster.
Disappointed, Greaves was quickly taken under the wing of one Jimmy Thompson, a one-man Pied Piper, who led so many East End boys to Chelsea, including Peter Brabrook, Barry Bridges and Terry Venables.
Greaves was a smash hit in the Chelsea youth side, bagging no less than 114 goals in the 1956-57 season.
On 24 August 1957, Greaves made his senior debut for the Blues and as was to be a pattern over the course of time, he did absolutely nothing at all apart from scoring in the 1-1 draw at, of all places, Tottenham!
For 89 minutes of a game, he seemed to idle around, chatting to anyone who cared to talk back, but his instincts were razor sharp and rarely missed the target when a chance came along.
In his first season at Stamford Bridge – despite missing six matches up to Christmas Day 1957 - he returned in style, blitzing in a four-timer in a 7-4 home victory over Portsmouth. He scored 22 League goals that term and in his second netted 32 to finish equal top dog with Bobby Smith in Division One while also setting a new Chelsea record, surpassing Bob Whittingham’s tally of 30 goals in 1910-11. Two seasons later he once again topped the League’s scoring charts with a haul of 29.
He got off to a flier in 1958-59, notching eight goals in his first three matches, including a stunning five-timer in a 6-2 home win over the reigning League champions Wolves. In mid-September he netted twice in a thrilling 6-5 victory over Newcastle and at the end of the month struck a hat-trick in a 4-1 defeat of Nottingham Forest. He was on fire and, as so often happens, all of a sudden the goals dried up!
However, you couldn’t keep ‘J.P’ quiet for long and he returned with a brace when Leeds lost 2-0 in early November, following up soon afterwards with a clinical finish to beat Birmingham City 1-0 at the Bridge.
After some mediocre performances by his standards, Greaves had a good January and February, salvaging a point against Portsmouth (2-2) and netting in a 3-2 home win over West Ham.
By this time Chelsea were edging well clear of relegation and Greaves, although not at his best, still popped in a few goals as the season wound down, his efforts at Leicester City and Nottingham Forest and at home to Preston, Manchester City and Everton all securing victories. Unfortunately his two FA Cup and three Inter Cities Fairs Cup goals (for London) were all in vain.
Still only 19 when the 1959-60 season started, Greaves was now staking a claim for a regular place in the England team as well as being Chelsea’s ‘pride and joy’ and what a start he made to the new campaign, cracking in a hat-trick in a thrilling 4-4 home draw with Preston. Later in the season he scored all his side’s goals at Deepdale – with the minimum of fuss – as Chelsea won 5-4.
His second treble of the campaign came in a 4-2 home win over Birmingham City in mid-September but between then and his goal feast at Preston, he wasn’t quite himself, netting only three times in 12 League games as Chelsea plummeted to the bottom end of the table.
Another six-week barren spell followed after Christmas, but thankfully - for club and fans alike - his goal touch returned when it mattered most and braces helped see off Fulham (4-2) and Luton Town (3-0) and also earn a point against West Brom. Late on he netted in a 3-0 home win over Manchester City, helped salvage a draw with Nottingham Forest and beat his former club Tottenham, with the only goal of the game at White Hart Lane. In the end Greaves’ goals certainly did the trick as Chelsea escaped the drop by just three points!
During the 1960-61 season, footballers were increasingly restive as the Players Union, led by Fulham’s Jimmy Hill, fought to improve their wages. There was talk of a strike but this fizzled out when the Football League conceded the players had a case. In the meantime, Greaves could not wait he was transferred to AC Milan for £80,000 in June 1961 but only after scoring another 41 League goals ( a club record that brought his tally up to 132 in 169 appearances for the Blues) including hat-tricks against Wolverhampton Wanderers, Blackburn Rovers and Manchester City as well as four-timers against Newcastle at St James’ Park and at home to Nottingham Forest in his final game for the Pensioners. On December 3rd 1960 he also scored five times as West Brom were thrashed 7-1 at Stamford Bridge.
Greaves was never a happy chappie in Italy. The system used by his club was far too regimented. Sex was banned for three days before a match as was alcohol. He could not bear this sort of restrictiveness and made it clear he didn’t like Italian food either. In short, he was a typical British holidaymaker!
It soon became evident that Milan hierarchy was not pleased with Greaves’ attitude or indeed his performances, especially after he had hinted he wanted to return to England, Tottenham were first to make a bid which Chelsea countered. Spurs then increased their offer, Chelsea dropped out, and in December 1961, Greaves was signed for a fee of £99,999, manager Bill Nicholson refusing to make him a £100,000 footballer. He had scored just nine times in Serie A.
Greaves' first appearance for Spurs was in a reserve game at Plymouth but on the day of his senior debut shortly afterwards, against Blackpool at home, he scored a hat-trick (Les Allen grabbed the other two goals) in a 5-2 thrashing of the Seasiders and no-one who was present will ever forget his spectacular bicycle kick which brought him his third goal. Quite an effort this – just ask the Blackpool goalkeeper Tony Waiters.
Before Greaves made his debut, Spurs’ attack had been somewhat lack-lustre with Bobby Smith injured and Allen suffering a lack of confidence. Greaves came in and made one hell of a difference. He went on to score 21 goals in 22 League appearances that season, becoming a huge favourite with the fans. In fact, he almost single handedly brought the championship back to White Hart Lane, but Spurs failed to beat Ipswich in the run-in. He did, however, gain a medal by netting a vital goal in a 3-1 FA Cup final victory over Burnley.
In his first full season for Spurs, Greaves broke the club record for scoring most League goals (37) in one single campaign, Ted Harper (1930-31) and Bobby Smith (1957-58) having been the joint holders with 36. He also topped the First Division scoring charts for the third time in five years.... and this was despite the winter being the second worst since WW2. Football was hard hit. Very few games were played from Boxing Day until the beginning of March, so it was amazing that Greaves was able to create this amazing record.
Six goals in the opening five matches, including a stunner in a 6-1 win over West Ham and two beauties in a 4-2 home victory over Aston Villa, set the pattern. He bagged a couple more in a tight game at Wolves (2-2) before having his best game for quite some time, certainly his best for Spurs (at that time) when Nottingham Forest were comprehensively battered 9-2 at the end of September.
He was outstanding and scored four times that afternoon. He equalised Trevor Hockey’s early goal in the sixth minute from Medwin’s cross and then put his side in front five minutes later from another pin-point Medwin pass. Goals by Cliff Jones and Medwin himself then made it 5-1 before Greaves completed his hat-trick with a sixth strike on the half-hour mark.
At this juncture many records looked endangered. But, as so often happens, Spurs felt they had done enough, eased up and managed only three more goals (to Forest’s two) in the next hour, from a Les Allen penalty (51 minutes), a Jones ground shot (53) and Greaves’ fourth (on 72) from Dave Mackay’s measured pass. Towards the end Greaves had two more goal-bound shots well saved by Peter Grummitt but who cared really... this was a great win and another great day out for hot-shot Greaves.
Hat-trick number two for Greaves followed in a superb 6-2 home win over Manchester United in late October and after narrowly failing to make it three trebles with a brace and two near misses against Leicester City (won 4-0) he whipped in three snorters to see off League champions Ipswich Town 5-0 at White Hart Lane, later adding another two more to his tally (one a rare penalty) when Spurs beat the ‘Tractor boys’ 4-2 in the return fixture at Portman Road.
In between times, Greaves struck twice to beat Blackpool 2-0 and towards the end of the season, he did something special, a feat very few footballers over the years have achieved. He scored four goals in a game against Liverpool. It happened at White Hart Lane in mid-April when everything he touched turned to gold as the Merseysiders were humiliated to the tune of 7-2... this being sweet revenge for Spurs who had been whipped 5-2 at Anfield three days earlier.
Greaves eventually set the new – and still existing - record when he fired home in a 4-2 win over Sheffield United on 4 May 1963. Surprisingly, he then failed to score in the remaining three games, when only one point was gained. Four would have given Spurs the championship.
Spurs made history on another front in 1962-63 when they won the European Cup-winner’s Cup, thrashing Atletico Madrid, 5-1 in the final. The star of the night was not Greaves who scored twice, but darting midget left-winger Terry Dyson, who ran the Spanish defence ragged.
In 1963-64, Greaves notched another 35 goals in 41 League matches, to once again finish as the First Division’s leading marksman. He claimed four well-taken hat-tricks in resounding wins over the club he loved playing against Nottingham Forest (4-1), Blackpool (6-1), Birmingham City (6-1) and Blackburn Rovers (4-1). He also struck twice (once from the spot) in a 4-2 win at Wolves, did likewise in the 4-2 victory at Villa Park, played his part with a splendid goal in a thrill-a-minute 4-4 draw with Arsenal at Highbury in front of a near 68,000 crowd, beat Fulham on his own (1-0), did the same thing against Stoke City (netting twice to seal a 2-1 win), tucked away the winner against Nottingham Forest (2-1) and denied West Brom victory with two fine individual efforts in a 4-4 draw at The Hawthorns.
During the second half of the season, his goals earned full points off Blackpool (2-0), Aston Villa (3-1), Arsenal (3-1), Birmingham City (2-1) and Bolton (1-0); his penalties in the games against the Gunners and Blues being so vital. He also played his heart out, scored, all to no avail in a devastating 7-2 defeat at Burnley.
Cliff Jones (14 goals) and Bobby Smith (13) followed Greaves home in the scoring charts this season.
And it was Jones (13), Alan Gilzean (11) and Frank Saul (11) who assisted Greaves (29) in 1964-65 when, for the second season running, he was the top striker, this time jointly with the Blackburn striker Andy McEvoy, in the First Division.
Perhaps not as strong as they had been in the previous three seasons, Spurs were perhaps relying too much on Greaves’ goals... but he did the business and the fans loved him!
Once again keeping himself free from injury – surprising this for a striker – this was the third season running Greaves had missed only one League game. He scored in three of the first five games, missed the sixth and then netted twice at West Ham (lost 3-2) and in home wins over Stoke City (2-1) and West Brom (1-0). Further strikes followed in home wins over Fulham (3-0), Arsenal (3-1), Sunderland 3-0, Aston Villa (4-0) and Sheffield Wednesday (3-2), in successive victories over Nottingham Forest (2-1 away and 4-0 at home) and draws at Liverpool (1-1) and Sheffield United (3-3) and at home to Everton (2-2). Into the New Year his double helped see off the FA Cup holders West Ham (3-2) and in mid-March he netted a spanker in a 4-1 win over Blackpool before netting twice in a 5-2 roasting of Blackburn and doing likewise in a last-match 6-2 tonking of Leicester City. All good stuff as far as Greaves was concerned, but his efforts were in vain as Spurs floundered to finish sixth in the Division, their lowest placing since 1958-59.
The goals were hard to come by for Greaves in 1965-66, only 15 scored. He was also part of England’s World Cup-winning squad, but sustained a minor injury which let in Geoff Hurst at the quarter-final stage. The rest is history.
Greaves, in fact, had been taken ill with hepatitis B after scoring twice in a 2-1 League win over West Bromwich Albion on 30 October and did not reappear in the Spurs side until the end of January when he converted a penalty in a 4-0 win over Blackburn Rovers.
The oddest game during the 1965-66 season was the 5-5 draw with Aston Villa. It wasn't funny at the time, however! When the second-half started, Spurs held a 5-1 lead and were cruising to victory. With ten minutes of the game remaining, Tony Hateley equalised to make it 5-5 and in the dying seconds Villa missed an open goal!
Greaves weighed in with another 25 League goals in 1966-67 as Spurs finished third in the League, behind Manchester United and Nottingham Forest. He also netted six goals in the FA Cup which Spurs won by beating Greaves’ former club, Chelsea in the final.
Wow, in 1967-68 Greaves scored only 23 League goals! He followed up however, with a haul of 27 in 1968-69 to become the First Division’s top man for the sixth time – a feat never achieved before or since.
This was to be Greaves’ last full season at White Hart Lane, and in the game against Leicester City in October he scored the ‘best goal’ of his entire career. Unfortunately there were no TV cameras to capture the moment but those who saw it will surely agree it was something special. ‘Keeper Pat Jennings booted the ball out to the wing where Greaves had wandered. He killed the ball dead, spun round and was away before his marker had realised where he’d gone. He glided past four defenders, even rounded the referee, drew Peter Shilton and stroked the ball into the net. Shear perfection. He netted twice more against the Foxes in a 3-1 win.
Prior to that ‘special occasion’ he had already knocked in nine goals in eleven games including a hat-trick in a 7-0 drubbing of Burnley at White Hart Lane. Soon after his exploits against Leicester, he swept home two grand efforts to beat Liverpool 2-1 in London and earned a point against Stoke City (1-1) before going goal crazy again, this time with a four-timer in a brilliant 5-1 home victory over Sunderland on a freezing cold day in mid-November. He netted at Southampton in his next game (1-2) but after this the ‘goal king’ couldn’t do a thing right! He was absent from the scoresheet in each of the next seven League games (only one of which ended in a victory) before obliging in a 1-1 draw with QPR. Still the goals were at a premium – only one scored, a penalty v. Ipswich Town, in his next eight outings, but he ended on a high, scoring in four consecutive matches during April including two in a 4-3 triumph at West Brom and the winner in the London derby v. West Ham (1-0).
His four FA Cup and five League Cup goals proved worthless, with defeat in the semi-final of the latter competition being something Greaves found hard to forget. In an earlier round he had netted his first-ever League Cup hat-trick v. Exeter City (won 6-3).
After Greaves had netted eight League goals in 29 games during the first two-thirds of 1969-70, Spurs’ manager Bill Nicholson stunned the fans by using his champion and record goalscorer as a makeweight in a £200,000 player-exchange deal that brought Martin Peters to White Hart Lane from West Ham. Greaves had notched an amazing total of 306 goals in 440 first-team games for Spurs, including 220 in 322 League outings and 46 in 59 Cup matches.
He spent just one season with the Hammers (13 goals) before winding down his career with Barnet, Chelmsford City, Brentwood Town and Woodford Town, finally calling it a day in 1976. During a wonderful career Greaves scored no less than 554 goals in 750 games for clubs and country. He netted 44 times in 57 full internationals for England (1959-67) struck 13 in 12 U23 matches, three more for an England XI, five in 10 Inter-league games, one for the Rest of The World and six in two youth internationals.
He went on to become a popular pundit, hosting the ITV Saturday lunchtime soccer programme (Saint and Greavsie) with ex-Liverpool star Ian St John. He also wrote a column in a national newspaper, travelled round the south-east on the after-dinner speaking circuit, appeared in the theatre and co-wrote (with the help of some expert journalists) some excellent books.