NORMAN GILLER’S SPURS ODYSSEY BLOG No 163
Submitted by Norman Giller
As the excitement of reaching the quarter-finals of the FA Cup sinks in, I know that Tottenham fans everywhere will join me in wishing a happy 77th birthday to the greatest goalscorer in English football history, Spurs legend Jimmy Greaves.
I have passed on the love of all Spurs supporters to Jim, who is touched and grateful that he is in our thoughts. “Thank you,” he told me in a voice slowed by his severe 2015 stroke. “It means a lot to me.”
To be brutally honest, he shows little interest in football these days as he battles from his wheelchair for a decent quality of life. Surrounded by the love of Irene – his wife of nearly 60 years – their four grown children, a dozen grandkids and one great-grandchild, Jimmy is cocooned in a world far removed from the football scene in which he holds legendary status.
He remains Europe’s top post-war marksman with a haul of 366 League goals, 220 of them for Spurs. It is a record he will soon lose to the great Real Madrid master, Ronaldo. But the magician from Madeira has never had to go through iron-clad defences, with the likes of Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris and Norman ‘Bites Yer Legs’ Hunter waiting to kick him up in the air.
I promise it was much harder to score goals in Jimmy’s day, before forwards became protected by referees as the football gradually became much less a game of physical contact and more a challenge contest between the coaches.
If you think I am exaggerating, just watch the players studying graphs and diagrams before being sent on as substitutes. It is far too robotic to suit free-thinkers like the genius that was Greavsie.
And Jimmy, the goal gourmet, would have thrived on the loose interpretation of today’s off-side law, scoring in the blink of an eye like an Artful Dodger pick pocket pinching a handkerchief for Fagin.
When Spurs were drawn against Millwall yesterday after the Harry Kane flattening of Fulham I instantly thought of the G-Men, Greavsie and his silky-smooth sidekick Alan Gilzean. Back in 1967, the Lions of the Den took Tottenham to a third round replay before Spurs scraped to a 1-0 victory at the Lane … a Greaves shot blocked and Gilly on the spot to steer in the rebound.
It is all captured in my latest book SPURS ’67, which is introduced by goalkeeping goliath Pat Jennings and the famously feared ‘Chopper’ Harris, who at 22 was then the youngest Wembley captain when he led Chelsea against swashbuckling Dave Mackay’s Spurs.
Could history repeat itself with a re-run of the Spurs-Chelsea final in this Golden Anniversary year? It remains a teasing possibility.
I show no false modesty in trumpeting about the book, because profits are going to the Tottenham Tribute Trust that quietly helps old heroes like Our Jim as they hit difficult times.
You can order a signed copy here http://www.normangillerbooks.com/spurs-67/4554925859 and know that you are helping a great cause. It is the perfect present for Dads and (definitely) Granddads who remember the days when Spurs were FA Cup kings.
Their victory over Tommy Docherty’s elegant but unpredictable Chelsea side was the third time that Bill Nicholson led out a winning side at Wembley in those Swinging Sixties.
Our battle-scarred webmaster Paul Smith records yesterday’s Harry Kane hat-trick performance against Fulham here, getting a much-needed morale lift after his depressing journey to Belgium last week.
Along with the rest of us, he is looking for Spurs to be in avenging mood in Thursday’s return match at Wembley, with Tottenham having to make up a 1-0 deficit.
One person not showing close interest in the vital match is Greavsie, whose football recollections are now sadly just fleeting shadows.
But he has left us with golden memories that will warm us in old age, and I thank him on behalf of thousands of us for some of the greatest moments in our football-watching lives.
I reminded Jim that his 77th birthday marks 60 years since I first interviewed him when we were starting out on our careers, and it is now 20 books and hundreds of newspaper and TV scripts and interviews later, not forgetting his near-500 goals in all competitions. "Now look at the state of us," he said with a flash of his old humour. "It's been fun."
Happy birthday, King Jimmy.
Spurs Odyssey Quiz League, week 27
Spurs Odyssey Quiz League, week 27
This week’s mystery player:
“Born in Liverpool, I was a student at the London School of Economics before playing for three London clubs. Who am I and from which club did I join Spurs as a central defender in 1978?”
Email your answers, please, to SOQL27@normangillerbooks.com. Give your name, the district where you live and how long you’ve supported Spurs. I will respond, and will email a screen version of one of my Tottenham-themed books to the sender of the first all-correct answer drawn at random. Deadline is midnight on Friday.
Please keep a check on your points tally, because the contestant topping the SOQL table at the end of the season will receive a framed certificate announcing the winner as the 2016-17 Spurs Odyssey Quiz League champion. And the first three in the final table will win an autographed, hardback copy of my Bill Nicholson Revisited tribute book, PLUS a souvenir card signed by Spurs legends Jimmy Greaves and Steve Perryman.
The 26th teaser was:
“I have played 11 times for my country and was a regular in the Spurs side for 95 Premier League matches between 2008 and 2014. Which Tottenham manager signed me from PSV?”
A maximum three points in the SOQL table to those who answered Heurelho Gomes, signed in 2008 by manager Juande Ramos. On his day, Gomes was as good as any goalkeeper in the world but he made too many mistakes to be totally trustworthy. He has been an excellent last line of defence for Watford.
First name drawn at random from the correct answers is Eric Mills, from Headingley, a Spurs fanatic since growing up in Hornsey in the 1960s. I will be emailing Eric a screen version of one of my Tottenham-themed books.
As regular contestants will know, the SOQL League table is decided on facts up until the final weeks of the season. Then I introduce tie breaks based on opinions, which is when I lose friends and fail to influence people with my views.
But please remember, it is just for fun and helps us all refresh our knowledge on the history and the heroes of our great club.
Thanks for your company. See you same time, same place next week. COYS!
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