NORMAN GILLER’S SPURS ODYSSEY BLOG No 374
Submitted by Norman Giller
I struggled to handle the passing yesterday of Jimmy Greaves, though I had been expecting it – even wishing for it – for several years, ever since his paralysing stroke of 2015 robbed him of any decent quality of life.
It was torture watching my close pal of nearly 65 years become the prisoner of a wheelchair, and it got to the point where our conversations when I used to visit him in his elegant Essex bungalow centred on how I could assist him in leaving this mortal coil.
I say conversations. He was reduced to strangled comments as one of the wittiest men ever to cross my path struggled to express himself. It was like watching a great classical pianist trying to play with the lid closed.
What a cruel way for him to end what had been a glorious life during which he brought sunshine into the lives of millions, first with his football and then his televised wit on Saint and Greavsie.
In between he had five lost years when alcohol got the better of him, but he had the character and discipline to beat it and then reinvent himself as a TV celebrity and national treasure.
It was the woman behind the man who must take all the credit for rescuing Jimmy from the clutches of the bottle – his wonderful wife, Irene, who divorced him to bring him to his senses and then took him back and eventually remarried him once he had proved he could lead a sober existence. A great film there, folks, for any producers looking in. You couldn’t make it up.
‘He was the love of my life for 63 years,’ Irene told me yesterday. ‘To be honest, his passing is a blessing because he was in very poor health after his stroke. I’m just glad he died in his own bed and close to me. He would have wanted it that way, not somewhere with strangers.’
I don’t have to repeat Jimmy’s footballing achievements here on friendly territory where you will know his records better than he did. What I will do for those too young to have seen him play – it is more than 50 years since he wore a Tottenham shirt – is point out that when you are watching Lionel Messi, it is like an action replay of Jimmy at his best.
The way Messi runs at defences (cunning running, I call it), the way he changes pace and direction, and above all the way he finishes – passing the ball into the net – is pure Greavsie.
The close control is identical, the sudden acceleration, the ability to shoot with either foot, the same low gravity and perfect balance. It’s all a flashback for me to “Our Jim”, who scored a record 357 goals in the old First Division, 220 of them for Tottenham and 266 counting cup goals. Messi has been even more prolific, but he has never had to experience the violent interruption from defenders like “Chopper” Harris, Norman “Bites Yer Legs” Hunter and “Anfield Iron” Tommy Smith.
And could he have done it on the mudheap pitches on which Jimmy’s generation played. He often told me that the major difference between then and now was the surfaces on which they slogged for much of each season … ‘and I wouldn’t mind coming back for just one week’s hundred-grand wages, more than I earned in my career.’
If you think my memory is deceiving me about the Greaves ability, take yourself to YouTube and enjoy the feast, particularly watching him on the way to a goal against Man United that opened the Match of the Day titles until the dawn of colour television.
Spurs fans may not like me saying this but it’s a fact that his most dazzling goals came when he was wearing a Chelsea shirt and playing with the gay abandonment of youth (“gay” had an innocent connotation in those black and white days). Sadly, few of his Chelsea crackers were captured on film or tape, but ask anybody who was around at the time and they will confirm that many of them were magical. His more mature performances came with the golden Spurs side of the ‘60s, and his G-Men partnership with Alan Gilzean was from the footballing heavens.
Jimmy scored the little matter of a then club record 124 league goals for Chelsea (includ-ing three five-goal hauls) before he was 21. Later, he helped himself to 220 league goals for Tottenham and had hung up his shooting boots by the time he was 31 after scoring those all-time record 357 first division goals. Figuratively speaking, he was unbeatable.
When television decided his face no longer fitted (the idiots) he then went back to the drawing board and turned himself into a brilliant stand-up comedian and raconteur in a series of road shows with his long-time agent Terry Baker. He was an astonishing man, who refused to allow chronic dyslexia to handicap him.
But most of all the nation will remember him for goals rarely bettered on the playing fields of England, and it was at the old, much-loved White Hart Lane that he conjured some of the best in his collection.
It seems trivial talking about Jimmy’s goals at a time when Irene and her family are mourning the loss of a husband, father, granddad and great granddad, and my thoughts and sympathy are with sons Danny and Andy and daughters Lyn and Mitzi and their multitude of grand and great grandchildren. Jimmy had a very full life.
And to think that the stinking Establishment could not stretch to a knighthood. Who will hold my coat while I bash a few stuck-up noses?
You might have noticed I have not mentioned the little matter of yesterday’s London derby between Jimmy’s two favourite former clubs, Tottenham and Chelsea. He would have held his fingers to his nose over Tottenham’s second-half display, but applauded Chelsea’s change of tactics and direction that eventually brought them a resounding victory (as reported here by our Spurs guru Paul H. Smith, a true Jimmy disciple). (Ed: This match report is by Declan Mulcahy).
It’s going to be a long, long season for we Spurs supporters. Next (after Wolves in the League Cup) the NLD. It’s still a funny old game, Jimbo.
How we could do with a flurry of Greavsie-style goals. Sadly, they are now strictly for the memory.
We were so lucky that he passed our way. Rest easy, master.
The sixth week of season eight of the Spurs Odyssey Quiz League challenge, and the question is:
Who won an FA Cup, two League Cups and a Uefa Cup with Spurs, 22 international caps spread between two clubs, and with which team did he start his senior career?
Please email your answer to me at email@example.com and make the subject heading Quiz Week 6. Deadline: midnight this Friday. I will do my best to respond to all who take part.
The rules are the same as in the previous seven seasons. I ask a two-pronged question with three points at stake – two for identifying the player and one for the supplementary question. In the closing weeks of the competition I break the logjam of all-knowing Spurs-history experts with a tie-breaking poser that is based on opinion rather than fact. That’s when I become as popular as Sol Campbell in an Arsenal shirt.
This year’s prizes for the champion: A rare out-of-print book from my now very special Greavsie collection with autographs from the late, great Jimmy Greaves, Dave Mackay and Steve Perryman, and, most important of all, a framed certificate announcing the win-ner as SOQL champion 2022. Plus a signed copy of My 70 Years of Spurs book and a special bonus prize that I will announce later in the season.
Answer to question 5: Who has won six international caps, made his Spurs Prem-ier League debut in a 6-1 away win and with which club did he win a Europa League Cup final medal before joining Tottenham?
Sergio Reguilon who collected his Europa League Cup final medal while on loan from Real Madrid with Sevilla. It was Man United and Old Trafford where he made that memorable debut.
See you back here same time, same place next week after the NLD! COYS!
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