Consent Preferences Spurs Odyssey - Norman Giller's Blog (No. 425 - 09.01.23)
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Norman Giller's Spurs Odyssey Blog (No. 425) (09.01.23)

Submitted by Norman Giller

The script has been written for Harry and Jim

Who on earth is writing Harry Kane's scripts? Only the football gods could have prepared a scenario in which he goes into a crucial North London Derby needing just one goal to equal the all-time club scoring record of the sainted Jimmy Greaves.

You can imagine his heavenly scriptwriter saying: 'Right, I've had him missing a vital penalty for England. That will turn everybody against him. Then I will get him finding the net in virtually every match after the World Cup and maybe, just maybe I'll have him scoring the winning goal against the Arsenal to stop them running away with the League championship …'

We wait anxiously for the next chapter in Harry's amazing adventure on Sunday following his crashing shot that saved Tottenham blushes against League One Portsmouth in the FA Cup on Saturday. You can read our guru Paul H. Smith's account of a best-forgotten match HERE. It was a hard watch, with Harry's goal – No 265 for Tottenham – the one bright moment in a sea of mediocrity.

Now they have drawn Preston at Deepdale in the fourth round and we all wonder if the FA Cup is the silverware that will help keep Antonio Conte at Tottenham during this season of uncertainty.

I have been asked by numerous people how Jimmy would have reacted to losing his record to Harry, and I respond that he would honestly have been delighted.

Records never meant a lot to Jim, who used to tell me whenever I reminded him of an approaching milestone: 'I'll leave you to do the counting, Norm. I'll concentrate on scoring …' It was never said with arrogance, but with a casualness that spoke volumes of his relaxed approach to the Beautiful Game.

He had lost the ability to express himself post-stroke when he got to meet Harry at the new Tottenham headquarters, but was able to make it clear that he wished Aitch good luck as he closed on his club record.

Harry, from a Spurs-loving family steeped in Tottenham history, showed full respect to Jim and said, sincerely, what a privilege it was to meet him and follow in his goal-scoring footsteps.

The two Legends loved each other.

The one Jimmy record that Harry will never be able to beat is his 357 First Division goals, simply because that old Division disappeared with the emergence of the Premier League in 1991-92. He had scored 200 goals by the time he was 23, a phenomenal output that will, I am convinced, never be beaten.

The Times asked me to compare Greaves and Kane before Saturday's Cup tie, and by popular demand – well, at least two people – I repeat the article here …

Jimmy Greaves v Harry Kane- an eyewitness verdict

As Harry Kane closes in on the Tottenham goal scoring record held by the late, great Jimmy Greaves, I find myself reassessing what is and isn't possible in this dramatically changing world of ours.

I witnessed the first and last of Greavsie's 266 goals for Spurs and was convinced he had created a club record that would never be challenged, let alone beaten.

Jim and I were close buddies for 64 years and combined on 20 books together, so Harry has to break through a barrier of bias. You need to be at least in your mid-60s to have seen Greaves at the peak of his powers.

Spurs fans get upset when I say that he was at his best with Chelsea, unhindered by coaching and playing everything off the cuff with the sweet innocence of youth. He scored the little matter of 132 goals in 169 games for the Blues, then another nine in a brief sojourn with AC Milan before starting his Spurs collection with a blistering hat-trick against Blackpool in 1961.

When I had the privilege of delivering the eulogy for Jimmy at his funeral in 2021, I claimed that he was "Messi, with bells on." I made the point that watching the Argentinian ace was like an action replay of Jimmy at his best. The way Messi runs at defences, 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 centre of 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. Messi has been even more prolific, but he never had to cope with physical interruptions from brutal defenders such as Ron "Chopper" Harris and Norman "Bites Yer Legs" Hunter, who were allowed and encouraged to tackle from behind, now thankfully outlawed.

And could Lionel have done it on the mudheap pitches on which Jimmy’s generation played? Jimmy often told me that the major difference between then and now was the surfaces: … and, of course, the money. "I wouldn’t mind coming back for just one week’s hundred-grand wages, more than I earned in a career," he used to tell me before a savage stroke cruelly robbed him of his speech and made his last six wheelchair years a living hell.

Now along comes modern scoring machine Kane, and he stands just two goals off equalling the Greavsie club record for Spurs as they face League One Portsmouth today at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in the third round of the FA Cup.

He got within shooting distance of the record with his two-goal blast against Crystal Palace on Wednesday. It has taken him 411 matches to the 380 that occupied Greaves in an era when defences were far less disciplined than in today's relatively sanitised game.

I was aware earlier than most that Harry was "a bit special." A wing of my East End family remains Millwall supporters and a cousin rang back in 2012 to ask: "Have Spurs gone mad, letting us have this kid Harry Kane on loan? He's better than anything you've got at Tottenham."

By then I was out of the closet as a committed Spurs supporter after hiding my bias during a long, cliché-cluttered sports writing career, including 38 successive years compiling the annual Sports Jumbo crossword here at The Times.

I kept an eye on Kane's progress, and – thanks largely to television – I have not missed one of his performances since he exploded on to the Premier League stage with Spurs in 2014.

He had been born on 28 July 1993 in the same Whipps Cross, Leytonstone, hospital as one of his heroes, David Beckham (Graham Gooch was also born in the same maternity ward two generations earlier, a trio of future England captains; not a lot of people know that). Jimmy's birth place in Manor Park on 20 February 1940 was just a 20 minute drive away around the North Circular. Take a bow, East London.

Comparing Harry with Jimmy is like measuring a battleship with a cruiser. Greavsie, a smidgeon over 5ft 7in and 10st 8lbs wet through, was all subtlety and style, tip toeing through defences and selling more dummies than Mothercare before steering the ball in-to the net as if passing to a team-mate. Harry, on nodding terms with 6ft 2in and a solid 15 stone, is a powerhouse who likes to make the net bulge. Both are two footed, Harry favouring the right, Jimmy the left. Jimmy wanted an aspirin after heading any of his goals with old leather balls that were not water resistant, while Harry rarely gets beaten in aerial challenges.

You can only compare them on goals output, and both have been masters at finding the net.

Jimmy will always be The Greatest of British marksmen in my biased eyes, but now along comes Kane who is proving more than able at the goal-scoring lark. With my Tottenham hat on, I admire them both. The verdict: a draw.

Spurs Odyssey Quiz League 2022-23

Week 19 of our ninth year of Spurs Odyssey Quiz League challenges:

Which former Spurs club captain played four times for England, was a League Cup winner although injured for the final and which team did he join from Tottenham in 2014?

Please email your answer to me at with Quiz Week 19 as the subject heading. Deadline midnight this Friday. I will respond to all who participate, taking time off from writing my next book: The G-Men, an intimate close-up of Greavsie and Gilzean.

The rules are the same as in previous 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 lose the few friends that I have. But, hey, it's fun. Please join in.

This year’s prizes for the champion will be announced later in the season, but most important of all, they will include a framed certificate announcing the winner as 2023 SOQL champion.

Last week … Week 18: Which former Spurs player had the middle names Dallas Fyfe, played 28 times for his country, ended his career in Canada and from which club did he join Tottenham?

Answer: Double-year goalkeeper Bill Brown who – like Alan Gilzean after him – joined Spurs from Dundee.

See you back here next Monday. COYS!

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