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Jimmy Greaves: Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and England legend dies aged 81

·4 min read

Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and England legend Jimmy Greaves has died aged 81.

During an illustrious playing career, the striker scored 382 times in 579 club appearances.

The 366 goals he scored in England and Italy's top flights were a record for the top five European leagues until they were finally eclipsed by Cristiano Ronaldo during Real Madrid's 2016-17 campaign.

Greaves was part of England's 1966 World Cup winning squad, and remains fourth on the Three Lions' all-time top goalscorer list.

In just 57 appearances for his country, Greaves scored 44 times.

The Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust were among those that paid tribute, tweeting: "Terribly sad news. The greatest goal scorer of all time. On behalf of the Trust and our members, sincere condolences to Jimmy's family, friends and former colleagues. Rest in peace."

There will be minute's applause in honour of Greaves before kick-off in the Tottenham v Chelsea game at 4.30pm today.

Former Tottenham midfielder Jamie O'Hara told Sky Sports News: "We are going to be able to witness that (grief) today, everyone will see it, and an amazing round of applause for him."

Before moving to Tottenham, where he was their top ever scorer (220 goals) during his 321 appearances for the club between 1961 and 1970, he had played for Chelsea for four seasons between 1957 and 1961, scoring 125 times in 157 appearances.

Greaves, commonly known by his nickname Greavsie, did not feature in England's final victory over West Germany in 1966, after he suffered a nasty injury in the last group match against France.

But he played in all the group stage matches, helping the team progress to their greatest footballing achievement.

Having not been given a medal at the time, as only those who played in the final received one, he and the rest of the squad were presented with medals by former PM Gordon Brown in 2009.

He was also given an MBE in the 2021 New Year Honours list for services to football, in recognition of his role in the 1966 triumph.

Greaves played for AC Milan for a few months in 1961 and after leaving Tottenham, went on to play for West Ham United, Brentwood, Chelmsford City, Barnet and Woodford Town.

But it was for a generation who grew up watching football on television that he is almost as well known for his on-screen work, as a pundit and especially for his partnership with ex-Scotland international Ian St John, on ITV's World of Sport and the Saint and Greavsie programme between 1985 and 1992.

Tottenham said Greaves, who suffered a stroke in May 2015 which left him wheelchair-bound and with severely impaired speech, died at home on Sunday morning.

The Premier League club said in a statement: "We are extremely saddened to learn of the passing of the great Jimmy Greaves, not just Tottenham's record goalscorer but the finest marksman this country has ever seen.

"Throughout his wonderful playing career, Jimmy's strike rate was phenomenal."

Other teams he played for, including West Ham United, Brentford and England paid tribute, along with the English Football League and FIFA.

England captain and Tottenham star Harry Kane tweeted: "RIP Jimmy Greaves. A true legend and one of the great goalscorers. Thoughts are with his family and friends."

England manager Gareth Southgate said: "Jimmy certainly deserves inclusion in any list of England's best players... We will pay tribute to his memory at our home match with Hungary at Wembley Stadium next month."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted: "Sad to hear the news about Jimmy Greaves. He will be remembered as a goalscoring legend and one of the greats of English football. My thoughts are with his family, friends and fans."

At one point in his career, Greaves was so famous and well renowned that in 1964, John Lennon, at the height of Beatlemania, stopped a Beatles concert in the middle of their set at the London Palladium after spotting him in the crowd to acknowledge his presence.

But, amid his fame, he struggled with alcoholism, later saying it was the death of his and his wife Irene's infant second child, Jimmy Junior, that had a profound effect on him.

At its worst, he said he would "drink up to 20 pints of beer in the course of a day, go home, then drink a whole bottle of vodka before going to bed".

He quit drinking in 1978 after it caused a break in his marriage and led to financial problems, but after being forced to make ends meet by selling women's jumpers and living in a one-bedroom flat in Wanstead, east London, he reinvented himself by becoming a TV star and familiar to a new generation of fans.

Together with Irene, with whom he renewed his vows in 2017, he is survived by the couple's four remaining children, Lynn, Mitzi, Danny and Andrew.

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