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Jimmy Greaves

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 22 Mar 2013 | comments*Discuss

England Caps: 57

Goals: 44

Player: 1959 - 1967

Jimmy Greaves it seems will be remembered more for the match he didn’t play in, the 1966 Word Cup final, than the many matches that he played and scored in. Greaves had a dramatic eight-year period as England’s first choice striker, playing as an inside-right; what we would recognise today as a playing just behind a main striker or centre-forward. He used his pace, both in thought and movement, coupled with superb ball control and dribbling, to instinctively reach the ball before defenders time and time again.

Scoring Debuts

Londoner Greaves made his debut for Chelsea in 1957, and scored, just as he would on almost every debut from then on. He caught the eye of the FA International Selection Committee and was selected for a tour of the Americas in 1959, scoring on his debut in a 1-4 defeat by Peru in Lima. That was the only goal he scored on that tour, but within a year he was a regular in the team and scoring like there was no tomorrow.


He was a mercurial player, often quiet but then suddenly exploding into life with a flash of brilliance. The first hat-trick came against Luxembourg in a 9-0 win, a qualifier for the 1962 World Cup in Chile. To prove it wasn’t a fluke he scored his second hat-trick against Scotland six months later, and then a third in a 4-0 friendly defeat of Peru in Lima, revenge for the 1959 match.

1962 World Cup

At the tournament England were lacklustre as poor preparations took their toll on the team. The highlight for Greaves, apart from a poacher’s goal in the group stage win against Argentina, was his success in capturing a dog that ran on to the pitch in the quarter-final against Brazil, a match that England lost 1-3.

Top Goal

With England being knocked out of the 1964 European Championship in the first round the path was clear to the 1966 World Cup tournament where England, as hosts, did not have to qualify. In a friendly against Norway just beforehand, Greaves scored four of the six goals, one of them coming in at number 26 in a 2005 poll of the fifty greatest England goals, voted for by Sky viewers. It was described as “a meticulously-aimed yet well-hit volley from a narrow angle after a clever one-two movement which outstripped the defence”.

1966 World Cup

At the 1966 World Cup tournament, Greaves was ever-present in the team until he was injured in the last group game against France and had to sit out the second round match against Argentina, being replaced by Geoff Hurst.

Hurst scored the winner and retained his place for the semi-final against Portugal, but by the time the final came round, the press were aware that Greaves was fit, and the clamour began for him to be re-instated. Ramsey, as ever, would not be dictated to by anybody, let alone the press. Hurst was a solid and dependable player without Greaves’ flair, but he fitted the style that Ramsey wanted to play and was more of a team player, so he stayed, and the rest is history.


Although Greaves states that he didn’t think his place was his for granted, and that he was pleased for the team, pictures of him sitting on the bench while everyone around him celebrated told a different story. He immediately packed and went on holiday rather than join in the functions with the rest of the squad.

Greaves was restored to the team for the next three matches but that was his lot, Hurst had replaced him as first choice. Despite this, Greaves still made an appearance at the 1970 World Cup when he was offered a drive in the London to Mexico rally that coincided with the tournament.

Mexico Cameo

Driving through Bogota at the same time that Bobby Moore had been arrested for a suspected jewellery theft, Greaves climbed over the wall into the British Embassy to find Moore in the courtyard. Greaves immediately ordered beers for them both.

Record Breaker

Greaves' goal-scoring feats are the stuff of legends. His tally of 44 puts him in third place in the all-time England goal charts, behind Bobby Charlton and Gary Lineker, but his goals per game average is far better than either of those two. In the 1960-61 season, he scored eleven goals in five games, and in the middle of that period, scored seven in three matches. And he still holds the record, at six, for the most hat-tricks by an England player.

After a well-publicised battle with alcoholism, Greaves built a successful television career, including the cult Saturday lunchtime show, “Saint and Greavsie” with Ian St John, and is very popular on the after-dinner speaker circuit.

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