Greaves was one of England’s best ever and a bit like Messi – remember his genius

first_imgTHE only wonder is that this new film ever needed to be made… that a modern audience had to be reminded of the man’s greatness.England’s finest goalscorer, an A-list TV celebrity, an incomparable raconteur, and a man who spoke fearlessly about the horrors of alcoholism decades before such subjects were widely discussed.5 Jimmy Greaves is still under-appreciated, but is one of England’s best everCredit: PA:Empics Sport5 Jimmy Greaves ought to be uttered in the same breath as Messi and RonaldoCredit: Getty5 Greaves, right, infamously missed out on the 1966 World Cup final through injuryCredit: PA:Press AssociationAnd yet Jimmy Greaves — whose extraordinary life is the subject of “Greavsie”, the latest in the acclaimed BT Sport Films series — remains somewhat under-appreciated.He has never been recognised in any Honours list, is often remembered as the man who missed out on England’s 1966 World Cup triumph, rather than one of his nation’s all-time greats and is sometimes regarded as merely a knockabout figure of light- entertainment fun.So Greaves needs and deserves such comprehensive documentary treatment, to shine light on his brilliance as a footballer and as a man.Greaves turns 80 next year, his quality of life severely affected by a major stroke in 2015 which has left him struggling to walk or talk.Tottenham — the club with whom he enjoyed his greatest success, but with whom he had endured a frosty relationship for years — have been unstinting in their help and support for their all-time leading scorer during his years of ill health.But his landmark birthday is a good opportunity to be reminded of his true worth, with accounts from team-mates and football greats.The pity is that Greaves was unable to give a contemporary interview for this film, because — while in good health — he was a wonderfully vivid storyteller and the warmest of men.During countless hours of conversations as Jim’s ghostwriter for this and other newspapers, it was my privilege to hear many of football’s legends brought to life.ACCA WITH LADBROKES Pick up a whole load of acca features to help you land the big oneIn Jim’s company, saints were so often made flesh.He’d witnessed Bobby Charlton constantly haranguing referees, Stanley Matthews selling black-market cigarettes, Pele laying out an Argentinian defender with a mighty headbutt.There was barely a post-war footballing legend you could mention without Greaves knowing a killer story about them.His greatest friends included Bobby Moore and George Best and his anecdotes were so extensive and fascinating, he allowed you to feel as if you knew these legends personally.Greaves the footballer is often referred to as, almost exclusively, a poacher of goals.But as his fellow Tottenham great Glenn Hoddle tells BT Sport: “Some of his goals, you can see Lionel Messi, his quick feet and the way he went into the penalty area, but he was more of a natural finisher than anyone I think I’ve ever seen.”Greaves’ raw stats are remarkable — 44 goals in 57 England internationals and the leading goalscorer in the history of English top-flight football by a country mile with 357.Until Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo came along, no man had scored more goals in Europe’s elite five leagues.5 Jimmy Greaves is the subject of BT Sport’s latest filmCredit: GettyAs Gary Lineker told BT: “I always think that it must be tough, knowing you were that good — and his numbers were extraordinary.“It’s a shame there’s not more footage. He was a very special talent, Jimmy, and deserves to be remembered as one of the very, very best English footballers, let alone strikers.”Talking to Greaves about his goalscoring heyday, you were struck by an unlikely combination of supreme self-awareness and genuine humility.He knew exactly how good he was, as he let on with a common quip from his theatre shows: “I had a goal drought once — it was the worst 15 minutes of my career.”In many ways, Greaves’ post-football life was more extraordinary than his playing career.He spent most of the 70s battling alcoholism — being told he was no longer wanted by Spurs in 1970 hit him harder than missing out on the ’66 final — but has not touched alcohol in the last four decades.The honesty of the book he wrote with Norman Giller, This One’s On Me, and the subsequent TV documentary, Just For Today, were hugely influential and inspirational to others suffering similar problems.5 Greaves’ post-football life was more extraordinary than his playing careerCredit: GettyMOST READ IN FOOTBALLTHROUGH ITRobbie Keane reveals Claudine’s father was ’50-50′ in coronavirus battleTOP SELLERGavin Whelan has gone from League of Ireland to David Beckham’s InstagramPicturedAN EYEFULMeet Playboy model and football agent Anamaria Prodan bidding to buy her own clubExclusiveRIYAD RAIDMan City’s Riyad Mahrez has three luxury watches stolen in £500,000 raidI SAW ROORodallega saw Rooney ‘drinking like madman’ & Gerrard ‘on bar dancing shirtless’NEXT STEPJonny Hayes set to move to English Championship having been let go by CelticREF RELEASEDChampions League ref Vincic released by cops after arrest in prostitution raidKEANE DEALEx Man United youth ace David Jones says Roy Keane negotiated a contract for himREF RAIDChampions League ref Vincic ‘arrested in raid into drugs and prostitution ring’NICE RONCristiano Ronaldo goes on family bike ride with partner Georgina Rodriguez & kidsThey paved the way for Greaves to become a treasured TV personality — with Ian St John on Saint and Greavsie and on the TV-am sofa as a television critic.In latter years, Greaves continued to speak about his demons with disarming starkness without ever taking himself seriously.More frequently, he spoke about football with rare bluntness, simplicity and insight. He is one of a kind and a man who ought to be treasured.*GREAVSIE will premiere at 8pm on BT Sport 1 on February 8, 2020. It is the latest in the award-winning BT Sport Films series. See for info.This week’s Maverick Monday is Chelsea and Spurs star Jimmy Greaveslast_img read more

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