Harry Kane's 266: Why Jimmy Greaves Remains The Greatest Whatever The Stats

The legendary former striker can never be matched
14:00, 24 Jan 2023

Jimmy Greaves, like Harry Kane, was an England goalscoring legend. Jimmy Greaves, like Harry Kane, scored 266 goals for Tottenham Hotspur. Jimmy Greaves, though, was hundreds of things besides.

He was a winner, for a start. He might have made his Chelsea debut after the Blues’ 1955 league title success and then signed for Tottenham the winter following their 1961 championship win, but he won FA Cups, the Cup Winners’ Cup, Charity Shields and – by proxy but by right – was a World Cup winner with England too.

His instinct in front of goal was incredible, and for many he was the greatest English striker of all time. In his eight full seasons at White Hart Lane he scored 30 or more goals six times, and in one of the other two campaigns he hit 29. Nobody was as clinical as he was.


The great former Chelsea defender Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris told BT Sport after Jimmy’s death in September 2021: “If he was playing in modern day football today where defenders are not allowed to tackle, he would have scored a hatful. I think he’d score 60 a season in the modern day.”

As Kane gets set to surpass the legendary front man’s club record mark, it’s worth remembering the standard Greaves set. For a start, Kane is 29, similar to Greaves’ 30 when he scored the last of his Tottenham goals in 1970. But by that age Greaves had also scored 132 times for Chelsea and nine more in a curtailed spell with AC Milan.

He was even more prolific at international level, too. By July 20, 1966 he had netted 43 goals in 54 appearances for England at a rate only Nat Lofthouse has ever managed to better among men to have played at least 30 times for the Three Lions.

But it was on that day that Greaves was clattered by a France defender in the final Group 1 game of the World Cup, and when he was fit to return Alf Ramsey decided to stick with Geoff Hurst for the final. It was a moment which stuck with Greaves’ name forever.

“I was one of the few people who believed we would win it,” he later explained to the BBC. “What I never, ever thought was that we would win it without me in the side, that I wouldn’t actually be on that field in the final. And it was a tremendous blow to me.

“Naturally I wanted England to win, but other than that the overwhelming feeling was being probably the loneliest man in Wembley Stadium that particular day. All I really wanted to do that day after we’d won the World Cup was just go away and be alone.”

While he’d only play three more times for his country – scoring once – Greavsie continued to bang in the goals for Spurs, netting 96 over the next three seasons including 27 in the league in 1968-69 to make him the country’s top scorer for a sixth time. There is still no player who has led the nation for goals as often as Greaves did.

He had personality too. After an early retirement as alcoholism began to get the better of him away from the field, Greaves became one of British’s most respected pundits and presenters, teaming up with his old friend Ian St John to deliver one of the most beloved football programmes – Saint and Greavsie – the country has arguably ever known. Many a modern player knew of Greaves the character before learning of Greaves the great goal-getter.

Harry Kane will be Spurs’ all-time goalscoring leader sooner or later, even taking into account the two goals Greaves scored in the 1962 Charity Shield that the club themselves don’t seem to want to include in their stats. But Jimmy’s place in the Lilywhites’ history stands firm. A stunning 268 goals in 381 games at 0.7 per appearance might never be replicated, even accounting for the cleaner defensive tactics of the modern era.

Greaves could have scored goals in any generation. He was just that good.


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