Quick Off The Mark: How Jimmy Greaves Became A Goal Scoring Great

Deadly finisher boasted an amazing goal-scoring record
07:00, 24 Aug 2019

Goal machine Jimmy Greaves was never one to rest on his laurels; finding the net on his debut for all of the English clubs he played for, not to mention his country, in an illustrious 23-year career which began on August 24, 1957.

A 17-year-old Greaves scored on his first appearance for Chelsea against Tottenham Hotspur in a 1–1 draw at White Hart Lane and went on to repeat that feat with England's Under-23s, the England senior side, AC Milan, Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United.

Born in Essex in 1940, James Peter Greaves would become one of the greatest goal scorers in the history of English football while his incredible ability to find the net saw him make a name for himself across Europe too and he remains the highest scorer in the history of English top-flight football.

Handed his debut on the opening day of the 1957/58 season Greaves struck five minutes from time to score his first Chelsea goal and from that moment never looked back, going on to enjoy a goal-filled four-season spell in the side which ensured his legendary status at the club to this day.

Greaves himself would be the first to admit that he didn’t score too many spectacular goals; but instead relied on his incredible dribbling ability and a natural instinct when it came to finding the net - his playing style was once described as the football equivalent of closing the door on a Rolls Royce.

Between making his goal-scoring Chelsea debut in 1957 and his final game for West Ham in 1971, Greaves scored an eye-watering 422 goals in 602 club appearances, an achievement which makes him one of the greatest players England has ever produced.

Greaves hit 100 league goals for Chelsea before his 21st birthday and, despite only spending four seasons at Chelsea, sits seventh in their all-time scoring charts with 132 goals in 169 games while the 41 goals he scored in the 1960-61 season remains a top-flight record for the Blues.

His clinical finishing meant his talents soon become noticed across the continent and Greaves became one of the few players to ply their trade in Europe at the time when he joined AC Milan in 1961, though things didn’t work out in Italy and he soon came home to take out his frustrations on First Division defenders once more; but not before scoring nine goals in 12 games.

In December 1961 he joined Tottenham for £99,999 and took no time to settle under legendary manager Bill Nicholson, scoring a hat-trick on his debut against Blackpool and striking up a deadly partnership with Bobby Smith.

The fearsome marksman would end up netting 266 times during a glorious nine-year stint at Tottenham, becoming their all-time leading scorer and winning two FA Cups and a European Cup Winners’ Cup in the process.

When it came to his international career, the goals flowed just as readily for England and having scored two in his first appearance for the Three Lions in a 6–2 win over Bulgaria at Stamford Bridge on 25 September 1957, Greaves would go on to grab 44 goals for his country, meaning he sits just behind Bobby Charlton, Gary Lineker and Wayne Rooney in the scoring charts.

After stints with Brentwood, Chelmsford, Barnet and Woodford Town Greaves eventually hung-up his scoring boots in 1980 before pursuing a career in the media initially with a column for the Sun newspaper, which he wrote for 30 years, but also in television following a stint as an analyst at the 1982 World Cup in Spain.

He worked on World of Sport and On the Ball, where he struck up a partnership with Ian St John while he also worked as a television reviewer and presenter on TV-am but it was as co-host of popular Saturday lunchtime football programme Saint and Greavsie with St John that he will probably best be remembered.

However, despite finding fame off the field in more recent years, Jimmy Greaves is still regarded as one of the finest goal scorers the game has ever seen and remains one of the most prolific marksmen in Europe’s top leagues with his 366 goals cementing his place alongside the likes of Gerd Muller, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.  

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