LONDON — Jimmy Greaves, one of England’s greatest goal-scorers who was prolific for Tottenham, Chelsea and AC Milan has died. He was 81.
With 266 goals in 379 appearances, Greaves was the all-time record scorer for Tottenham, which announced his death on Sunday.
“Throughout his wonderful playing career, Jimmy’s strike rate was phenomenal,” Tottenham said.
Greaves suffered a minor stroke in 2012 and his family thought he had made a full recovery until he was admitted to intensive care after a more severe stroke in May 2015.
An all-round striker equally adept with either foot or his head, Greaves scored 44 goals in just 57 matches for England.
But even though Greaves was the first player to lead scoring in England’s top league for three straight seasons and hit a record six hat-tricks for England, he is arguably best known for one game he missed — the World Cup final.
Greaves was England’s star striker going into the 1966 tournament on home soil but was injured in a first-round match against France and surrendered his place in the lineup to Geoff Hurst.
Hurst scored the only goal in the quarterfinal win over Argentina and kept his place in Alf Ramsey’s team at the expense of Greaves to earn lasting fame by scoring the first hat-trick in a World Cup final. Greaves famously sat impassively on the bench as England celebrated at the final whistle.
Substitutions were not permitted at the time and squad members didn’t receive medals, unlike at World Cups since 1974. A campaign led to Greaves and 10 other members of the squad — who were dubbed the “forgotten heroes” — receiving medals in 2009. But Greaves sold the 18-carat medal at auction in 2014 for 44,000 pounds ($60,000).
“It was devastating for me that I didn’t play in the final,” Greaves said in the Mail on Sunday newspaper in 2009. “I always believed that we would win the World Cup and I’d be part of it, but I wasn’t.
“It wouldn’t have been so important now because I would have been a substitute and probably would have got on.”
James Peter Greaves was born in east London on Feb. 20, 1940, and signed for Chelsea aged 17.
At 20 years and 290 days, he became the youngest player to reach 100 league goals in English soccer and scored a club-record 41 times in the 1960-61 season to secure a lucrative move to Milan.
He scored nine goals in 12 games but failed to settle in Italy. He ended his brief stay to return to London with Tottenham, where he would spend the next nine years and hit a club-record 266 goals in 380 games.
Manager Bill Nicholson, who had just guided Spurs to the league and cup double, paid 99,999 pounds for Greaves because he was keen to spare him the pressure of being England’s first 100,000-pound player.
The move apparently worked as Greaves scored a hat-trick in his opening match, a 5-2 win over Blackpool, and helped Tottenham retain the FA Cup.
Greaves was famous for being anonymous during matches before popping up to score a crucial goal.
“All Greaves did this afternoon was score four goals,” Nicholson once said.
Greaves made it into England’s squad for the 1962 World Cup in Chile, but his most famous deed during the tournament was when he caught a dog that ran onto the field during a match against Brazil. The animal then urinated on Greaves’ shirt, endearing itself to Brazil winger Garrincha — who kept it as a pet.
The following season, he scored twice in a 5-1 Cup Winners Cup win over Atletico Madrid, which made Tottenham the first British side to win a European trophy, and was the first division’s leading scorer — a feat he would repeat in 1964, ’65 and ’69.
Greaves switched to West Ham in 1970, with former England teammate Martin Peters moving the other way in a record 200,000-pound transfer, but retired at the end of the season after a record total of 357 goals in 516 league matches.
He made a brief comeback for non-league Barnet in 1978 but soon quit again and moved into television, where he co-presented the long-running Saturday show “Saint and Greavsie” in Britain with former Liverpool player Ian St. John.