Tottenham and Chelsea led the tributes to the former England striker Jimmy Greaves, who has died at the age of 81. Greaves suffered a stroke in May 2015 which has left him wheelchair-bound and with severely impaired speech and Tottenham said he had died at home on Sunday morning.
As traditional rivalries were put aside, a host of Spurs legends congregated on the pitch inside the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium before the Tottenham v Chelsea fixture earlier today, as a minute's applause was held before kick-off.
The life of record goalscorer Jimmy Greaves, as told by Dan Salisbury-Jones
Martin Chivers, Steve Perryman, Micky Hazard, Paul Allen, Ossie Ardiles, Gary Mabbutt, Graham Roberts and Michael Dawson were among the names present for the tribute.
During the warm-hearted applause, some Spurs fans held flags and were seen to be waving banners to remember the club's record goalscorer.
Adding to the tributes, the striker's former England team-mate Terry Paine said he would be “untouchable” in the scoring record books if he played today.
"You have to remember the conditions he had to play in, his balance was absolutely first class… Some of the pitches, you were up to your knees in mud and there he is skating like a ballerina," Paine told the PA news agency from his home in South Africa.“Think of the goals he would have scored today, particularly with the offside rules as they are. There were so many times when Jimmy was well onside but because of his quickness and sharpness he was always beyond the back four and given offside.
“Today he would have been untouchable as far as the goal ratio is concerned."
Greaves and Paine were both members of England’s 1966 World Cup-winning squad.
Greave's former spurs team-mate Alan Mullery told Sky Sports: “He was a wonderful, wonderful footballer, the best goalscorer to ever play. “He had to play (in an era) to stop people kicking lumps out of him, scored goals for fun, you’d be irritated that he’d not touched the ball and then bang, back of the net."
Gary Lineker, who is England's third all-time record goal scorer, described him as a "charismatic, knowledgeable, witty and warm man" who was possibly the greatest striker the country had produced.
Former team-mate Geoff Hurst was also among those to pay tribute to Greaves.
Tottenham FC said in a statement: “We are extremely saddened to learn of the passing of the great Jimmy Greaves, not just Tottenham’s record goalscorer but the finest marksman this country has ever seen. Jimmy passed away at home in the early hours of this morning, aged 81. “Throughout his wonderful playing career, Jimmy’s strike rate was phenomenal. His Spurs return was 266 goals in 379 appearances between 1961 and 1970 – 220 goals in 321 league games, 32 goals in 36 FA Cup ties, five in just eight League Cup ties and nine in 14 European matches.”
Greaves did not feature in the final victory over West Germany, but he scored 44 goals across 57 senior appearances for the Three Lions. His career began in the junior ranks at Chelsea and he turned professional in May 1957, scoring on his Blues debut and racking up 132 goals in total for the club. He remained at Stamford Bridge until 1961, when he moved to AC Milan. After a single season in Milan he joined Spurs in 1961 to play in Bill Nicholson’s successful side.
The Tottenham statement continued: “Although we had just won the ‘Double’, there’s no question that Jimmy’s arrival in N17 made us an even better team. “He was a natural goalscorer, always in the right place at the right time to add the finishing touch to another well-worked move, while he could also create his own goals, as he did on numerous occasions by gliding past defenders and passing the ball into the back of the net. “He possessed immaculate ball control, great balance and such composure in front of goal that he rarely spurned an opportunity.”
Reacting to Greaves’ death on Sky Sports News, former Tottenham midfielder Jamie O’Hara said: “We are going to be able to witness that (grief) today, everyone will see it, and an amazing round of applause for him (at Tottenham v Chelsea). “It’s not easy to build a legacy at a club, Jimmy was an icon, football legend, Spurs have been very lucky to have such a great player as part of their club. “A truly sad day to have lost someone so great. He is definitely a legend.”
Former Manchester United and England defender Rio Ferdinand tweeted: “Big loss to the footballing world.. sending my condolences to the Greaves family. “First autobiography I ever read! Inspiration.”
Greaves wound down his playing career with stints at West Ham and Barnet before starring alongside former Liverpool striker Ian St John in the popular ITV programme ‘Saint and Greavsie’ between 1985 and 1992, which saw him become a popular pundit.
After a long campaign for his England achievements of 1966 to be recognise, Greaves finally received a World Cup winners’ medal in 2009; five years later he sold it in an auction at Sotheby’s for £44,000.
In later life, Greaves endured health problems, including a minor stroke in 1992 from which he recovered, but it was followed by a serious stroke in May 2015 which saw him unconscious for six days in intensive care and later left in a wheelchair.