Jimmy Greaves has been hailed as “the greatest England forward of all time” in a touching tribute by his former 1966 teammate Sir Geoff Hurst.
Tributes have been paid for the Spurs’ goalscoring hero, who battled dementia for several years and passed away at the age of 81.
Hurst, who replaced Greaves in the 1966 squad and scored a hat-trick in the final victory over West Germany, says Greaves was the greatest English forward of all time.
“There have been some great players but forwards are judged on the basis of goals and there is no one who can touch them,” he said.
“I was asked if there was any animosity between Jimmy and I, because I took his place? But not for a second.
“You hear the word genius, and that’s a word that applies to Jimmy.”
Spurs said in a statement: “We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of the great Jimmy Greaves.
“We extend our deepest condolences to Jimmy’s family and friends at this time of grief. Rest in peace, Jimmy.”
Greaves was one of the most prolific top flight goalscorers ever seen in English and world sport.
After retiring from the sport he pursued a second career on TV, presenting the hugely popular ‘Saint and Greaves’ football show alongside Ian St. John, who himself died earlier this year.
Soon after his death was announced, tributes began to pour in by football players past and present.
Current Spurs and England striker Harry Kane paid tribute to “one of the true legends and great goalscorers”.
Arsenal legend Ian Wright explained how he was urged to imitate Greaves as a youngster.
He tweeted, “First football player name I heard from my teacher. ‘No ian! Finish like Jimmy Greaves’. Peace be upon him.”
England manager Gareth Southgate said it would be a tribute to Greaves when the team plays Hungary at Wembley next month.
“Jimmy Greaves was a man who was admired by all who loved football, regardless of club allegiance,” he said.
“I had the privilege of meeting Jimmy’s family at Tottenham Hotspur last year as the club celebrated his 80th birthday. My thoughts are with him and I know the whole sport will mourn his passing.”
There have been some great players, but forwards are judged by goals, and there is no one who can touch them
Sir Geoff Hurst
“Jimmy certainly deserves to be on any list of England’s best players, given his status as one of our greatest goalscorers and his role in our 1966 World Cup success.”
Greaves suffered a stroke in May 2015, which left him wheelchair bound and severely impaired in speech.
Tottenham said he had died at home on Sunday morning.
The club paid tribute to Greaves’ “unprecedented strike rate”.
Despite retiring from the professional game at the age of 31, he was England’s highest top-flight goalscorer by country miles, which made him even more notable.
Greaves was the leading scorer in the English top flight in six different seasons.
He also holds the all-time record of 366 goals scored in Europe’s top five leagues, which lasted at least 46 years.
It was only captured by Cristiano Ronaldo during Real Madrid’s impressive 2016-17 campaign.
Yet he was not the only target machine, notable only for its avalanche of figures.
He was also a much-loved TV presenter, a professional TV critic, a stand-up comedian, a highly talented anecdotal and an inspirational fighter against alcoholism.
‘No one can touch her’
James Peter Greaves, the son of a tube driver, was born on 20 February 1940 in Manor Park, east London.
He was a teenage sensation at Chelsea and a brief time at AC Milan was an early pioneer overseas.
But he is perhaps best known as an insatiable goal-scorer during the nine years at Tottenham where he would win two FA Cups.
He was also part of the first British team to win a European trophy when Spurs won the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1963.
Greaves was an excellent dribbler who was capable of Messi-esque individual effort, yet elevated target hunting to an art form.
While his England scoring record was excellent, Greaves would be a spectator to the greatest game in his country’s history, the 1966 World Cup final, following a shin injury in the final group match against France.
For the quarter-finals, he was replaced by Geoff Hurst, who scored the winner against Argentina.
When Greaves was only approaching full fitness by the time of the final against West Germany, Alf Ramsey stuck with Hearst and the rest was history.
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