Irish Examiner View: Greavsie RIP

The funny old game has lost one of it's greatest sons
Irish Examiner View: Greavsie RIP

A big screen pays tribute to former England player Jimmy Greaves, who died at the of 81 on Sunday morning.

For a certain generation Jimmy Greaves was the embodiment of soccer’s transition from a post-war austerity era where the game was played in baggy shorts to a continental obsession to a mainstay of TV and into the worldwide megabucks industry of today. He also happened to be one of its greatest and most elegant goalscorers with a pan-European record which was only surpassed by Cristiano Ronaldo in recent years.

Greaves, an Essex boy who made his reputation in West London, was one of the first to swap the domestic game for Italy alongside other pioneers such as John Charles, Denis Law, Joe Baker and Gerry Hitchens.

Like a number of emigres he couldn’t settle and returned to play for Tottenham Hotspur for a fee of £99,999, chosen by his manager Bill Nicholson so that Greaves would not be burdened with the title of the “world’s first £100,000 player.” While his goal-machine record speaks for itself, it was in TV, in partnership with his sparring partner Ian St John of Liverpool, who died in March, that he won over a whole new generation. Their Saint and Greavsie TV show established the paradigm for televisual punditry with chippy humour and knowledge which made everyone feel like an insider.

It also brought him financial benefits which his mastery of the game never delivered and assisted him to recover from a devastating slide into alcoholism after his playing days ended. He was finally granted a World Cup Winners medal in 2009 which he later had to sell to pay for his medical care after a serious stroke. That was a modern ending to an old story.

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