THE only wonder is that this new film ever needed to be made… that a modern audience had to be reminded of the man’s greatness.
England’s finest goalscorer, an A-list TV celebrity, an incomparable raconteur, and a man who spoke fearlessly about the horrors of alcoholism decades before such subjects were widely discussed.
And yet Jimmy Greaves — whose extraordinary life is the subject of “Greavsie”, the latest in the acclaimed BT Sport Films series — remains somewhat under-appreciated.
He has never been recognised in any Honours list, is often remembered as the man who missed out on England’s 1966 World Cup triumph, rather than one of his nation’s all-time greats and is sometimes regarded as merely a knockabout figure of light- entertainment fun.
So Greaves needs and deserves such comprehensive documentary treatment, to shine light on his brilliance as a footballer and as a man.
Greaves turns 80 next year, his quality of life severely affected by a major stroke in 2015 which has left him struggling to walk or talk.
Tottenham — the club with whom he enjoyed his greatest success, but with whom he had endured a frosty relationship for years — have been unstinting in their help and support for their all-time leading scorer during his years of ill health.
But his landmark birthday is a good opportunity to be reminded of his true worth, with accounts from team-mates and football greats.
The pity is that Greaves was unable to give a contemporary interview for this film, because — while in good health — he was a wonderfully vivid storyteller and the warmest of men.
During countless hours of conversations as Jim’s ghostwriter for this and other newspapers, it was my privilege to hear many of football’s legends brought to life.
In Jim’s company, saints were so often made flesh.
He’d witnessed Bobby Charlton constantly haranguing referees, Stanley Matthews selling black-market cigarettes, Pele laying out an Argentinian defender with a mighty headbutt.
There was barely a post-war footballing legend you could mention without Greaves knowing a killer story about them.
His greatest friends included Bobby Moore and George Best and his anecdotes were so extensive and fascinating, he allowed you to feel as if you knew these legends personally.
Greaves the footballer is often referred to as, almost exclusively, a poacher of goals.
But as his fellow Tottenham great Glenn Hoddle tells BT Sport: “Some of his goals, you can see Lionel Messi, his quick feet and the way he went into the penalty area, but he was more of a natural finisher than anyone I think I’ve ever seen.”
Greaves’ raw stats are remarkable — 44 goals in 57 England internationals and the leading goalscorer in the history of English top-flight football by a country mile with 357.
Until Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo came along, no man had scored more goals in Europe’s elite five leagues.
As Gary Lineker told BT: “I always think that it must be tough, knowing you were that good — and his numbers were extraordinary.
“It’s a shame there’s not more footage. He was a very special talent, Jimmy, and deserves to be remembered as one of the very, very best English footballers, let alone strikers.”
Talking to Greaves about his goalscoring heyday, you were struck by an unlikely combination of supreme self-awareness and genuine humility.
He knew exactly how good he was, as he let on with a common quip from his theatre shows: “I had a goal drought once — it was the worst 15 minutes of my career.”
In many ways, Greaves’ post-football life was more extraordinary than his playing career.
He spent most of the 70s battling alcoholism — being told he was no longer wanted by Spurs in 1970 hit him harder than missing out on the ’66 final — but has not touched alcohol in the last four decades.
The honesty of the book he wrote with Norman Giller, This One’s On Me, and the subsequent TV documentary, Just For Today, were hugely influential and inspirational to others suffering similar problems.
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They paved the way for Greaves to become a treasured TV personality — with Ian St John on Saint and Greavsie and on the TV-am sofa as a television critic.
In latter years, Greaves continued to speak about his demons with disarming starkness without ever taking himself seriously.
More frequently, he spoke about football with rare bluntness, simplicity and insight. He is one of a kind and a man who ought to be treasured.
*GREAVSIE will premiere at 8pm on BT Sport 1 on February 8, 2020. It is the latest in the award-winning BT Sport Films series. See btsport.com/films for info.
This post written by Dave Fraser originally appeared on Football news - transfers, fixtures, scores, pictures | The Sun. Read the full post here.