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Jimmy Greaves: English football’s top goalscorer who blazed a trail of stardom and redemption

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Watching the surviving film of the football work of the recently departed England international striker, Jimmy Greaves, is a stark reminder of the vastly different playing regimes that existed in English football in the early 1960s compared to the manicured Premier League era of today.

Greaves played in two winning FA Cup finals for Spurs, in 1962 and 1967. FA cups were about the only “live” club football available on TV to the British public at the time, but these were occasions celebrated not only for the trophies concerned. These were also among the few fixtures for which the players involved could look forward to a playing surface that did not resemble some boggy no-man’s-land dragged up from a first world war reconstruction.

ITV is currently broadcasting The Big Match Revisited, a highlights’ show from the early-1970s. This routinely reminds us that the science of pitch preparation and recovery had barely knocked on the door of the English game – certainly not in the months after Christmas.

This was the case even as Greaves’ career was fast winding down. He played in a period when hulking defenders had the weight advantage over high-stepping, slight forwards. But many contemporaries contend that Greaves could glide over these muddied fields leaving marking defenders flailing in his wake. It certainly looks that way from the few surviving film clips.

Like the troubled and brilliant George Best –........

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