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English football mourning Jimmy Greaves

Jimmy Greaves, a World Cup winner who helped Tottenham Hotspur become the first British club to lift a European trophy, has passed away at the age of 81.

Jimmy Greaves scored a club-record 266 goals for Tottenham Hotspur
Jimmy Greaves scored a club-record 266 goals for Tottenham Hotspur Popperfoto via Getty Images

Tottenham Hotspur legend and former England striker Jimmy Greaves, renowned as one of his nation's greatest goalscorers, has died at the age of 81.

The quick and clinical finisher first made his name at Chelsea, scoring 132 goals in 169 games between 1957 and 1961, but it was at Tottenham where he truly flourished, most notably helping the north London side win the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1962/63 – the first ever victory by a British team in a UEFA club competition.

Jimmy Greaves holds aloft the European Cup Winners' Cup
Jimmy Greaves holds aloft the European Cup Winners' CupPopperfoto via Getty Images

Greaves was instrumental in that landmark triumph, opening the scoring and finishing with two goals in the final as Spurs defeated Atlético de Madrid 5-1 to lift the trophy in Rotterdam. That came between a pair of FA Cup titles during Greaves' nine-year spell with the team, for whom he registered a club-record 266 goals in 379 outings.

"We are extremely saddened to learn of the passing of the great Jimmy Greaves, not just Tottenham Hotspur's record goalscorer but the finest marksman this country has ever seen," read a statement from the club, which Greaves joined after a brief spell with AC Milan in 1961.

"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."

Those qualities were familiar to England fans as well, with Greaves scoring 44 goals in 57 games for the Three Lions, including a record six hat-tricks. Most notably, he was a member of the England squad that won the 1966 FIFA World Cup, appearing in all three group games before losing his place to Geoff Hurst following an injury.

Greaves briefly teamed up with Hurst at West Ham in 1970/71, scoring on his debut to continue his tradition of finding the net on his maiden appearance for new teams – as he had for Chelsea, Milan and Tottenham, plus England's Under-23s and senior team.

"When I came out onto the pitch at White Hart Lane, Wembley or wherever, I became a totally different person," he would later explain. "In a way, when I passed through that tunnel, it wasn't me any more."

Before ending his career in the lower leagues, Greaves set a record of 357 goals in the English top flight, a benchmark that stands to this day, with 37 of those – another record – having come for Spurs in 1962/63. After retiring, he went on to win a new generation of fans as a popular television presenter.