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GREAVSIE: England's most prolific goalscorer, but now he prefers rugby

22 Feb 2010 00:50:19

GREAVSIE: England's most prolific goalscorer, but now he prefers rugby

Visitors to the O2 tonight should have got Michael Jackson. Instead there is Jimmy Greaves. He smiles broadly at that: 70 years old and still going strong. He'll be on stage for his travelling show at 7pm: two hours, not including the interval, and only the last 20 minutes devoted to a question-and-answer session. The rest of the time it is just Jim: telling jokes, telling stories, quite a marathon stint at his age. Tonight, as it's his birthday, he will be joined by a few old pals and the gig will last even longer. PICTURE SPECIAL: JIMMY GREAVES AT 70 - LIFE AND TIMES OF AN ENGLAND LEGEND Funny old game: England legend Greaves prefers watching rugby nowadays 'It's a shame Michael Jackson could not make it,' he says. 'He could have popped over from the other hall and we'd have introduced him to "Chopper" Harris.' Pause. 'Not that he'd be able to do much moonwalking after that, mind you.' Delayed drop punchline.  Justice at last for England's forgotten men of 1966Greaves, Lineker, Platt, Ince, Gazza and Owen - the best and worst returns to Blighty from EuropePICTURE SPECIAL: Class of '62 - a World (Cup) away from Capello's menPICTURE SPECIAL: JIMMY GREAVES AT 70 - Life and times of an England legend  'Or any other walking, really.' Jim's tour is a long-standing fixture on the theatre circuit. 'I'll have to phone my agent first,' he adds, 'just to check whether this is the farewell or the comeback. 'We alternate them every year. Well, what else are you meant to do at 70?' What indeed? His fans come because they remember the player, and the wonderful goals, but in many ways the greatest achievement of Greaves's life has been its second act; the recovery from alcoholism followed by a successful career as television pundit, newspaper columnist and raconteur. Memories: Greaves enjoyed a glorious playing career There is a serious man behind the cheery fa?e, one who appreciates that the most challenging aspect of a sporting life is what to do when it ends. He could easily have been a tragic figure, like Paul Gascoigne or George Best. The intelligence and insight it required to survive addiction is what sets him apart, even though he has never claimed expertise on football, or what lies beyond. 'It is not easy being a sportsman,' he says. 'Put aside the money and the glamour for a moment and just think of the life. Sportsmen have to settle for second best very early. No matter what you do, no matter what you go on to achieve. Take Mike Atherton. Superb broadcaster; great cricket writer. But it's not like being England's opening batsman, is it? It is not like being captain of the England team. 'So it does not matter who you are, the minute you stop playing your sport you are now beginning your second best life. It can't be as good. And you're not 70, you're 30. You've got 40 years ahead and that is not easy to live with. You've got to reinvent yourself and you don't know how. 'If you take a guy like Paul Gascoigne, he has no chance, because the only time he even looked remotely comfortable was on a football pitch. Yet we all have to find something to do because your career is cut off and the one thing you are able to do is taken away. People blame football for what has happened to Paul, but it's not football that cheats you, it is nature. Suddenly, you can't do it any more and you have to start again.' So would you advise him? Could you help? 'It's not for me to advise anybody,' Greaves concludes. 'I don't set myself up as an expert. Life is life, and we've all got to sort ourselves out. Usually, there will be family members around a certain person who want something done, but if the actual person is not interested, there is no point. I've dealt with some friends, helped them if I can, but the person has to come to you. If you are going to them, you are wasting your time.' It sounds cold, but that is not the intention. Glory days: Greavsie evades a tackle from the late Sir Bobby Robson to score for Spurs in their 4-2 FA Cup win at The Hawthorns in 1962 What sets Greaves apart, as a companion and a colleague (having thoroughly enjoyed working with him on his newspaper column for several years) is a complete absence of ego. His experiences have made him wise, but not hectoring. He knows that nostalgia draws his audiences, but is unpretentious enough to find that odd. He maintains that he cannot remember much of his playing career, yet accepts strangers can, and is charmed by that. Most ironically, he inspires a love of football in others that he never truly felt himself. GREAVES ON TERRY SAGA... 'I should have an affair so my wife can go to Dubai!' 'I do find it strange that people are still interested 40 years on,' he says. 'If a welder finishes a job he doesn't get grilled on it 40 years later. I've been a lot of things since, done a lot of things since, and I'm still talking about goals I scored in 1962. I can't explain it. I'm more revered now than I was when I was playing. Back then, I would sit in a corner, smoke my pipe and everyone ignored me. 'There are some players that can recall every game they played. I can't. People are always coming up to me, "Jim, can you remember that goal against West Brom in 1968?" and I say, "No". But that's all right because they only want to tell you about what happened to them, anyway. "Well, you had the ball on the halfway line, and I remember that because I was with Charlie and we'd just got two pies..." and it turns out the real story is about Charlie dropping his pie and what you did wasn't all that important anyway. And I prefer that, really. Ful of it: Greavsie on England duty alongside Fulham great Johnny Haynes and Spurs pal Bobby Smith 'I've always said the person on the football field wasn't me. George Best felt that, too. I'm a very poor example of a footballer, really. I don't even know why I was a footballer. There was no reason for it. My dad played hockey, in India. There was no history of footballers in my family. I'm not sure I even wanted to be one as a kid. I just liked playing. 'I never thought about it. I woke up and wanted to play football, for 12 hours a day. And that never changed when I was a professional. It was the playing I liked, nothing else. 'I used to go to a tennis club that was owned by the Co-op. They had a Sunday football team and we would play the Met Police or local company teams. I used to turn out for them, so did Alan Sealey, Brian Dear, Cliff Jones, and on some mornings we'd have Bobby Moore and Geoff Hurst on the line, waiting to come on. And we were all still playing, all still professionals. We just fancied a match and a pint in the bar afterwards. That was what it was like. 'Players still played for the fun of it. I can remember a match between England and Brazil in the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro. Brazil were 1-0 up and I made one of the greatest mistakes of my life. I equalised. You could see them looking at each other and thinking, "Right, here we go", and they scored about four in 15 minutes and beat us 5-1. LIFE AFTER FOOTBALL... 'When you retire you begin your second-best life.' 'We had the raving hump and were off the next day, so we went down to the Copacabana beach and there were these kids playing. We thought we'd take it out on them. And they beat us 8-1, We couldn't get the ball off them. You kill it (the ball) in the air in beach football. They absolutely slaughtered us. Didn't get near them.' These days, Greaves prefers cricket and rugby union. Perhaps he always did. There is too much artifice in the modern game for him now, too much hype. As a member of England's World Cup-winning squad in 1966, receiving his medal belatedly during half-time of a recent match with Andorra, Greaves was roped in for a brief television interview. Asked about that night's action, he pretended not even to know England's opponents. 'Andorra?' he queried. 'I've never seen such a bad team in my life. I mean that.' He was hurriedly moved on. Nobody shines light on football's magic these days. Nobody wants to hear that Super Sunday might not be so super after all. 'We were sitting in the stands, all the members of the 1966 squad,' Greaves recalls, 'and we were looking at each other as the game is going on and you know everybody is thinking, "Why didn't we get to play teams like this?". We couldn't believe what we were watching. So I said what we all thought. The TV people weren't happy. They didn't say it, but I could tell. 'When I worked in television you didn't have to wear rose-coloured glasses at the game. You watch a match now, at half-time a bloke comes on, flashes his teeth and tells you it's fabulous. And I'm thinking, "No, mate, it was crap". So, bing, that gets turnedover, you watch something else for 15 minutes waiting for the second half to start, get interested in that programme, and never go back to the match. Well I do, anyway. Keeping up appearances: Greavsie tries his hand at being a goalkeeper with some tuition from Gordon Banks 'I watch rugby and think there are men out there, playing. I'm not so sure about football now. People tell me it's better than before, but it isn't to me. It's not a game I recognise. I think everything is overblown: it's all about what goes on around the game, not the game itself. 'Players score and they've got to wipe their  a*** on the corner flag because if they celebrate someone complains to the Old Bill. It is alien, all that nonsense. And what's that about, putting your finger to your lips? You've scored a goal. That's your job. Get back to the halfway line and get on with it. I watch it, but I don't feel in tune with it. I've much more affinity to cricket and rugby. SEE GREAVSIE LIVE To see Jimmy Greaves live in a town near you, look on www.jimmygreaves.net orcall his agents, A1 Sporting Speakers, on 01202475600 for details ofVIP meet-and-greet packages and all bookings for personal appearances.  'My choice was to be out of the game. I didn't want to know about football other than playing. I never thought about it. I never sat around scratching my head working out systems. You went on the field, you could play or you couldn't, that was it. Denis Law and George Best were like that, too. I got dragged back in by television, but that was never my intention. Mine was a different time. 'I used to drive to matches, park in the side street and walk to the ground. That was how it was. John Sillett told me about a nightmare game he had at left back for Chelsea. He scored an own goal, the full works. He said he took his time leaving, to let the crowd go. He waited until it was getting dark, pulled his overcoat up and headed to the bus stop. And he was standing there waiting, and there were still a few fans about, and they were slagging him off without knowing he was in the middle of them. He said he didn't want to take any chances, so he joined in. 'But you know what makes me laugh? The idea of a footballer at a bus stop. Can you imagine that now? And it was not as if football was unpopular then: Chelsea used to play in front of 50,000 people, more than they get now. World beaters: Greaves puts his arm round the late team-mate Alan Ball after England win the World Cup at Wembley in 1966 against West Germany 'One day I was walking to Chelsea with Les Stubbs. These dustmen were emptying the bins, and a big cloud of dust went over us. Les said to him, "Watch out mate, there's a load of s*** in that bin". The bloke pointed to Stamford Bridge and said, "Not as much s*** as there'll be out there this afternoon". You wouldn't get that now. It kept you grounded. No barriers. 'Some things haven't changed. That business with John Terry could happen in any walk of life, at any time. The difference is that when I played, Mrs Terry would have gone down the pub with a mate for two Mackesons and a packet of Gold Flake, and now she p****s off to Dubai for a month. My wife Irene must be willing me to have an affair. "Do me a favour. Jim, I could do with a week in Dubai".' Boom and, indeed, boom. There will be no King of Pop, but that does not mean there won't be one hell of a performer on stage at the O2 tonight. Talk turns to the upcoming games in Milan and Jim shuffles off to have his photograph taken still recalling his brief time as a striker in Serie A. 'I got hit with so many fines I usually needed the win bonus to break even,' he says. Show stopper: Greavsie, 70, is hosting aspecial audience with performance at the O2 Arena this evening 'There used to be these girls that watched training, they would call out and wave to the players. I didn't have a clue who they were. I thought they were fans. So I was driving to training one morning and they were standing by the road and I thought as the new player I should be nice, so I pulled over and asked if they wanted a lift and they jumped in and we arrived at training together, the three of them in my Jaguar. Nice bit of PR, I thought the club would be delighted. Turned out they were all prostitutes. Cost me a fortune, that did.' Seventy today, but he still knows how to finish. Maybe Jacko just didn't fancy the competition.  Justice at last for England's forgotten men of 1966Greaves, Lineker, Platt, Ince, Gazza and Owen - the best and worst returns to Blighty from EuropePICTURE SPECIAL: Class of '62 - a World (Cup) away from Capello's menPICTURE SPECIAL: JIMMY GREAVES AT 70 - Life and times of an England legend


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