EXCLUSIVE - Jimmy Greaves on England and the World Cup

10 June 2010 03:41

Football.co.uk's Joe Strange sits down with World Cup winner and England legend Jimmy Greaves to find out what he really thinks about England, Fabio Capello and the World Cup.

- England News

How much are you looking forward to the World Cup?

To be honest I've not really given it much thought. I've been preoccupied with my granddaughter's wedding in France for a little while but that's over now. Obviously the World Cup starts imminently so I'll start getting into the swing of things. I never really get too excited about any sporting occasion until it really starts. I'll watch the opening ceremony and the first game and then I'll be into it but I won't be wearing any flags or silly hats!

How do you see England's game against the USA going on Saturday?

It's going to be very interesting, it definitely won't be a walkover that's for sure. It could be a very tough match. The Americans will be very well prepared and it'll be a tough test for us.

How far do you think England will go in South Africa?

We should really get to the quarter finals. Anything less than that would be considered a disaster I think. When we get to the quarter-finals then that's where you look at the rest of the teams and analyse it. The group stage of the World Cup is a little bit like the Champions League - you know who's not going to win it but you don't know who is going to win it.

Who do you think should start up-front with Wayne Rooney?

I'd start with Peter Crouch up-front with Rooney. His goalscoring record is excellent and I really can't understand Capello's reluctance to play him. I think playing Crouch would free Rooney up a little bit whereas if he plays Rooney on his own and things don't go well then I think he might explode! Crouch would be virtually my first name on the team-sheet. He can be very dangerous and I wouldn't like to mark him if I was a defender.

As a former striker yourself, what do you make of Emile Heskey?

He doesn't score goals. He's a nice guy, a good honest footballer and a decent target man but I would still prefer to play someone who's going to score goals. I don't go along with the point of view that Rooney is a better player when he plays with Heskey.

Another position apparently up for grabs is in goal, who would be your number one?

If he's fit then I think Capello will start with David James. He'll probably stick with him unless he makes one or two horrendous errors! He's got the experience and he's got the knowhow about the players in front of him. I think Joe Hart is perhaps the best goalkeeper we've got in many ways but it would be a hard call to throw him in straight away.

- World Cup mini-site

Having been injured yourself in the 1966 World Cup, how do you think Rio Ferdinand will be feeling at the moment?

He won't be feeling very happy obviously. He was made captain and has worked towards the World Cup as all the players have so it's a very unfortunate thing to have happened. But you have to be philosophical about it as it happens to at least one or two players pre-World Cup and I'm sure it'll happen during it as well. Not just to English players but to all the other nations and they'll feel equally disappointed when it does. But that's just the nature of the game.

Who poses the biggest threat to England's chances of lifting the trophy?

Pretty much everybody! The optimism that the average punter has about England is quite frightening as far as I'm concerned. Yes we can win it but we've only got a fair chance. There are ten teams in that competition who are just as good as us and could easily beat us as we could easily beat them. I just don't get this eternal optimism that we're going to win it.

What would your team be for the game against the USA?

I don't really know as I don't know what way Capello wants to play it. He's been a very good manager, the best we've had for some time and he is an outstanding tactician. But I'm not sure how important tactics are in the World Cup. I think form is more important and Capello knows he needs to pick the best and most in-form players he possibly can. It's a tournament played over half-a-dozen or so games so it's a very short period of time. The team that has a bit of luck and a bit of form is the team that normally wins it.

Do you agree with having a foreign manager in charge of the national side?

No I don't agree with it but apart from Harry Redknapp and Roy Hodgson, we really haven't got any managers up for the job. I'd always like to see an English manager in charge of the England team but that's because I'm old fashioned. I'm very patriotic and I believe that each country should have people of it's origin involved and that includes the manager. Having said that, Capello is a very good manager.

Finally, if you were in the England changing room just before kick-off against the USA, what would you say to inspire the players?

I'd say 'All the best lads, I won't be coming with you, I'm too old!'.


Jimmy Greaves was speaking at the launch of Burger King's 'Whopper Legend' competition, where you could win the chance to watch the World Cup final with Jimmy and three of your mates!

For more information on how to enter, visit the Whopper Legend website

Source: DSG