Jimmy Greaves 1940-2021

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by Phil Carter 


There has never been, nor likely to be, another like him. His goalscoring exploits from his professional career, are scattered about all over the world. I’ve not seen anybody put the following together… And it really is in need of being seen. 

Get ready then, for something quite, quite, remarkable. 

James Greaves was introduced to Chelsea FC the season 1955/56.

According to the BBC video, The History of Chelsea FC, Ted Drake explained that on the 16th October 1955, having lost 5-6 at home to Man Utd, he received a call from his scout, Wilf Chitty, who said.. “forget about that (the Man Utd loss). I’ve got someone better than all of them.”

Drake said to the camera.. “you know who that was?” Pause… “Jimmy Greaves”.

Jimmy made his playing debut, in Chelsea colours, on Saturday 20th August 1956, aged 15 years, 6 months, exactly. 

Here are the stats for this phenomenal player in his first season at Chelsea.

South East Counties League.

1. Watford, H (Hendon) 20th Aug 1955, w 5-1

    Greaves scored 2. (Debut) 

2. Spurs, A, 27th Aug 1955, w 2-1

    Greaves scored 1. (the winning goal)

3. Charlton, A, 29th Aug 1955, w 3-1

    Greaves did not score.

4. Arsenal, H (Hendon) 3rd Sept 1955, w 3-1

    Greaves did not score.

5. Brentford, H(Hendon) 10th Sept 1955, D 2-2

    Greaves did not score.

6. Crystal Palace, A, 17th Sept 1955, w 9-2

    Greaves did not score.

7. Bexleyheath, H (Hendon) 24th Sept 1955,

    W 9-2

    Greaves scored 2.

8. Fulham, H (Hendon) 8th October 1955, w 4-1

    Greaves scored 1 goal.

9. West Ham, A, 15th Oct 1955, D 2-2

    Greaves scored 1 goal.

10. Charlton, H, (Hendon) 22nd Oct 1955, D 0-0

    Greaves did not score.

11. Arsenal, A, 12th Nov 1955, D 3-3

    Greaves did not score.

12. West Ham, H (Hendon) 19th Nov 1955, 

    w 8-1. Greaves scored 1 goal.

13. Portsmouth, A, 26th Nov 1955, D 2-2

     Greaves did not score.

14. Spurs, H, (Hendon) 10th Dec 1955, w 4-0

     Greaves did not score

15. Portsmouth, H (Hendon) 14th Jan 1956, 

     w 9-1. Greaves scored 1 goal.

16. Crystal Palace, H (Hendon), 28th Jan 1956, 

      w 6-2.Greaves scored 3 goals.

      (1st S. E. Counties League hat trick)

17. Fulham, A, 7th Apr 1956, w 4-0

      Greaves scored 2 goals.

Played 17, goals 14. He did not play in 3 league games, all away, v Brentford, Watford, Bexleyheath.

South East Counties League Cup

1. Arsenal, A, 25th Feb 1956, l 0-5,

    Greaves did not score.

Played 1, goals 0.

London Minor Cup

1. Arsenal, A, 3rd Dec 1955, w 9-0.

    Greaves scored 3 goals. (1st hat trick, ever)

Played 1, goals 3.

Total, season 1955/56

Played 19, goals 17.

Greaves scored 15 goals in 18 games for Chelsea, aged 15.

There are 2 possible Youth team friendlies from 1955/56 he may have played in, both v London University (Youth XI) H, 5th Nov 1955, lost 1-2, and Away, 7th Dec 1955, lost 1-0. There is no programme for either game, but if anyone has the line ups, goalscorers, I’d be most grateful. 

The very first mention of the great man that appears in a 1st team programme, is on the back page of the 2nd home game of the 1955 /56 season, v Huddersfield, 29th Aug 1955.


Two particularly promising inside forwards are David Cliss and Jim Grieves. (sic)..Grieves (sic) is yet another of the youngsters who have joined us from East London. He comes from Dagenham, and has won County representative honours with Essex.

The mis-spelling of his name was corrected in the next 1st team home programme, v Portsmouth 3rd Sept 1955, in the results section.

So much is talked about on just how wonderful he was. Very few Chelsea supporters and players left today, actually saw him play for Chelsea’s reserve team. 

To put an old fashioned description to the man, he was simply phenomenal. How DO we put him in perspective? Well, let’s start with this, his 2nd year at Chelsea. 

Jimmy Greaves scored over 100 goals ALONE in one youth year.  After having scored a very reasonable 15 goals in 18 games in the year 1955/56, he showed, and shocked everybody the next season (1956/57) with exactly what he was made of, culminating in being offered professional forms in May 1957, and elevated to the 1st team squad. Here, ladies and gentleman, is exactly what happened in that magical season 1956 /57…

The South East Counties League

Greaves played 18 games

Greaves scored 53 goals.

Yes, you read that correctly.

An average of almost 3 goals per game!!!.. 18 times!!

Here are those 18 games..with goals scored.

1. West Ham (H) won 2-0 (Greaves 2)

2. Spurs (H) won 11-1 (Greaves 5)

3. Watford (H]) won 8-0 (Greaves 3)

4. Portsmouth (A) won 3-0 (Greaves 1)

5. Millwall (A)  won 5-0 (Greaves 1)

6. QPR (A) won 9-0 (Greaves 4)

7. West Ham (A) won 1-0 (Greaves 1)

8. Bexleyheath (A) won 12-0 (Greaves 7)

9. Portsmouth (H] won 10-0 (Greaves 8)

10. Watford (A) won 3-2 (Greaves 2)

11. Fulham (A) won 6-1 (Greaves 4)

12. QPR (H) won 6-0 (Greaves 2)

13. Charlton (H) won 8-0 (Greaves 5)

14. Crystal Palace (H) won 7-3 (Greaves 2)

15. Arsenal (H) won 6-2 (Greaves 1)

16. Fulham (H) won 9-0 (Greaves 2)

17. Spurs (A) won 7-1 (Greaves 1)

18. Crystal Palace (A) won 7-0 (Greaves 2).

Greaves scored in 18 league games in a row. 

There were 6 league games Greaves did not play in. 5 of those games were won as well.

Played 24, won 23, drawn 0, lost 1.

Goals for 159

Goals against 19.

Phenomenal indeed… But it goes on..

South East Counties League Cup..

Played 6, won 6, drawn 0, lost 0.

Goals for 37

Goals against 3

And Greaves in this competition?

He played in 4 of the 6 ties.

1. Bexleyheath (H) won 9-0 (Greaves 4)

2. Bexleyheath (A) won 7-0 (did not play)

3. Arsenal (H) won 6-0 (Greaves 0)

4. Arsenal (a) won 6-1 (Greaves 2)

5. West Ham (H) won 6-0 (did not play)

6. Charlton (H) won 3-2 (Greaves 0)

Greaves..played 4, goals 6.

He failed to score in 2 games.

Southern Junior Floodlit Cup

1. QPR (A) won 6-1 (Greaves 2)

2. Luton (a) won 5-0 (Greaves 2)

3. Spurs a) won 3-2 (Greaves 0)

4. West Ham (H) lost 1-2 ( did not play)

Greaves.. Played 3, goals 4

FA Youth Cup

1. Fulham (H) won 10-1 (Greaves 4)

2. Southend (a) won 8-0 (Greaves 3)

3. Peterborough (H) won 10-1 (Greaves 2)

4. Arsenal (a) lost 0-3 (Greaves 0)

Greaves..Played 4, goals 9

London Minor Cup

1. Eton Manor (H) won 15-0 (Greaves 5)

2. Woodford (H) lost 4-6 (did not play)

Greaves.. Played 1, goals 5

Hornchurch and District League. (16 games)

1. Glendale (away) won 4-0 (Greaves 1)

Greaves..played 1, goals 1

Metropolitan League (34 games)

1. Windsor and Eton (H) won 8-1 (Greaves 4)

Greaves..played 1, goals 4.

London Midweek League (12 games)

1. Spurs (H) drawn 2-2 (Greaves 0)

2. Arsenal (H) won 2-0 (Greaves 0)

3. West Ham (H) drawn 1-1 (Greaves 0)

Greaves.. Played 3, goals 0

Football Combination (42 games)

(this was essentially Chelsea Reserves)

1. Bristol City (H) won 2-1 (Greaves 1)

2. Portsmouth (A) won 2-1 (Greaves 1)

3. Luton (H) won 4-2 (Greaves 0)

Greaves. Played 3 goals 2

So far.. Played 38, goals 84

But it doesn’t end there…

Greaves made (unofficial) his 1st team debut in a Testimonial for Ken Armstrong, v Leicester in May 1957. Chelsea, won 2-1, Greaves did not score.

Played 1, goals 0

Junior public practice game, Blues v Reds

Blues won 3-1, Greaves (Blues) scored 1.

Played 1 goals 1

Junior Tour games..

Ajax tournament

Greaves played 4, goals 4

ADO Tournament (Hague)

Greaves played  5, goals 3

Played 59, goals 92 

I am unable to find details of further practice games, but have been assured that the goal tally was over 100 goals in all games. However, if one counts the 14 goals in 17 games aged 16, we have the total, played 76, goals 106. 

James Greaves WAS phenomenal. He went on to play for Chelsea’s 1st team, and score over 100 goals before he reached 21 years old.  His goalscoring goals per game in the 1st XI has never been bettered, by anyone. 132 goals in 169 games.

That lot, ladies and gentlemen, is what a true legend is made of. 

As far as I’m concerned, we must just call him what he was… PHENOMENAL

Reproduced with permission from Phil Carter, Bygone Chelsea 1905-99

Watch Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris and others talk about the phenomenal Jimmy Greaves as part of a pre-match discussion at Stamford Bridge for BT Sport.

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Nick Stroudley


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