Jimmy Greaves, former Chelsea, Tottenham and England striker

Born: February 20, 1940;

Died; September 19, 2021

Jimmy Greaves, who has died at the age of 81, was a former England, Tottenham and Chelsea striker who had a remarkable record: 220 goals in 321 league games, 32 goals in 36 FA Cup ties, and five in just eight League Cup ties. With the former Liverpool striker Ian St John, he was also a popular pundit.

A member of England's 1966 World Cup-winning squad, although he did not feature in the final victory over West Germany, Greaves scored 44 goals across 57 senior appearances for the Three Lions.

His career began in the junior ranks at Chelsea and he turned professional in May 1957, scoring on his Blues debut and racking up 132 goals in total for the club. He remained at Stamford Bridge until 1961, when he moved to AC Milan. After a single season in Milan he joined Spurs in 1961 to play in Bill Nicholson's successful side.

Greaves wound down his playing career with stints at West Ham and Barnet before starring alongside former Liverpool striker Ian St John in the popular ITV programme Saint and Greavsie between 1985 and 1992.

Throughout his career, the fact that he was on the sidelines in the 1966 final was a bitter disappointment to him and to many he will be remembered as the bewildered, besuited figure on the Wembley touchline as all around him erupted with joy.

But for anyone inclined to scour the record books, Greaves will go down in history as one of the greatest out-and-out goalscorers of his or any other generation. Sir Geoff Hurst, who replaced Greaves in the 1966 team and scored a hat-trick in the final triumph over West Germany, says Greaves was the greatest English forward there has ever been.

Growing up in Dagenham, Greaves – whose father was a driver on the London Underground – was scouted by Chelsea while still a schoolboy, signing on as an apprentice in 1955 before making a goalscoring debut for his new club in 1957 aged just 17 during a 1-1 draw against Spurs at White Hart Lane.

Four promising years at Stamford Bridge came to an end in 1961 when unrest over a £19-per-week cap on players' wages in England led Greaves to make the relatively pioneering decision to move abroad. Despite scoring nine goals in 12 appearances for AC Milan, he struggled to adapt to the Italians' strict training and lifestyle choices and soon made clear his intention to return to England.

Determined not to rest on his laurels in the aftermath of Spurs' historic double success, Bill Nicholson brought Greaves to north London and, from the moment he scored a hat-trick on his debut against Blackpool, it proved a perfect match.

For four seasons the goals rained down and the silverware piled up: an FA Cup win in his first season followed the next year by Greaves playing an integral part in Spurs becoming the first English team to win a European trophy when they took home the Cup Winners' Cup.

His stardom was such that in 1964 John Lennon, at the height of Beatlemania, stopped a Beatles concert at the London Palladium mid-set after spotting Greaves in the crowd. "We've got real royalty in here tonight!" Lennon said, according to Greaves' long-time friend Terry Baker.

With a home World Cup looming, Greaves, who had made a goalscoring England debut in 1959 and played in all four games of the previous World Cup in Chile in 1962, was still very much Sir Alf Ramsey's main striker until his injury in the group game against France left the way open for Hurst.

Greaves' nine-year love affair with Spurs came to an end in 1970 when Nicholson decided he was surplus to requirements. In a 2010 newspaper interview, Greaves described the news as his biggest regret. The disappointment diluted any pride he might have felt in pulling on the claret and blue of West Ham, the club closest to his roots, and one season later Greaves quit Upton Park and increasingly sought solace elsewhere.

He finished sixth with co-driver Tony Fall in the London to Mexico World Cup rally; unfortunately, further escapism was to be found in drink. His son Danny, a professional footballer himself, said his father would simply withdraw and play Neil Diamond records on those occasions when he was drunk at home.

The World Cup disappointment was often cited as one of the triggers for Greaves' alcoholism, but it was the death of his and Irene's second child, Jimmy Junior, as an infant which Greaves himself said had a far more profound effect on him. "Jimmy's death devastated us, it really drove us out of our minds," Greaves said.

"If ever there was a time I wanted to claw back yesterday, it was the day young Jimmy died. Though we had Lynn (their eldest child), our grief lay before us, our joy seemingly behind us. You grieve for the death of any loved one, but when it's for your own child, no words can describe that grief."

Greaves quit drinking in 1978. In his 2003 autobiography, he reflected on how he would "drink up to 20 pints of beer in the course of a day, go home, then drink a whole bottle of vodka before going to bed".

He said: "There is no tried and tested way of surviving with alcoholism. You have to find your own path. You have to wake up one morning, shaking like a leaf and vomiting and realise that you don't like the world you are living in and that the world doesn't like you much, either. It was not until I woke up one day in a mental hospital in Essex – in a room of people sitting around shaking and talking to themselves – that I had the reality check I needed."

Drink cost him his marriage to Irene, although the pair subsequently got back together after a separation, and also led to financial problems. At one low point Greaves was trying to make ends meet by selling women's jumpers and living in a one-bedroom flat in Wanstead, East London.

Looking to move forwards in his life, Greaves starred alongside former Liverpool striker Ian St John in the popular ITV programme Saint and Greavsie between 1985 and 1992. The show saw Greaves become a popular pundit, with a new generation of football fans taken in by his charm.

After a long campaign Greaves finally received a World Cup winners' medal in 2009; five years later he sold it in an auction at Sotheby's for £44,000.

In later life, Greaves endured health problems, including a minor stroke in 1992 from which he recovered, but it was followed by a serious stroke in May 2015 which saw him unconscious for six days in intensive care and later left in a wheelchair.

He was welcomed back to White Hart Lane in late March 2017 when the 77-year-old was joined by his family as he was photographed by the pitch and in the home dressing room and was shown a picture from his playing days.

He is survived by his wife Irene, sons Andy and Danny, who had spells playing at Southend and Cambridge, and daughters Lynn and Mitzi.