A personal tribute to Jimmy Greaves: goal scorer extraordinaire
Although sadly coincidental, the recent death of Jimmy Greaves comes not long after a post in which my poem, Goal Scoring, cited the great man as the Uber goal scoring machine – not only of his era but of any era. (Albeit, a machine of extraordinary beauty, precision and style.) Today I post the poem, again, alongside these few, inadequate, words of tribute.
A true soccer legend, Jimmy Greaves was unparalleled in the goal scoring art. Throughout his career, Jimmy always marked his debut with each new club with a goal. Genial and humorous as a person, without a doubt, but on the field of play he was a predator – a clinician in the penalty area. Defenders didn’t laugh when they saw Jimmy nearby – that’s for sure!
Just check the figures. Numbers on an almost industrial scale. Ronaldo and Messi-esque, before either of those two great goal scorers/players were a twinkle within a twinkle of their granddad’s eyes. Not only that, but his art was a thing of great, great beauty. Always in total control, his reading of the game and where the chances would fall was unmatchable. Fast, perfectly balanced, and with superb ball control, it became de rigueur to see him side-footing the ball into the net, or skipping round players to roll the ball home. Left footed, primarily, but he scored with both feet and was accomplished at heading, too.
He was an inside forward, beginning his career when they played with wingers and a centre-forward – and before inside forwards morphed into midfield players and wingers were discarded. For Jimmy, however, it was a simple game: being a forward meant just that. He attacked. And how!
When asked, once, on a TV programme, to sum up the career of George Best, Jimmy said, sagely, and with great empathy, that four minutes of Best on the field would be superior to four years in the careers of most other players. I think it can safely be said, that Jimmy could have been talking about himself.
Bye, bye, Jimmy Greaves. You were everything that was/is wonderful about the Beautiful Game. I shall close with just one last parting word before the poem:
There are great goal scorers and scorers of great goals.
And when it comes off –
when you roll it or flick it in –
with defenders blaming each other
and looking up at the sky,
it’s as though you’ve materialised
with the ball tucked up your shirt –
like when you were a kid –
then blatantly kicked it in. An art.
And the supreme examples
are the tap-ins, the doddles, the
couldn’t-bloody-miss jobs – the ones
mi granny could have scored.
Because a great striker dictates
where the ball will be: a seer,
omnipotent, reading the game.
Think Greavsie. Enough said.
Forget your forty yarders, your
Beckham jobs around the wall,
Diego’s miracle in ’86,
or the latest wonder strike on YouTube.
Look for the scruffy, messy goals – no,
not him: different planet, different poem –
but the lucky guy who scores them –
lots of them – wherever he goes.
Alpha (Poetry Salzburg, 2020).
Mike Di Placido.