When Hardmen Ruled! Jimmy Greaves Reveals Who Was Tougher: Tommy Smith or Ron Harris..?

Greaves was guest of honour

by Rob Shepherd.

It was wonderful to be in the company of Jimmy Greaves last week.

Greavsie was guest of honour at a sporting legends dinner arranged by Crystal Palace FC, who plough the profits into their academy.

The former England striker has overcome a mild stroke suffered a couple of years ago and had everyone in stitches when he rose to the mic with a combination of stand up comedy and anecdotes of the old days when as he pointed out: ‘If you were injured the trainer soon got you back on your feet…

The fella would run on with half the innards of a ball filled with cold water and a sponge.

‘Regardless of where you told him the pain was he would pull out the sponge, dripping with freezing water, and slap it right on your b******s. That was so f***ing painful and a shock to the system that suddenly the pain elsewhere had gone and you were playing again!’

Midway through a story of how he managed to stay on his feet – let alone score goals for fun in an era when players like Liverpool’s Tommy Smith would openly intimidate opposing forwards – a heckler from the audience asked: who was harder, Smith or Chelsea’s Ron Harris..?

Seamlessly Greaves answered ‘Harris’.

Chopper 'tackles' Stan Bowles
Chopper ‘tackles’ Stan Bowles

“Tommy was hard but also a good player on the ball. Ron, he was one who if told would just man-mark you with little or no interest about the ball,” said Greaves, who obviously has a disdain for the diving culture in the modern game especially when players try to get others red carded.

‘I don’t know how but I once left Ron flat out after a tackle. The ref called me over. Still Ron laid there.

‘As I get to the ref I am sure he was about to send me off. But then suddenly Ron springs to his feet and runs over: “Ref, don’t send him off. I’m OK.”

‘And Ron persuaded the ref not to give me an early bath. I thought: “You f***ing b*****d”, as Ron looked at me with a glint in his eye as the game re-started…

‘I hated playing in my own half, but for the rest of that game I ended up virtually at sweeper!’

By the way, for all that brutal attention, Greaves still scored 366 goals in 528 games and 44 in 57 England internationals.

Ron Harris and Jimmy Greaves give chase to the ball in their heyday
Ron Harris and Jimmy Greaves give chase to the ball in their heyday


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