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’.
“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.