Tag Archives: Jimmy Greaves

Leeds Remain “The Damned United” for Jimmy Greaves and the BBC – by Rob Atkinson

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Super Leeds – simply the best

A couple of weeks ago, I came not to bury Greavsie but to praise him.  The article I wrote was a thrilled response to the fact that Jimmy “Jimbo” Greaves – a known Leeds-hater from way back – seemed to have seen the light, acknowledging United legend John Charles as the greatest British footballer of all time, ahead of George Best, Bobby Moore and – well, everyone else on a list of fifty.  It was such a surprise, such a welcome oddity coming from Greaves’ usually poisoned pen where the Whites are concerned, that I failed to look beyond the headline. Silly me.

When I finally did read the rest, I was less surprised – but I was utterly disgusted and amazed that somebody who had the honour to share a pitch with (and be heavily defeated by) Don Revie‘s Super Leeds could be so bitter, such a small-minded little man. For genial Greavsie, that impish cockney bundle of fun, had included in his Top 50 British Greats not one member of that fabulous Super Leeds side which dominated football for a decade and which regularly finished above the teams for which so many of Greaves’ Chosen Ones had played.  And there I was, just a few short weeks ago, saying nice things about the little bugger.  Well, I take it all back. Today I come, not to praise Greavsie, but to bury the sod.

It simply makes the mind boggle.  Not one Leeds player from that Glory era of Bremner, Giles, Gray, Clarke, Lorimer et al.  Not a single, solitary one. John Charles, of course, the Jimmy Greaves choice for number one, played at Elland Road in his first spell with Leeds before the Revie years, making a brief but only moderately successful comeback in the early part of the Don’s reign, before heading back off to la dolce vita.   King John’s honours were won on foreign fields; he was not part of the Leeds success story.  Did this exempt him in Greaves’ tiny and still semi-pickled mind from the hatred and disrespect with which he has always referred to the great Leeds side?  Was there some envy there?

Greaves, let us not forget, for all the praise heaped on him as a natural finisher, didn’t win all that much in his career.  You could fairly say he bottled it.  No League Titles, just a cup or two.  He missed out on the World Cup Final in 1966 due to injury, making way for one Geoff Hurst, who fortunately had a fair old game that day. You have to admit that Leeds, for all their talent, were underachievers (largely due to some corrupt refereeing) – but Greavsie out-shone them in that. Perhaps this explains some of that elderly bile and bitterness?

It’s not an unknown phenomenon, this steely determination to ignore Leeds United when the plaudits are being handed out.  It’s sadly quite common and, despite the fact that it reflects ill on those who perpetrate the omissions, exposing them for the petty, shallow revisionists that they are, still they queue up to overlook that great side, and to be seen doing so.  It’s as if there are brownie points to be collected somewhere for the person or persons who can show that they possess the biggest pair of anti-Leeds blinkers in the whole media.  What a sad indictment of supposedly impartial coverage – and the ostensibly most impartial of them all, the good old BBC, are among the worst offenders.

A little while ago, I wrote – well, ranted – about the BBC’s determined stance on ignoring Don Revie when they put together a montage of legendary managers.  It was laughable.  There were managers in there who’d hardly won a bean – good sound men, but not in the same class as the Don, a man who built a European superpower from a provincial nonentity of a football club, scorned by many in a city devoted to Rugby League.  The worldwide fanatical following that United have, even today, have their roots in the miracle wrought by Revie, the greatest manager of all time.  So, I complained to Auntie Beeb, and got the standard fob-off response, naturally. The complacent pillars of the media don’t like being challenged in their cosy little ivory tower funk-holes, they would rather you just concentrate on what they’re saying and not try thinking for yourself too much.

There’s no need for me to start in on correcting Greaves’ list, or indeed the BBC’s laboriously-constructed montage of managers – either would be an exercise in the bleedin’ obvious.  I’m simply happy to get this off my chest, to point out what smug, self-satisfied hypocrites and charlatans these people are, who feel that they really can reinvent history and expunge a whole, massively-significant part of it from the public consciousness.  It’ll never happen, too many of us out here remember all too well who the top dogs were back in the day – and more and more of us are stomping our way into print, the better to emphasise exactly what was what.  So you may take your heavily-edited version of history, Messrs Greaves, Lineker, Hansen and Shearer, and you may stick it where the monkey stuck its nuts.

The truth after all is out there, the evidence is easy to find, and even though some of the men so cruelly overlooked – Bremner and Revie for very obvious examples – are no longer around to defend themselves, there are plenty out here only too eager to do it for them.  Say what you like, Greavsie, but we were there too, we remember and we know better.

Leeds Legend King John Charles is Jimmy Greaves’ No. 1 – by Rob Atkinson

King John of Leeds United & Juventus

King John of Leeds United & Juventus

We all know what normally happens when any former footballer, once-famous manager or similar faded glory is asked the burning question: who was your greatest player of all time?  The form is that you scratch your head to make it look as if you’re thinking, nod sagely and then say “Why, it was Georgie Best, of course”, before holding your hand out for the cheque and heading straight for a refreshing cappuccino – or for the nearest bar if you’re NOT Jimmy Greaves.

Ex-Tottenham, Chelsea and AC Milan striker Greaves though – who also starred for Barnet FC and West Ham once his top-level playing days were done – had no doubts about his choice.  John Charles, he explained, was not only one but two great players.  At centre-forward just as much as when he was deployed in a defensive role at centre-half, King John had no peers.  During his spell in Serie A with Juve, an environment Greaves knows well from his brief stint with the Rossoneri of Milan, John would often start a game up front and then, having scored the goal to gain his team a precious lead, would be pulled back to centre-half to ensure that they didn’t lose it.

I’ve written a recent article myself about the great Charles, and how he should be regarded as the Best of British despite the populist claims of Georgie Best.  I expected to find broad agreement among Leeds fans – certainly the ones who had been lucky enough to see John play whilst he was in his pomp – but I also expected that fans of other clubs would have been firmly aboard the Best bandwagon – particularly as this was a vehicle driven quite hard by George himself, who never had any qualms about expressing his view that he was the finest player of all time.  With an ego like that, his spiritual home surely was the Theatre of Hollow Myths – but the fact remains that his professionalism and dedication were of a much lower order than is needed for true greatness to be accorded. That was very much my view anyway, and one that I hope can be seen as unbiased.  But a little corroboration from among the ranks of ex-pros can’t do any harm.

Interestingly, Greaves is not alone in dismissing the claims of Best.  George’s team-mate at Man U, Denis Law, also felt that Best fell short of true greatness because of the flaws of character and discipline that accompanied his undoubted genius.  By contrast, John Charles had an attitude and professionalism to match his incredible ability and the tremendous physique that enabled him to dominate two vastly different playing positions.  Furthermore, in the highly defensive, cynical and violent Italian league, John was never booked or sent off – as indeed he never was throughout his career – a notable achievement for any player. For a man often used as a defender in Serie A, it was little short of miraculous.

John Charles was voted Italian football’s top “foreign import”, thus coming ahead of Platini, Maradona, Brady and even Luther Blissett.  To this day, the fans of Juventus will greet a fellow football fan wearing Leeds United colours and talk eagerly of “il Gigante Buono”, the player that served both clubs so well, the man who has entered legend as King John.

Jimmy Greaves – you were a top player, and you’ve proved yourself at last to be a man of judgement and discretion.  I salute you.