London: Former Tottenham Hotspur and England striker Jimmy Greaves has suffered a severe stroke and is in intensive care in hospital, his family said on Monday. A prolific goalscorer throughout his career, Greaves scored 44 goals in just 57 appearances for England -- the fourth-highest total of all time. A family statement said the 75-year-old Greaves had fallen ill on Sunday and was taken to hospital.
"His wife Irene and four children have asked for privacy during what is a worrying time for the family," added the statement. "Jimmy had a minor stroke in 2012, but appeared to have made a full recovery. "He was due to be inducted into the Tottenham Hotspur Hall of Fame on 13 May at a sell-out ceremony at White Hart Lane."
Meanwhile Spurs said on their Twitter site: "Everyone at the club wishes Jimmy Greaves a speedy recovery after he suffered a stroke yesterday (Sunday). "Our thoughts are with Jimmy and his family at this difficult time." Despite being the outstanding England striker of his era, Greaves missed out on the 1966 World Cup final win over the then West Germany after suffering a shin injury against France in the group stages. Greaves' former team-mate Geoff Hurst, who replaced him in that side and went on to score a famous hat-trick in England's 4-2 final win at Wembley, added his best wishes, tweeting: "Thinking of my friend and one of our greats this morning, @jimmy_greaves. Wishing him all the best and hoping for a speedy recovery."
Hurst's sentiments were echoed by Gary Lineker, like Greaves a former Tottenham and England striker who has since carved out a successful broadcasting career. "Choked to read that Jimmy Greaves has had a severe stroke," Lineker tweeted. "One of my absolute heroes. Thoughts are with him and his family. Get well, Jimmy," added Lineker, second on England's all-time list of leading scorers with 48 goals but in 80 appearances.
Greaves had a meteoric rise in football after making his senior debut for Chelsea in 1957 and had scored 100 league goals by the age of 20 years and 290 days -- making him still the youngest-ever player to have reached that landmark. Chelsea joined the growing list of well-wishers by tweeting Monday: "All at Chelsea are thinking of former Blue Jimmy Greaves and his family at this time. We wish him a full and swift recovery." After scoring 132 goals in a mere 169 matches for Chelsea, Greaves joined AC Milan for the then huge sum of Â£80,000 ($121,000, 108,407 euros) in 1961.
But the ultra-strict regime, which saw players fined by Milan for venturing outside the city limits, did not suit Greaves. After a season in Italy where he scored nine goals in 12 games, he was signed by Tottenham -- who had just become the first club in the 20th Century to complete the 'Double' by being crowned champions of England and winning the FA Cup in the same campaign -- for Â£99,999. The unusual figure was devised by legendary Spurs manager Bill Nicholson, who did not want to saddle Greaves with the pressure of being English football's first Â£100,000 player.
Greaves scored 266 goals in 379 matches spanning nine seasons with Spurs during a golden era for the north London club. His tally included scoring the opening goal in Tottenham's FA Cup final victory over Burnley in 1962 and he also found the net in the 1963 European Cup Winners' Cup final against Atletico Madrid, which Spurs won 5-1 to become the first British club to lift a major European trophy. Greaves eventually finished his senior career with West Ham -- his third London club.
After a well-publicised battle against alcoholism, which eventually saw him quit booze, Greaves' relaxed and humorous style saw him become a pioneering television football pundit and successful after-dinner speaker. His broadcasting career was especially notable for his partnership with former Liverpool and Scotland striker Ian St John in British terrestrial channel ITV's popular "Saint and Greavsie" programme of the 1980s.