England and Tottenham great Jimmy Greaves receives MBE in New Year Honours list

PA

Jimmy Greaves' contribution to English football has been recognised with an MBE in the New Year Honours list.

Greaves, who turned 80 in February, was joined by former midfielder Ron Flowers in becoming the last surviving members of England's 1966 World Cup-winning squad to be honoured.

Greaves scored 44 times across 57 appearances for his country, but an injury in the final group game of the 1966 finals led to him losing his place in the team to Sir Geoff Hurst, who went on to score a hat-trick in the final victory over West Germany while Greaves looked on from the sidelines.

Until 2017 Greaves held the record for the most career goals scored in Europe's top five leagues – 366 – with Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo the man who finally surpassed him.

The award of an MBE drew plenty criticism though. The football legend's wife Irene called the honour "too little, too late" and an "afterthought" while many Twitter users questioned why Lewis Hamilton claimed a more important gong.

Greaves left Chelsea to join Milan just before the abolition of the maximum wage in England in 1961, but despite continuing to score goals at an impressive rate he did not settle in Italy and returned to England with Tottenham before the year was out.

He became one of Spurs' all-time greats and holds the club scoring record with 268 goals, winning the FA Cup in 1962 and 1967 and the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1963, the same year the club finished second in the old First Division.

He moved to West Ham as part of an exchange deal with the late Martin Peters in 1970, but he began to struggle with alcoholism.

Greaves beat his addiction and went on to have a career as a pundit and co-presented the Saint & Greavsie show alongside fellow former pro Ian St John between 1985 and 1992.

Greaves suffered a stroke in May 2015 which has left him wheelchair-bound and with severely impaired speech.

Flowers, 86, was a non-playing member of the 1966 squad. He won 49 caps for his country and spent the bulk of his professional career with Wolves.

In a statement released via Tottenham, Greaves said: "I'm deeply honoured to receive this recognition for services to football from Her Majesty The Queen.

"Football has been my life, from the day I started kicking a ball around as a kid at home in Essex, to signing for Chelsea at 15, then to Milan, those wonderful nine years at Spurs, then West Ham and, later, my work in television and the media.

"There have been highs and lows, but it's a game I will always love and will always be part of me. I'd like to dedicate this award to Irene, my family and friends. Thanks for all your love and support."

Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy added: "As someone who remains to this day the club's all-time record goalscorer, revered by generations of fans across the country for his achievements in the game, we believe this recognition is truly deserved.

"The news means we end what has been such a challenging year on a hugely positive note – Jimmy continues to serve as an inspiration to us all."

Greaves's son Danny posted a message on Facebook thanking his father's team-mates and colleagues, and the public, for the "tremendous support, love and kindness that you have shown my Dad over many, many years".

"I think, if you have told my Dad, when he was a young boy, kicking a ball around and just doing what he loved to do, that he would be honoured by the Queen, he probably would have smiled and said something like, 'Yeah, alright'," Danny wrote.

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