John Sillett played with Jimmy Greaves throughout the legendary striker’s four years at Chelsea and they were great friends, with Sillett and his fellow defenders often thankful for Greaves’ extraordinary rate of scoring when goals were going in at both ends of the pitch.
Following Greaves passing on Sunday, we spoke to Sillett who shared some special memories from both on and off the pitch…
The first time I saw Jimmy play was when I went with my brother Peter [who also played for Chelsea] to watch a London Schoolboys game. Jimmy was playing up front with a boy called David Cliss.
I came away with Peter and said that Cliss looks a very, very good player. He turned a blind eye to Cliss and said look at the other lad, Greaves, there is a player there. He is sharp, he is quick, he is onto everything in an instant and his finishing is great.
I said I’ll be truthful, I thought he had a good game but I didn’t think he was as good as you are trying to make him appear. Peter said I’ll tell you now, he is going to be some player.
With the ball at his feet, Jimmy had a touch of genius about him. He was lightning at getting on the end of things and everybody was amazed. He didn’t look like he was going to be fast, but my god he was quick. He would get to the ball before anybody and his finishing was magnificent, he never missed the target. For him not to score, the goalkeeper had to save it. In front of goal, he was so cool, he was the ice-man. He was so speedy off the mark reading a situation, I describe it as like a dog grabbing a rabbit, shaking it and putting it in the net.
He was one of those players that would go missing in a game and you would think where is Greavsie, and suddenly the ball is in the net and you are thinking who has scored that – oh, it is Greavsie. Every time the goalscorer seemed to be Greavsie.
I had wonderful moments with Jimmy. We were youngsters together at Chelsea and we both had our certain jobs to do at the club. Ours was to clean and look after the snooker room. We had to have jobs and Jimmy and I also decided to sell football shirts and see who could sell the most. Even in that I was not in the same class as Jimmy. He was brilliant at it.
Jimmy had the worst car I have ever seen. It was shocking. The door fell off one day when we were in it. It was a really old car but in those days he must have been a rich man to have a car as a young man. He used to call me Schnoz because of my nose, he used to say Schnoz, I’ll take you home in the car, and I’d say no Jim, I’ll take the bus, it is less dangerous!
Other teams tried to kick him off the park but they couldn't touch him, they could not get near him. You used to hear them say ‘Get Greaves, get Greaves!’ He would say Schnoz, come and rescue me and there would be a battle going on then. Don’t you hurt our little Greavsie! The rest of the team used to protect him.
In training, the only way I could ever stop him was to bring him down if I could get close enough. He was sharp as a razor.
Jimmy was quiet, he wasn’t the mouthy type. He was not the type of player to complain because us back-four were giving goals away, but he used to say come on boys, keep it tight at the back and I’ll do the rest for you, and he certainly did that in style. You knew if you can keep a clean sheet you’ve won the game.
I have a photo on the wall at home from when Coventry beat Spurs in 1987 to win the FA Cup. It is of George Curtis who was joint-manager with me, my son and myself, waving to Greavsie in the box. He was doing the TV coverage. He was pulling the window down in the little box and saying come on Schnoz my son, I told you you would beat them. I had told him not to tip us because he could not tip a winner to save his life when it came to horse racing.
Jimmy was such a great fellow, such a charming, lovely man. He was a great character with it, we got on great together. He got me to organise a birthday party for him near where I lived in Fulham, in a bowling club, and also a going-away party when he went to Italy. He gave me a lovely cigarette lighter for that, the old-fashioned type that sits on a table. I've still got that. I'm looking at it now on the shelf. Special moments.