Jimmy Greaves proves a crowd-pleaser at the Apex

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REVIEW by Russell Claydon

THEY certainly don’t make them like they used to.

Jimmy Greaves, the man the great Pele declared the greatest goalscorer he has ever seen, can do far more than put a ball in the onion bag, on this showing.

Tears were rolling down faces at the Apex in Bury St Edmunds on Wednesday night as the former Spurs legend proved his worth as a top stand-up comic - for the last time by himself, after 15 years, before he joins up with Gazza.

Incredibly, Greaves went 30 minutes into his show without mentioning his own career. And they flew by, just like the whole night.

Jokes about even his future work colleague Paul Gascoigne were not avoided as Greaves showed he was quick off the mark with new material, including the evening’s match between Manchester United and Chelsea (about favourable United officials), as well as a few words on Tottenham’s capitulation in Madrid and Wayne Rooney.

During his two-hour set a wonderful insight into the changing face of football was delivered by Greaves, who scored an incredible 44 goals in 57 international appearances.

He told of how he worked in the office at Chelsea as an apprentice, aspiring to the £20-a-week maximum wage; didn’t even know where AC Milan was when told he was being transferred there and how he would have paid anything out of his pocket to come home! And then, of course, those wonderful years as part of Bill Nicholson’s all-conquering side at White Hart Lane.

Quite simply the audience, who got to carry out a question-and-answer session with the great man during the second half, were hanging on his every word and anecdote. And the laughter almost bought the house down.

A particular favourite story of mine was when he told how he carried out the first-ever double act commentary on live television, obviously now the norm, with Ian St John, as an emergency stand-in for a game between Scotland and Italy. And how it went horribly wrong. To the point where they didn’t know the Italian goalscorer as the crowd jumped up in front of them and when Jimmy was asked off mic by Ian his expletive-driven reply was taken up in a desperate bid to mean an Italian name, and given out on air! It was their one and only go.

Greaves, who currently writes a column for the People, clearly believes today’s ‘superstars’ could learn a lot from his generation, but there was no bitterness at the current crop, although there was a few jokes about Emile Heskey, Peter Crouch and Wayne Rooney.

I didn’t expect Greaves to be as funny as he was, but on or off the pitch, this guy, who used this show to raise money for charity, is clearly in a league of his own.

* Jimmy Greaves tour with Paul Gascoigne, both former Spurs legends and both recovering alcoholics, will be touring together for the first time from June 18. The nearest show to Suffolk will be in Stevenage on November 12 at the Gordon Craig Theatre. For tickets call the box office on 01438 363200.