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Chelsea boy wonder at seventeen, scoring goals for fun –
A new breed; slick, self-assured, smoothly confident in
His own abilities. Made fools of the lumbering defenders,
As he raced through to find the net – without fail it seemed.
Always right place, right time – the definition of style they say.
England was just another step on the ladder; the boy was
Made for it, a ‘natural’, a predator unequalled since Lawton,
And Dean before him. Then to Milan – big time, bigger money.
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Not for the Londoner, that continental culture – so Spurs
Brought him home for £99,999; a special figure, for a special
Player. At home amongst the likes of Blanchflower, Smith,
Jones, White and Mackay. Goals flowed like champagne, the
Magic still sweet as he dazzled down the Lane – a deadly
deciever, flashing past static back lines to meet the ball on his
Instep; a glide past desperate opponents – the ball tied to his
Feet – before passing it into the onion bag; keeper nowhere.
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Despite hepatitis, he still flourished – part of the sixties scene
As much as Best, Baxter and Law, fellow entertainers on the
Fields of dreams. Then came the World Cup – England’s finest
Hour was won without him…How much of a blow must that
Have been to a man supremely sure of his talent, his abilities,
His undoubted capabilities. The finest goalscorer of the time,
Yet overlooked by Ramsey – a man never comfortable with
Sheer individualism, preferring the eager workrate ethic.
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But the images remain of that jaunty, gum-chewing maestro;
Destroying teams with his quintessential quality – a slick, deadly
Finisher without equal. Even all those goals weren’t enough
For some – they said he didn’t do enough off the ball, didn’t
Track back, didn’t tackle; genius doesn’t have to justify itself.
So, to West Ham – and another debut score, but by now the
Times were getting harder. Drink took a hold as his playing days
Drew down – no more limelight, no more glory, no more goals.
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He sank fast, not in the media glare like Georgie, but just as
Desperately; salvation came through public admission. It was
Greavsie on the telly again – as cheery, wise-cracking pundit
In the pre-SKY eighties. Bit of a paunchy parody now, so we
Remember the slim, dark-haired figure in the white of Spurs,
Or England – an elusive spirit who thrilled packed grounds as
He skated over muddy pitches and around stranded goalies
To coolly convert another; nonchalance personified, 357 times.