I suppose you could say that as a YID, Tottenham Hotspur was always going to be my team.
Ok I know that calling my self a YID is sententious, tendentious and a tad contentious, but like Bagels I am a product of the East End of London, and though being called a YID was both anti-semitic and racist, my identity as a feisty Yid was set in salt-beef sandwiches and pickled cucumbers.
According to Jewish journalist Anthony Clavane, ‘The Spurs were more glamorous back then than the closer West Ham United or Arsenal’, ‘Back Then’ means ‘The North London Club was popular among Jewish immigrants who settled in the East End in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
That’s my lot.
‘Barnet, Hackney and Harrow, have traditionally been home to many Jews, which has also contributed to the Hotspur image.’ And since my family of slum dwellers was rehoused but a Gefilte fish ball from Barnet, you could say that we were in good company.
My father, brother and nephews, not to mention the delicious young Gentile Actor Jamie Glover – all staunch Spurs fans – liked nothing better than to bait my surrogate son – A fucking GOONER – every ‘Jew Do’. For all those years, before the pandemic forbade us from gathering in the garden every Rosh Hashanah, when we dipped apples in honey, shouted Locheim and took inordinate pleasure in ganging up on my surrogate son the lone Arsenal supporter, I had no idea that Jimmy Greaves was such a legend. I knew he was good but I didn’t know that he was as good as Pelé, or as accomplished as Romero, but the newspaper headline today read ‘Jimmy Greaves was a genius, the purest finisher England has produced.’
I must be the one and only Tottenham supporter who is fervent in her support but has about as much idea about the beautiful game as my nephew does about underwired up-lift bras.
I like footie for the small shorts and the diversity of the players. I love looking at their tattoos and singing along to ‘Oh, when The Spurs, go marching in’, although Jamie told me this morning that given Tottenham’s performance at the moment, he is in serious danger of handing his allegiance over to Leeds United – God forbid – I say that not because I know fuck all about Leeds and their place in the football firmament, but because the old git is from Leeds and he gets enough support from his three daughters, surrogate sons and Carl the next door neighbour who, btw, supports Liverpool.
But I digress.
As a small child I was passed over the heads of grown-up Tottenham fans, ( maybe grown-up is too strong a word) passed in the hands of strong armed Spurs fanatics. I was handed down to the wire netting, where I could stand knee high to a greengrocer as he called out ‘COME ON YOU SPUUUUUURS.’
I had no interest in the game, but loved the excitement and noise. Like all sports aficionados, the gangs rely on solidarity and commitment, camaraderie and blind devotion not to mention an unwavering belief that it will be better next time.
My brother played in the school team as goal keeper and my great nephew played in the Arsenal Youth Team (Sssh!) he had to keep silent about his loyalties.
So when I started at TVam – The original breakfast show on ITV – sitting next to a football legend was a quietly sublime moment.
The legend in question was, of course, Jimmy Greaves. He had a brilliant cohort Joe, a Cambridge educated script writer who ended up living in a cannery, with thighs the size of award winning Jamón Natural Serrano ham, that’s Jimmy not Joe or the cannery for that matter.
The Greavsie boy was funny and spontaneous with thighs the size of treacle soaked black ham, and more often than not we sat next to each other on the infamous sofa. I laughed at his jokes, he at mine.
The first time we sat together I put my hands round his thigh, and even to the uninitiated cook, it felt like a Large Bone-In St. George’s Ham.
He was warm and witty and it went over my head that he was the top scorer of all time; come on, I was 6 when I was passed over the heads of those fervent supporters.
When I left TVam, I moved on and lost contact. I did call Joe in the cannery a couple of years back to find out how Jimmy was. Small fry, compared to Ian St John and all those bad-boy-bods at ITV, so I felt I should just keep my adoration to myself.
This morning, whilst driving to Lamberhurst, I put the 12.00 news on, fiddled with the buttons to set my clock, and there was the top story. The exemplary Greavsie had died, aged 81. I have no idea where to send flowers, or a card, I have no idea where the funeral is, and I have no idea whether or not anybody could give a monkey’s that I was part of his life for four and half years, but I do know that my fond memories of him will linger.
Joe would tell stories of Jimmy breaking out of rehab, of Jimmy’s colourful language of Mr. Greaves’ phenomenal talent.
If I can find the number of the cannery I may give Joe a ring, for the loss of someone so dear – whatever age they are -is always hard. I will light a candle for him though. That’s Jimmy not Joe.
I just found out that an actress I worked with for years died in 2019. So many of my generation are pushing up daisies; and it’ll be my time soon. Should anybody want to write an obituary about me please, leave my thighs out of it.
Bye Bye Mr. Greaves You will Rest in Peace.