“He was something special, the greatest goalscorer I have ever seen” – the words of Ted Farmer following the death at the weekend of Jimmy Greaves.
In the spring of 1958, the two of them were the central figures in the FA Youth Cup final that was dramatically shaded, from an apparently hopeless position, by Wolves.
It’s not inconceivable that they might have linked up as a fearsome attacking spearhead for England in the countdown to the 1966 World Cup finals on home soil.
But Farmer’s career had by then been decimated by injury and he would have been surprised when Greaves lost his place during the tournament to Geoff Hurst.
“I went toe-to-toe with him in my debut season but I suppose we are best known from when we were on opposing sides in the Youth Cup final,” Farmer said.
“He was already a First Division player and England under-23 international by then and he scored one of the goals when Chelsea hammered us down there in the first leg.
“I remember being outside the ground afterwards and Cliff Jones’s dad said the tie wasn’t over, although they led 5-1. Jimmy heard this comment and said: ‘If they stop us winning the cup from here, I’ll eat my hat.’
“He scored in the second leg as well but we turned it round spectacularly, as everyone knows, although we needed Johnny Kirkham to keep a close eye on him when they were really pushing hard to level the scores in the last few minutes of the return at Molineux.
“What I remember from when Jimmy played up here for Chelsea and then Tottenham are the screams from the crowd when the ball went near him in the penalty area. There was a lot of fear when he was an opponent!”
Having just eclipsed Greaves and his side at youth level, Wolves’ first team were totally undone by him in a Division One fixture at Stamford Bridge only three months later. As in the Youth Cup final, Wolves took an early lead (through Bobby Mason) before being blitzed, Jimmy this time hitting four of the goals by which Chelsea slammed the defending League champions 6-2.
“I hadn’t made the first team then but know he always had that knack of putting the ball where the keeper least expected it,” Farmer added. “He wasn’t afraid of shooting in at the near post if he thought he was being encouraged to go across the keeper.
“He was so clever at finding space and, like Billy Wright, having this sense about where the ball was going to land or bounce to.
“And when he had it at his feet and he was running towards goal, he just appeared to glide, although I doubt he was ever one of the quickest in a sprint over a hundred yards.
“He was an exceptional player, very special and a mate to me. He will be missed very much.
“His scoring record was phenomenal but I wonder whether his record and career with England might have been better. Like me, he was a bit anti-administration and didn’t have much time for those in their ivory towers.”