As a young lad I used to love getting the autographs of players and I filled a fair few books. I would also take along the odd football annual and get a player who may have been featured inside to put his signature on his photo. Coventry City were a Third Division team back then but when we got into the First Division that enabled me to get the autographs of top players from clubs like Chelsea, Leeds, Liverpool, Arsenal and of course Manchester United.
But the one signature that eluded me was the one of my favourite footballer at that time and who is still my hero today and that was Jimmy Greaves. I watched him play the Sky Blues just the once at Highfield Road when he turned out for Spurs when he scored twice in a 4-2 win for them ,but when I waited around with hundreds of other youngsters trying to get his autograph after the match we were told to go away as there were too many of us there and they wanted to get away and back to London. So I left disappointed and never saw him play again only on the telly when he banged in goals galore for club and country.
My autograph books were full with signatures from the likes of Best, Law, Osgood, Bobby Moore and Bobby Charlton, but an empty space which I’d reserved for Greavsie was never going to be filled and as a young lad I was heartbroken. But as I got older I lost interest in autograph hunting and the books were stored away in a cupboard collecting dust along with stacks of football annuals and other memorabilia. Then many years later Jimmy Greaves and Ian St John turned up on television with their very popular programme called Saint and Greavsie where they formed an unlikely double act and it was watched each Saturday by millions around the country.
Jimmy was the jovial funny man while the tough Scot just cracked up laughing at Jimmy’s antics and it was a must see programme if you loved sport and a good laugh. It was filmed at the Central studios in Birmingham and I read in the local paper that Greavsie was doing a book signing there and as it was only a thirty minute train journey from Coventry I decided I’d go along and take one of his autobiographies with me, as I hadn’t purchased his latest one.
For company I took my son with me who was only aged about six or seven back then as I thought we could make a day of it and he was excited at the thought of walking around a real live television studio with cameras and film stars, while I was all a flutter at the prospect of finally meeting my footballing idol and getting the autograph that had escaped me all those years ago.
We got to the studio and we had to join a long line of other Greavsie fans who were all holding his new book, while I had my older one, but all I wanted was that elusive autograph, to say to Jimmy how much I admired his abilities and to say thanks for all the enjoyment he gave us fans.
As we moved forward to the table where he was sitting I started to get jittery for some reason and then when I was standing in front of my hero and all I could say was: “Alright Jimmy, how you doing?” He just looked up and smiled and replied: “I’m fine mate”. I handed him the book and he asked who shall I sign it to? And as I was all starstruck I told him to sign it to my son who was standing next to me. And that was that and before I knew it we were both outside the studio and heading on back to the railway station. I then realised I hadn’t got Jimmy to put my name down on the picture in my book and to make matters worse my young lad looked up at me and said: “Dad, who was that old fat bloke who was writing in peoples books?”
After all those years I messed up big time and my hero worship got the better of me and my son had innocently called my favourite ever footballer a fat old codger to make me feel more depressed! I can laugh about it now but still can’t believe how I let nerves get the better of me as I heard Jimmy was a laid back character and although he had problems with drink, had got sober and was a good laugh and had lots of time for his fans.
So all I can say to anyone looking to meet his or her hero just keep cool and relax and don’t miss the chance to ask a couple of questions as you may regret it like me as I haven’t had the opportunity since. But on the positive side of things I did get his autograph even if it was addressed to my son who had never even heard of him!