England World Cup winners Jimmy Greaves and Ron Flowers to be made MBEs

Finally, 75 years later than he envisaged, Jimmy Greaves, MBE, has got his call-up – although it will never be the one he wanted. His excitement about a trip to the palace is clear from a tweet on Sunday which seemed to pre-empt the news.

“Looks likely there’s good news on Jan 1st,” he wrote. “Not necessarily what you have all hoped for but at least something to cheers us all up. So happy new year one and all.”

Ron Flowers, the former Wolves midfielder, is also to be made an MBE, finally honouring the last survivors of the 1966 World Cup winning squad in such a way.

Those on the bench for that 4-2 win against West Germany are used to waiting for their medals, of course.

It was only in 2009 that FIFA agreed allow Gordon Brown to hand over winners’ medals to those outside of the 11 players on the field at the end of the match – and bear in mind substitutes would not become part of the World Cup finals until four years later.

Back then, it was all about being one of the names on the sheet, which makes the continued absence of “Greaves” in particular from the New Year’s honour’s roll seem so unnecessarily cruel.

Without a doubt, he remains the country’s foremost ever world class striker.

Only the emergence of Harry Kane in recent years has thrown fresh light on how good Greaves’ goalscoring record was.

The England captain’s record has inevitably been compared most closely – and usually favourably to the top goalscorer Wayne Rooney.

But it was Greaves, now 80, who has hit every milestone streaks ahead of his fellow Tottenham striker.

Kane scored his 10th England goal in his 20th international. Greaves scored 20 times in the same number of games. Kane’s 30th came in match no. 44; Greaves did it in 33.

Indeed, Greaves had scored 43 of his 44 England goals before the start of the 1966 World Cup finals tournament.

Kicked out of the group game against France, he missed the quarter- and semi-finals through injuries.

He was declared fit, though, for the final – news to lift a nation.

Sir Alf Ramsey remained unmoved, however, and chose to stick with a novice understudy who hadn’t even kicked a ball for his country five months earlier.

I mean, what was he expecting from Geoff Hurst?

Subsequent hat-trick heroics only heightened Greaves’ disenchantment with the whole thing and he only played three times more for his country.

Following a move to West Ham he started to find the bottom of the bottle more consistently than the back of the net.

He conquered his demons, however, in time for glorious cameo returns at Chelmsford, Barnet and Woodford Town and reintroduced himself to a younger generation as one of the nations’ most popular TV football presenters alongside Ian St John.

Flowers, meanwhile, had a quieter retirement from the game, running the city centre shop in Wolverhampton which still bears the 86-year-old’s name – “Ron Flowers Sports”.

He, too, thought he might play in the final – Jack Charlton appeared to be coming down with something on the eve of the game, and Flowers was put on standby.

As it was, he never got to collect his medal from the Queen, in the Royal Box at Wembley that day, either.

Hopefully, even in these difficult times, that can be rectified for the pair of them soon.


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