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Harry King – our greatest hat trick scorer of them all

By Tony Attwood

The fact that we know so little about Henry Edward King is an absolute tragedy of overwhelming proportions.  For he was a true hero of Arsenal, scoring 26 goals in 37 league games in one season.  He also scored the first ever hat trick at Highbury on 14 November 1914 and undoubtedly played a part in the narrative that led to Arsenal’s election to the first division.

If only we knew more.  And surely there must be more information available because Harry King died in 1968 (aged 81 or 82).  We even know that he died in Worcester.  If we could only find his grandchildren with memories of stories…

But let me stop moaning about what we don’t know and record what we do.

Henry Edward King was born in 1886 – the year of the foundation of Arsenal, in Northampton, and played centre forward.  But he obviously had a connection with Worcestershire from the off since his first club is recorded as Evesham Star – a club for whom I have no details but who clearly played in the town whose name they carry.

He then went on to Worcester City who we know were founded in 1902, before moving on to Birmingham in 1907 and stayed there for two seasons before reverting to non-league football.

After playing for Crewe Alexandra and Northampton Town (where he presumably retained connections from his childhood), he joined Arsenal in April 1914, for a fee of £1000 as the new centre forward.

Arsenal had been close to promotion in 1913/14 and so in this, their second season at Highbury the aim was obviously to add to the fire power and make the final push.

And what an impact he made.  26 goals in the league and another three in the cup.  And his records included the first hat trick at Highbury.

Arsenal moved to Highbury in the summer of 1913 and so 1914/15 was indeed their second season at the new ground.

In 1913/14 back in the second division for the first time since 1903/4 Arsenal came very close indeed to promotion, missing out on goal average and coming third.

And you will not be surprised to know that Arsenal got a hat trick – but that first hatrick of their time at Highbury was actually scored in an away match by Stephen Stonley on 25 December 1913, but it was scored in the away match at Bradford, which Arsenal won 2-3.

During the war Harry King was stationed with the Royal Garrison Artillery in Italy but also played in excess of 30 games for Arsenal’s wartime league side.  But despite this and earlier contributions to Arsenal, Leslie Knighton, the new manager brought in by Sir Henry Norris, did not rate him, and so Arsenal’s most impressive goalscorer to date was sold to Leicester City for £900.

Perhaps for once Knighton got it right, as Harry only scored one goal in eight for his new club, and was transferred after those eight games to Brentford for whom he scored 16 in 33 games.

Here’s his record in so far as we have all the details.

Years Team Lge Games Lge goals
Evesham Star
Worcester City
1907-1909 Birmingham 29 6
Crewe Alexandra
Northampton Town
1914-1915 Arsenal 37 26
1919 Leicester City 8 1
Brentford 33 16

Harry King in fact still holds the Club record for hat-tricks per match, scoring one every 9.75 games.

But although we know nothing of his private life, we can trace his year at the club as a league player.

  • 1 September 1914.  Harry’s first match: Arsenal 3 Glossop NE 0.  Harry scored two.
  • 19 September 1914.  Match 5.  Stockport 1 Arsenal 1.  King got the only goal and took his total scored to seven.
  • 17 October 1914.  Match 9.  Arsenal 2 Blackpool 0.  Harry got both goals taking his total to 10.
  • 14 November 1914.  Harry’s first hat trick.   Arsenal 6 Grimsby 0
  • 2 January 1915.  Harry’s second hat trick Arsenal 5 Wolverhampton 1
  • 9 January 1915.  Harry’s third hat trick.   Arsenal 3 Merthyr T 0  FA Cup
  • 24 April 1915.  In his last game for the club (and Arsenal’s last before the cessation of games for the duration) Harry scored not just his fourth and final hat trick – but also a fourth goal in the biggest win of the season: Arsenal 7 Nottm F 0.

Overall he played 37 games and scored 26 in the league.

If you have any more information, please do write in.

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6 comments to Harry King – our greatest hat trick scorer of them all

  • Sarah

    Hi Tony,
    I am the great granddaughter of Henry King!
    I can perhaps fill in some information on the personal life side… my mother, his granddaughter, remembers him, and one of his children, my great aunt, would have lots of information, I’m sure!
    Let me know if you would like to discuss!
    S

  • Sarah, I most certainly would like to expand our information on your great grandfather. Please do write to me at Tony.Attwood@aisa.org

  • Tony King

    Dear Mr Attwood, I am Henry Edward King’s grandson and lived with my Grandfather for the first 16 years of my life. I and my cousins have done a fair bit of research on his football career as well as his family background. Sarah who contacted you earlier in the year was not aware of our research as she was not thought to be interested in football and is of a much younger generation. One of his daughters, my Aunt is still alive (age 83) and there are six grandchildren who regularly meet up in Worcester once or twice a year. Grandad was such a character that those of us who knew him well (some 22 years in my case), remember him with great pleasure. I would be happy to pass on any information that we hold in respect of his time with the Gunners. For the record he was born on 4Jan 1886, in Nothampton and died 6 Feb 1968 in Worcester.

  • Tony – I would be delighted to receive either an article or if you find it easier some notes, and then I can construct a whole new updated article.

  • John King

    Hello Tony,

    I am a great grandchild of Henry King, though I never met him other than at my christening in 1967. Thank you for compiling all this information, it’s fascinating, especially as we live within earshot of Emirates Stadium.

  • Charles Odenwalder

    I am doing some Family History on my wifes family name Desborough.
    I found that her Great Grandfather was Alphonso Desborough born in Northampton in 1869. He married Louisa King in 1891 and for whatever reason the marriage did not last, and he came to Blackpool and started a new life On doing the Family Tree I find that Henry King is the younger Brother of Louisa.
    Is there anyone who can shed any light on the King Family.

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