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Arsenal’s most prolific goalscorer opens his account…

…118 years ago today.

By Andy Kelly

In our recent quiz I asked:

Of players who have played more than 30 first team competitive games for Arsenal, which player has the best goals scored per game ratio?

I must admit that I only discovered who this was shortly before setting the quiz and I was surprised that it wasn’t one of our most well known forwards. The table below shows the players in the top 10 that trail behind our man who enjoyed finding the net on a regular basis.

  Player Years played Games Goals Goals per game

2

Ted Drake

1934 – 1939

184

139

0.755

3

Ronnie Rooke

1946 – 1949

94

70

0.745

4

Harry King

1913 – 1920

39

29

0.744

5

Jack Lambert

1926 – 1934

161

109

0.677

6

Reg Lewis

1936 – 1953

176

118

0.670

7

James Henderson

1892 – 1895

47

31

0.660

8

Ian Wright

1991 – 1998

288

185

0.642

9

Joe Baker

1962 – 1966

156

100

0.641

10

Thierry Henry

1999 – 2007

377

228

0.605

As you can see there are some fantastic players in the list. Most do not need an introduction. Those that do are Harry King who was signed during the summer of 1913 and played most of his games in the Second Division before the First World War, and James Henderson whose haul was helped by the fact that he scored 12 goals in 8 FA Cup qualifying round games against the likes of City Ramblers and the 2nd Scots Guards. 

Henderson actually played three games alongside our most prolific goalscorer at the start of the 1894-95 season.

So, who was our man? He was Henry Boyd who scored 32 goals in 41 games between September 1894 and December 1896. This gives him a goals‑per‑game figure of 0.780. Henry also had a bit of story.

Born in Pollokshaws, Glasgow, in 1868 Henry played his first senior games in England for the short-lived Sunderland Albion. When Albion folded in 1892 he moved to Burnley where he played four league games, scoring one goal and then on to West Brom where he scored one goal in seven league games. Not the most prolific of goalscorers but the Woolwich Arsenal committee obviously saw something in him and brought him down south in May 1894.

Henry played his first game in the club’s colours in a 4-0 friendly win against Fleetwood Rangers on 8 September, scoring one goal. Two days later he made his league debut at home to Grimsby. Woolwich Arsenal lost 1-3 with Boyd scoring Arsenal’s goal.

He then put on an amazing run, scoring eight more goals in the next five league games:

Date Opponents Score Boyd’s goals
10 Sep Grimsby (H) 1-3 1
15 Sep Burton Swifts (A) 0-3 0
22 Sep Bury (H) 4-2 2
29 Sep Manchester City (H) 4-2 3
6 Oct Lincoln City (H) 5-2 2
13 Oct Newton Heath (A) 3-3 1

During this period he also scored five goals in three friendlies. However, on 15 October he broke his ankle whilst playing in a friendly against Sunderland. At this time, friendlies played a big part in Woolwich Arsenal’s fixture list. They played 30 league games during 1894-95 and 31 friendlies. The attendance of 10,000 for the Sunderland game was the second highest home gate of the season.

Some sources state that the broke his ankle in the previous league game against Newton Heath. This is an assumption as it was known that he broke his ankle but these sources did not look into the fact that he played against Sunderland.

These sources also state that the injury kept him out of the game for a year as his next league appearance wasn’t until October 1895. However, the injury wasn’t that bad and he returned to the team two months later on Christmas Eve in a friendly against New Brompton (who are now known as Gillingham).

What happened next is that Henry went AWOL. He got homesick and returned to Glasgow. Boyd wrote to the Arsenal directors apologising for his disappearance and asking if they would take him back. The directors ignored his request until October 1895; with Arsenal holding his registration he was unable to play for any other team.  He returned to the team and scored in the 5-0 win against Burton Swifts. All told he scored 13 goals in 22 League and FA Cup games during 1895-96 as well as 30 in 17 friendlies.

The following season he carried on where he had left off with 10 goals in 12 games. Then came a big problem. Boyd was one of the players that played in the 0-8 defeat against Loughborough in December 1896. We’re not sure exactly what happened but reports suggest that he and some other players, having been criticised by the directors for their lack of effort in that game, got drunk and threw some choice insults back at them.

Whatever the reason, Boyd was suspended “sine die” by the club and was transferred to Newton Heath (who later became Manchester United) on 18 January 1897.

Henry’s record at Woolwich Arsenal was: 

 

 League

FA Cup

United League

 Friendlies

 Total

Season Apps Gls Apps Gls Apps Gls Apps Gls Apps Gls
1894-95

6

9

5

5

11

14

1895-96

22

13

1

17

30

40

43

1896-97

12

10

4

1

7

5

23

16

Total

40

32

1

4

1

29

40

74

73

He continued his rich vein of scoring at Newton Heath with 32 goals in 60 games which included hat-tricks in consecutive games at the start of the 1897-98 season.

In the summer of 1899 Boyd returned to Scotland to play for Falkirk, after which we can find out no more. If you know what became of Henry would love to know.

6 comments to Arsenal’s most prolific goalscorer opens his account…

  • zdzis

    It’s kind of funny. Boyd’s story is uncannily similar to that of Robin Van Persie 🙂 After limited success with clubs of minor stature, he joins Arsenal, and goes on to develop a clinical touch. Then he breaks his ankle, but returns in great style. And then Arsenal concede 8 goals in one game, he insults the manager, and goes on to join what we know as ManU… Even the hat-trick bit fits!
    History doth repeat itself 🙂

  • colario

    @zdzis. I knew that Old Red Nose was old but not this old!

  • Wikipedia makes no mention of the homesickness and AWOLing that you mention, but it does have something to say about his post-Woolwich life:

    “Boyd spent two and a half years with Newton Heath, scoring three hat-tricks in the 1897–98 season that he spent with the club, as he racked up 22 goals in total. However the following season, 1898–99, he only played five times (but still scored five goals), and in August 1899 he left Newton Heath for Falkirk.

    “In all he scored 35 goals in 62 games for the Bank Street club, which makes him one of their most prolific forwards in terms of goals per game.”

    “He died in Scotland in July 1935.” Which would make him 67, and would have allowed him to live long enough to see Arsenal well into its first era of greatness, presuming the Scottish newspapers covered English football.

  • Andy Kelly

    Mike, I’ve deliberately not used Wikipedia. I assume that the date of death is sourced from Tony Matthews’ book. Matthews wrote a Who’s Who of Arsenal players which had so many mistakes in it that it cannot be used as a reference source on its own. If you look at the history if the Wikipedia entry you will see that I updated it just over 2 months ago to change the game in which he broke his leg.

  • Andrew Ryan

    Uncle Mike, What relevance has wikipedia got to a properly researched article?

  • Arsenal1Again

    Cheers for that story zdzis.

    Wikipedia! … helping kids copy and paste their way to GCSE’s for years.

    History research uses many sources. Whenever I see it hasn’t, I don’t bother reading the results.

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