When Harry Kane breaks Jimmy Greaves’ long-standing goalscoring record, it will be a historic moment for Tottenham fans. Greaves remains a legendary figure in English football, primarily because no-one has ever come close to his total of 357 top-flight goals scored between Chelsea, Tottenham and West Ham. When a modern player matches one of his records, you know it’s something special.
To the uninitiated, however, the sentiment will seem relatively familiar. In recent years, we’ve seen the all-time goalscoring record broken at Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United too, courtesy of Thierry Henry, Frank Lampard, Sergio Aguero and Wayne Rooney. That means when Kane scores two more, five of the Big Six goalscoring records for the time of that player’s final goal for the club will be set over the last 11 years.
But outside the main six teams it is a completely different picture. Of the remaining 86 clubs in the top four divisions, only two goalscoring records have been set in that time, and one of those is at Milton Keynes Dons, which has stood for more than 20 years.
And while the big boys are used to seeing their record broken, the average goalscoring record across the four divisions has stood for 57 years. For many clubs, it is almost impossible to imagine their record ever being broken.
There is huge variation in goalscoring records across the 92 clubs. The three oldest records date back to the pre-war period, the most notable being Steve Bloomer’s legendary 332 goals for Derby County. He remains second only to Greaves in terms of all-time goals.
Bloomer’s Derby figures were particularly impressive given that he spent four years at Middlesbrough between two spells at the club, and because he also played regularly for Derby Baseball Club (Derby’s ground was, of course, called the Baseball Ground ), becoming British champion three times. occasions
If you wanted to become the club’s record goalscorer, the best time to play was the late 1920s and 1930s. Not only did this mean your career wasn’t interrupted by war, as it would have been in the two-sided generation, but these forwards benefited from a change in the offside law in 1925, which meant a player would now be on the field if there were two opponents. his goal as it stands today, not the previous three. Immediately, the goals per game rate rose from 2.6 to 3.7 and would remain above 3.0 until World War II.
This period produced some of football’s most famous goalscoring achievements; Aston Villa scored 128 goals in one season, Everton’s Dixie Dean scored 60 goals of his own for Everton and Arsenal’s Ted Drake scored 7 goals in one game. And, more fittingly, it was the decade in which 22 of the 92 clubs’ all-time goalscoring records were set, from Carlisle’s Jimmy McConnell to Plymouth Argyle’s Sammy Black. No other decade comes close.
The period following World War II was also a fertile period for record scorers. Preston’s Tom Finney and Bolton’s Nat Lofthouse scored most of their goals in the 1950s but retired in 1960, while Greaves did the same in the 60s and his Spurs career ended in 1970.
Meanwhile, the current top goalscorer for a Football League club was Tony Horseman for Wycombe, who scored 416 goals between 1961 and 1978, although none of them came in the Football League. Wycombe repeatedly rejected offers to move to the professional league and first played in the top four tier in 1993.
A similar case exists for various clubs that have been promoted to non-league relatively recently. None of Forest Green, Barrow, AFC Wimbledon or Sutton United’s record goalscorers have ever played in the Football League, while the same is probably true of Salford City. Salford do not display any record goalscorers on their website and when contacted The Athletic For more information, they said their records were destroyed in an arson attack in 2009. Since then they only have complete records.
The least intimidating record, by the way, belongs to Wigan Athletic midfielder Andy Liddell, an attacking midfielder who spent six seasons at the club. Wigan are one of many clubs to celebrate their record goalscorer, not in all competitions. Maybe they should add the goals scored in cup competitions as 70 is a bit modest.
Recent years have been almost all about the big clubs. For years it seemed inevitable that Henry, Lampard, Rooney and Aguero would become their club’s record goalscorers.
And if the Premier League’s regular Big Six has now become a Big Seven thanks to Newcastle’s rise, it fits the pattern as Alan Shearer went half a dozen off Jackie Milburn’s long-standing record of 200 points to end his Newcastle career in 2006. 206 goals.
Perhaps the saddest thing is that modern day supporters of clubs going down the pyramid will probably never watch their club’s record goalscorer. As disparity between clubs has increased and players are more likely to move to a bigger club in search of money and trophies, records are less likely to be broken.
Remarkably, for example, the last of Aston Villa’s 10 all-time top goalscorers, Northern Irishman Peter McParland, left the club in 1962. The man who came closest in recent times was Dwight Yorke, whose 98 goals put him. Just two away from Villa’s top 10, but ultimately he was too good for Villa, so he moved to Manchester United, where he promptly won the treble.
This now seems inevitable for a club like Villa. Either their strikers score so often that they move on to bigger and better things like Yorke, or they aren’t effective enough to attract the interest of richer clubs and therefore don’t score as regularly , to break records.
For example, Gabriel Agbonlahor, who spent his entire career at Villa apart from a few loan spells, scoring just 87 goals as a youngster. Genuine love for the club will not be enough to keep top players around until Villa become a Champions League club, as Jack Grealish’s example shows.
The same goes for Everton and Wayne Rooney, while the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Richarlison also rose to the top when they excelled at the club. No-one would challenge Dean’s outstanding record, despite Lukaku being 10 goals away from Everton’s top 10 finish.
It’s hard to identify many current Premier League players who could upset their club’s record books. Aleksandar Mitrovic is 72 goals short of Fulham’s record, although he is scoring too much this season to give himself a decent chance; campaign as he did last season. Wilfried Zaha is out of contract in the summer and is unlikely to score another 76 Crystal Palace goals, while if Ivan Toni is prolific enough to look like he might score another 90 for Brentford, then he sure to attract. another club.
Perhaps we should look to the big clubs for further records. Mohamed Salah is now halfway to Ian Rush’s total, although he certainly won’t be at Liverpool long enough to mount a serious challenge. Marcus Rashford is not far from half Rooney’s figure and on current form could achieve that if he spends his entire career at Old Trafford. Erling Holland is 10 percent closer to Sergio Aguero in just half a season, although there are many factors – form, fitness, transfer, change of position – that can affect a player’s ability to score multiple goals consistently. years.
And that just underlines the point that it’s only the biggest clubs where those records will realistically be broken. Discounting the MK Dons due to their formation, there is only one anomaly.
In November 2022, Rochdale’s Ian Henderson broke the club’s 49-year-old goalscoring record with a fine header against his former club Salford City. In a testament to his durability, the goal was assisted by youngster Ethan Brierley, who started alongside Henderson as a 10-year-old talisman in 2014.
Henderson originally arrived at Rochdale in 2013 as a winger rather than a centre-forward, but became known for his clever movement and inventive finishing. He was released against his will as Rochdale battled to extend contracts in 2020 amid the pandemic, just four goals short of Reg Jenkins’ record set in 1973, but returned last summer to finish the job.
“I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say I’m incredibly proud, over the moon, overwhelmed and very emotional right now,” Henderson said in a fantastic interview afterward, fighting back tears. “It’s an overwhelming feeling, an achievement that has taken a long time to achieve, but I’m incredibly proud.”
Henderson was well aware of his place in Rochdale history, but perhaps unaware of how rare it is these days for a player outside the true elite to become his club’s record goalscorer in the modern era. That requires both prolific goalscoring and longevity at the club. The latter is lacking these days.
That makes Kane’s impending acquisition interesting. When working for regular Premier League rivals, there is no need for a player to move to a club, while at clubs that cannot hope to win the title, ambitious players seek promotion. Most clubs can be neatly classified into either category.
But Kane has spent most of his Spurs career in limbo. a rare position where a player is faced with a dilemma whether to stay or go.
Perhaps, however, that much-cited lack of trophies makes Kane’s impending achievement all the more special to Spurs fans. Arsenal fans don’t remember Henry’s record above the Invincibles season; Chelsea are not thinking about Lampard’s record in European Cups, which he raised as captain.
Perhaps surpassing Greaves will be Kane’s legacy at Spurs, especially if he breaks the record against Arsenal this weekend, and the crowning achievement of this Tottenham era that will remain in the record books for decades.
But even if you’re not a Tottenham fan, the moment is worth enjoying. We’re used to seeing club goalscoring records broken, but it could be a long time before that happens again.