Saturday, 22 March 2014 became a momentous occasion for Arsene Wenger when celebrating his 1,000th game in charge of Arsenal. However, party poopers Chelsea handed their rivals an unwelcome 6-0 drubbing and their biggest ever win over the Gunners. In a defeat hard to swallow in a car-crash performance by the players, Wenger didn’t turn up for the post match press-conference, saying later: “I don’t believe it is the time to talk too much about [what went wrong].” He further added: “It was a nightmare and I take full responsibility for it.” Apart from hurt pride, the defeat dented Arsenal’s title hopes. Referee Andre Marriner later apologised for sending off Arsenal’s Kieran Gibbs in a case of mistaken identity, when it was reported that it should have been Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Come midweek, it was stated in the media that it wasn’t a red-card offence anyhow as the ball was deemed to be flying wide of goal.
Mentioning Chelsea, the side certainly found the back of the net in 2010, the first team to score over 100 goals in top-flight football since Tottenham Hotspur in 1963. That season, Chelsea celebrated clinching the Premiership in style after trouncing Wigan 8-0 in the final game, thus taking the spoils by one point over Manchester United.
On the same day that Arsenal took a body blow, the Premiership witnessed 32 goals and became the fifth-highest in its history from eight games played. Furthermore, this was the first time in Premiership history that three of the top four sides scored five or more goals on the same day. Liverpool’s Luis Suarez helped himself to a hat-trick in the 3-6 defeat of Cardiff City away, as well as Yaya Toure in Manchester City’s 5-0 home win over Fulham.
Back in season 1957/58, Manchester City scored 100 goals and conceded 104 in the First Division and never happening since. Denis Law scored all of City’s goals against Luton Town in a 4th Round FA Cup match at Kenilworth Road 28 January 1961, only for the match to be abandoned 6-2 due to the pitch becoming waterlogged from a torrential downpour. Law went on to score in the replay but City still went out 3-1.
Tranmere Rovers Robert “Bunny” Bell raised the stakes on Boxing Day, 1935. Hitting nine goals (could have been 10 after missing a penalty) past a wilting Oldham Athletic defence helped deliver the most goals scored in a single game by a team residing in the Football League. Not only that, the aggregate goals in the 13-4 victory also equalled the record. It was a stunning performance, especially as Oldham had trotted out 4-1 winners on the Christmas Day fixture. The only thing I can think of is that the Oldham boys over celebrated! Unsurprisingly, Bell completed the season topping the goal charts with 33 to his name. Never in a month of Sundays would anyone have ever envisaged that Bell’s record would ever be broken. Proving his worth, Joe Payne rewrote the record books at Luton Town. Joining the Hatters in 1934, he didn’t actually set the set the football world on fire, unable to make the grade in either the first team or reserves. That was set to change in dramatic fashion when up against Bristol Rovers in a Third Division (South) fixture on 13 April 1936. That eventful day, Luton faced a dilemma after their regular centre-forwards had cried off through injury. Drafting in Payne upfront, nothing was on the cards to hint what was about to explode. Joe was slow off the mark, with his first goal arriving on the 20-minute mark…. and then the floodgates opened up in an amazing game.
Displaying stunning form, Payne hit the bemused Rovers for another nine in a 12-0 mauling, and remains a Football League record to this day. The following season (1936/37) Payne delivered a 55-goal haul to guide Luton to the Third Division (South) title. Joe eventually made 72 appearances for Luton and in the process scored an impressive 83 goals. At Chelsea, he thundered in 21 from 36 outings and six goals out of 10 appearances for West Ham. One England showing saw him net two goals in an 8-0 thumping of Finland. Some journey for a player who commenced a career path at Bolsover Colliery.
The radical change in the offside law way back in time created more spectator appeal. The number of goals scored in 1924/25 stood at 4,700. By freeing up the attack it returned a massive 35 per cent increase (6,373) the following season. The sublime Dixie Dean (affectionately nicknamed due to his dark features and curly hair) set a phenomenal pace under the new rule. Not only did he smash home 60 goals at the season’s end 1928, but he also broke the record in the process. His blistering pace and power allowed him to slice through defences like a knife through butter. Most goals scored in a single day in the Football League came to 209 from 44 games on 1 February 1936 and including nine hat-tricks. Interestingly, Chester rattled York’s slack defence 12-0, while Chesterfield shaved it against Crewe Alexandra 6-5. And yet Bristol City and Aldershot blanked in a 0-0 result.
Arsenal and Leicester City produced the first Division One 6-6 draw in 1930 and repeated in 1960 when Charlton Athletic met Middlesborough. Motherwell and Hibernian set a Scottish Premier record in 2010, the match in question ending six goals apiece. Aston Villa entered the record books when scoring 128 goals in season 1930/31. Arsenal scored one goal fewer but still claimed the First Division crown by seven points ahead of Villa. Question time: Aston Villa apart, how many clubs residing in the Football League/Premiership as at 2014 have names that commence and finish with the same letter and likewise in Scotland?
Everton, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Fulham and Lincoln City entered the record books at the season’s end 1932. Never before had all four divisional champions scored a century or more goals in the same season. Manchester United, Leicester City, Ipswich Town and Derby County emulated this feat in the 1956/57 season, and repeated in 1960/61 by Tottenham (115 goals), Ipswich Town (100 goals), Bury (108 goals) and Peterborough United (134 goals) in their respective divisions.
Scottish Second Division Raith Rovers established a British record themselves in 1937/38 after cracking home 142 goals from 34 matches. The best an English team could muster arrived from Second Division Luton Town when hitting 89 from 42 outings. Raith encountered a scary moment during a voyage to the Canary Islands in 1923. Battered by violent thunderstorms, their ship Highland Loch ran aground. All players continued the journey after disembarking safely.
Staying focused on Scotland and back in the mists of time, Arbroath established a world senior football score on 12 September 1885 after blitzing Bon Accord 36-0. John Petrie stung the opposition with 13 goals, a British record for an individual. According to research, Bon Accord was actually a cricket team, Orion Cricket Club. They were mistakenly invited to compete in the Scottish Cup instead of Orion F.C. – and an easy mistake to make given that football clubs were part of general sports clubs. (e.g. Heart of Midlothian began life as part of a cricket club). Several English football clubs commenced life from cricket and rugby clubs. Allegedly, Bon Accord arrived for the match without any form of standard football kit. On the same day, Dundee Harp thundered in 35 past Aberdeen Rovers without reply. Dundee Harp was suspended by the SFA in 1894 for inability to pay match guarantees to visiting clubs and subsequently disappeared from the scene.
Stoke Football Club didn’t actually make any headway in the Football League in the first two competitive seasons, finishing bottom on both occasions and subsequently demoted. This gave Sunderland an opportunity to set their stall out in barnstorming fashion after replacing the Potters. The club rose to the challenge to set a new benchmark for other clubs to aspire to. Three league titles in a four-year spell is some trailblazing. Only for Aston Villa’s intervention in pushing Sunderland into second spot at the season’s end 1894, it would have been an incredible four on the trot. Season 1892/93 saw Sunderland finish the campaign scoring 100 goals and the first club to reach this milestone.
Some years later, Airdrieonians (originally called Excelsior Football Club) enjoyed mixing it with Glasgow’s two giants during the Twenties. It was some meteoric rise for the Diamonds with the club runners-up in the Scottish League on four consecutive seasons. Leading from the front, the tenacious 5ft 5ins Hughie Gallagher galvanised the little Lanarkshire club with loads of goals. Out of 554 senior games representing various clubs, he hit the back of the net 406 times.
Commencing a career path at Queen of the South, 19 goals were credited to him from just nine outings. Onwards to Airdrieonians, the goals continued to flood in: 91 out of 111 appearances. The fans at Newcastle United enjoyed an impressive return of 133 from 160 games, while at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea, the goal count came to 72 from 132 matches. The total goals cracked home at spells with Derby County, Notts County, Grimsby Town and Gateshead amounted to 91 from 142 outings.
Quick and brave, he led Newcastle United to the First Division title in 1926/27. That season, the stats show 36 goals from 38 matches, a record unbroken for nearly 50 years. Departing for Chelsea for £10,000 in the summer of 1930, when Chelsea next visited St James’ Park, a record official attendance of 68,585 came to watch Gallagher – and it’s said at least 40,000 were locked outside. He also became a prolific scorer on the international stage. Gallagher was a member of the famous “Wembley Wizards” who terrorised the English defence in a British Home Championship in 1928. In tragic circumstances under mounting personal problems, a court case and a failure to heal a rift with his son led to him jumping in front of the York-Edinburgh express train at “Dead Man’s Crossing”, Low Fell, in June 1957. A truly sad way to end one’s own life, considering the affection showered on him during an outstanding football career.
Tottenham Hotspur created a unique piece of history after winning the FA Cup in 1901 while residing in the Southern League. The final against Sheffield United attracted a massive 114,815 to the old Chrystal Palace ground and which ended in a draw. Although the Palace was made available for the replay, it was taken up North to Bolton, but not before Liverpool objected most vociferously to Everton’s Goodison Park. Inclement weather, as well as a block on a cheap rail tickets deterred Tottenham’s travelling fans. At the final count, a 20,740 crowd witnessed an historic occasion as Spurs took the Cup in a 3-1 victory. Anticipating another bonanza pay day, the caterers provided extra pies, resulting in a mass giveaway, the day since being referred to as Pie Day. The star of the Cup campaign was undoubtedly Tottenham’s Sandy Brown who received all the back-slapping and plaudits after becoming the first player to score in every round of the competition. His 15 goals remains a record to this day.
St Albans Billy Minter homed in for seven goals in a cup-tie when facing Dulwich Hamlet on 2 November 1922. However, his goal exploits failed to win the match as his side lost 8-7. He actually became the last amateur to lead out England, in his solitary appearance as skipper against Northern Ireland in October 1925. Halifax Town’s debutant goalkeeper S. Milton suffered the blues after conceding 13 goals against Stockport County in 1931. On the international stage, Northern Ireland’s goalkeeper Pat Kelly let in eight goals on his debut against Scotland in 1949. Unsurprisingly, he was never selected again. Hugh Kelly (no relation) conceded nine against England in Ireland’s very next game. On 18 February 1882, 15 months after the founding of the Irish FA, Ireland played their first international against England and on the receiving end of a thumping 13-0. This remains a record defeat and also England’s largest winning margin. James Hamilton was the unfortunate goalkeeper.
Next up, more connections between rugby league and football followed by one of football’s first superstars.