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The 10 greatest goalscorers in English top flight history

10 greatest goal scorers in English top flight history
(Image credit: Getty)

Jimmy Greaves was goals. The former Chelsea, Milan, Tottenham and England marksman has a good shout at being the greatest of all time in the art of sticking a ball in the onion bag. He made it look utterly effortless, and will be sorely missed by teammates, coaches and fans just as much as by friends and family. 

The former striker is the all-time top goalscorer in England’s top flight, with 357 goals in 516 appearances. Let’s have a look at the others who join Greavsie in the top 10. 

10. Hughie Gallacher (246 goals)

The highest scoring Scotsman in the history of English top-flight football. Gallacher was born way back in 1903 and went on to smash in almost 250 league goals for clubs including Newcastle United (133 in 161 appearances), Chelsea and Derby County. He also plundered another 90 in the Scottish top flight, making him one of the most prolific no.9s these shores have ever seen. 

9. Joe Bradford (249 goals)

We’re disappointed to tell you that Joe Bradford didn’t score any of these goals for Bradford. No, he scored the lot for Birmingham City instead. What’s more, his career ran almost concurrently with that of the aforementioned Gallacher, meaning fans of top flight football in the late 1920s were enjoying a rivalry to, well, rival that of Lionel Messi and CR7 in La Liga. Good heavens!

8. Nat Lofthouse (255 goals)

Nat Lofthouse

(Image credit: Getty)

“In my day, there were plenty of fellas who would kick your b*llocks off,” said Nat Lofthouse. “The difference was that at the end of the match they’d shake your hand and help you look for them.” His comment was more than just a good line. The blood and thunder of Lofthouse’s era – he made his debut shortly after WWII – was very real. His hardy generation (Lofthouse was conscripted to work in the mines) didn’t shy away from a battle, and the Boltonian, who played at his hometown club for his entire career, was a maestro amid the heavy balls and bad pitches of his era.

Lofthouse was of average height, but did his best work in the air, having honed his heading skills with a tennis ball. His most celebrated moments both involved him taking a bruising: in May 1952 he earned his ‘Lion of Vienna’ tag, scoring against Austria for England despite being elbowed in the face, hacked at from behind and felled by the goalkeeper. Six years later, as the captain of Bolton Wanderers in the FA Cup final against Manchester United, he turned the tables, shoulder-charging keeper Harry Gregg into his own net to score the second of two goals and lift the trophy. Nat later admitted that it should have been a foul.

There was much to admire beyond the warrior. Lofthouse had a great shot, a mazy dribble, was tactically astute and was a true leader, bagging 255 goals for his club and

30 for England from 33 caps. He remains worshipped in Bolton, where he later became a club scout, chief coach, manager and life president before his death in January 2011.

7. Charlie Buchan (257 goals)

Here at FFT, we love Charlie Buchan more than most. Why, we hear you ask? Well, because as well as being a goalscorer of the highest order – the man notched 209 times for Sunderland and a further 49 for Arsenal in a career interrupted by WWI – but because he’s also a passionate football writer too. Following service in the trenches, and with a pile of defenders run ragged in his wake, Buchan went on to write for the Daily News, commentate for the BBC and eleven co-founded the Football Writers’ Association. And some people say footballers lack smarts! 

6. David Jack (257 goals)

Bolton legend Jack was the first man to score at Wembley as the Trotters lifted the 1923 FA Cup. Five years later, Arsenal made him the first £10,000 player. It would have been more too, were it not for some creative negotiation tactics. Mired in financial difficulty, Bolton’s representatives agreed to meet legendary Gunners boss Herbert Chapman at a hotel to thrash out a deal for their star man. 

Little did they know, Chapman had bribed the waiter to bring only him drinks without any alcohol. Nicely lubricated, his Wanderers counterparts eventually agreed to knock almost £3,000 off their asking price. Jack went on to score 113 times for Arsenal, adding to the 144 he scored for Bolton. That put him level with Buchan, but he edges it for playing fewer games. 

5. Alan Shearer (283 goals)

Alan Shearer

(Image credit: PA)

Younger readers shouldn’t be fooled by his dad jokes (and chunky knitwear) on the Match of the Day sofa – Alan Shearer was as deadly as any striker world football has seen in the modern era. Throughout the ’90s, he was the man every English schoolboy pretended to be on the playground.

Having been rejected by his hometown club Newcastle, he headed to the other end of the country in search of a shot at the big time. A debut hat-trick for Southampton against Arsenal put the 17-year-old Shearer on the map, and by the time he’d netted 21 goals in the 1991-92 season, he was undoubtedly English football’s brightest young thing.

A big money move to Blackburn – yes, Blackburn – quickly followed. There he scored 112 Premier League goals in 138 matches, during which time he helped Rovers to the Premier League title and secured his status as England’s regular No.9. But it wasn’t all plain sailing. In the run-up to Euro 96, Shearer was on a run of 12 matches without an international goal – a barren run spanning almost two years. That came to a dramatic end at Euro 96, where Shearer’s five goals helped England to the semi-finals and meant he was once again in great demand.

The emotional pull of a return home saw Shearer spurn champions Manchester United in favour of a return to Newcastle, where, unburdened by a world-record £15m fee, the goals continued to flow.

A rugged monster of a striker who seemed bigger than his 6ft frame, Shearer was consistent, fearless and consistently ruthless. Over the course of his career, he surpassed the 20-goal mark in no fewer than 11 seasons, breaching 30 on four occasions.

Regrets? Well, not winning a trophy between that Premier League title in 1995 and retiring in 2006 will rank pretty highly, but a decade playing for his boyhood heroes and cementing himself as a Geordie legend will certainly help ease the pain.

4. Gordon Hodgson (287 goals)

Relative of Roy’s? Sadly not. Yet Gordon’s career was almost as storied as that of his younger namesake. Born in South Africa in 1904, Hodgson combined a career as a fast bowler for Lancashire County with demolishing top flight defences.

He slotted 233 times for Liverpool – at a rate that would make Mo Salah blush – before adding another 62 across spells at Villa and Leeds. We can only assume he was equally bloodthirsty at cricket. Don’t you just hate those people that are good at everything?!

3. Dixie Dean (310 goals)

Dixie Dean

(Image credit: Getty)

“Dixie Dean belongs to the company of the supremely great – like Beethoven, Shakespeare and Rembrandt,” reckoned Bill Shankly. The Liverpool boss was given to hyperbole, but he wasn’t normally one for praising Evertonians, so his assessment of the first man ever to wear No.9 for the Blues speaks volumes.

Dixie – known as William to his mum – was the greatest English club goalscorer of all time. His stats are remarkable: 425 goals in 489 club appearances (a better net-busting ratio than Gerd Muller) and a ludicrous 60 league goals in one season (1927-28) where as an unstoppable 21-year-old he led Everton to the title.

But how did the Birkenhead-born lad do it? He was competent enough with his feet, but in the air he was a genius. Despite being just 5ft 10in, Dean was an aerial bully: in an age of

long punts, multiple crosses and dogged defenders, Dean had the knack of toppling his opponents like skittles and planting his head on the ball. Never booked or sent off, he wasn’t above comparing himself to Jesus, either. “People ask me if that 60-goal record will ever be beaten,” he said. “I think it will. But there’s only one man who’ll do it – the fellow that walks on the water.” Cocky, sure, but he’s probably right – even Lionel Messi has only ever managed 50.

2. Steve Bloomer (314 goals)

Steve Bloomer may have stood at just 5ft8, but few players possessed the power or accuracy of the Derby County phenomenon. With either foot, Bloomer was known for his “Daisy Cutter” shot, striking the ball low and hard along the ground with ice-cold efficiency. 

The pacy hitman joined Derby in 1891 and banged in 291 goals for the Rams across two spells. Such was his impact, the pint-sized finisher has been honoured with a statue still standing at Pride Park and the club’s anthem Steve Bloomer’s Wathcin’ is still played before every home game. He added another 59 over a four year spell at Middlesbrough, before ending up in an internment camp in Berlin during WWI. While there, he starred for the camp’s football team – with crowds of more than 1,000 prisoners at the regular games.

1. Jimmy Greaves (357)

10 greatest goal scorers in English top flight history

(Image credit: Getty)

The best these shores have ever seen. Jimmy Greaves scored 124 goals for boyhood club Chelsea before joining AC Milan for a whopping £80,000 in 1961. He didn’t enjoy Italy, quickly falling out with the club’s coaches and punching an opposition player who spat in his face on one occasion. Still, the England international managed nine goals in a dozen league appearances (a decent record for any player in a new country) before hot-footing it back to Spurs

It was in North London that Greaves sealed his status as the greatest goalscorer in English top flight history. The composed striker used his electric pace and level-headedness to slot home a frankly ludicrous 220 goals in 321 league games for Spurs. Despite an equally impressive record for England, however, his international career is marred by an injury which cost him his place in Alf Ramsay’s 1966 World Cup winning team. 

Nevertheless, he is remembered by teammates, coaches and fans as a goalscorer of unrivalled ability.

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