Top 5 goal scorers in England: Gil Prescott’s choices

Goalscorers are a very subjective, not every player with an excellent goal to game ratio is either technically good or necessarily a good team player. I have decided to limit my top five to players I have actually seen play in my lifetime.

It is very difficult to compare conditions and standards from the early days to the football we see today, in my day, centre backs and fullbacks were allowed to commit grievous bodily harm several times before even been spoken to by the referee, pitches were at times knee deep in mud, even at top professional level.

Today’s manicured pitches, plus defenders who are hardly allowed to touch the opposing forwards, has surely made life a little easier over the last decade compared to the previous eras of the game, but sadly we can’t change that and must trust our own vision and view of the game.  At times, today’s football reminds me of netball, it has become another noncontact sport and while certain things needed tidying up, a tackle is a vital part of football and enjoyed greatly by the supporters and players alike.

The previously stated criteria, means that players like Dixie Dean from Everton who scored 349 goals in 399 games between 1925-1937 does not make the list, definitely not on ability, purely on me not having seen him play, although my dad used to insist he was our milkman at one time, how’s that, Dixie Dean as your milkman. Also not included are the likes of Steve Bloomer, Derby County and Middlesbrough 352 goals in 598 games 1891-1910. Jack Bowers also of Derby County who scored 167 goals in 203 games, 1928-1936. Jackie Milburn Newcastle United 177 goals in 353 games was another great.  I have tried to include players who scored their goals at top level, which means that prolific scorers like Brian Clough, who had the amazing statistics at Middlesbrough of 197 goals in 213 games from 1955 to 1961 are not included.

Anyway here are my five, some may agree, others will have differing opinions.

Number 5. GARY LINEKER

Gary Lineker, a quick, alert player who naturally drifted into excellent positions and scored at ratio of 1.86 games per goal, one of the few English players who went abroad and succeeded, playing for Barcelona between 1986 and 1989 and scored 42 goals in 103 games.  He started at Leicester City in the years 1978-1985 scoring 95 goals in 194 games.  Moved to Everton for £786,000 and played there between 1985-1986 his 30 goals in 41 games was enough to convince Barcelona to pay what was then a huge fee of £2.72 million for him. Gary returned to England and joined Spurs, where he played for them between 1989-1992, scoring 67 goals in 105 games.  His record for England was also top-class, scoring 48 goals, in 80 games, he would surely have beaten the English goalscoring record had he not made a strange decision and made a premature retirement when still very capable.  I liked him, lots of pace and the knack of being in the right place at the right time.

Gary Mabbutt, David Howells & Gary Lineker celebrate winning
the FA Cup with a 2-1 victory over Notts Forest in 1991

Number 4. JOHN CHARLES

John Charles was born in Swansea on 27th December 1931.  He was extremely versatile with the capability of playing in several positions, and was considered equally good as a centre half as he was a top class striker.  John started his career with Leeds United, he played for them between 1948-1957 scoring 157 goals in 297 games, for a tall man he had an excellent touch and was equally strong on the ground or aerially.  He was one of the few to go into Europe and succeed, he moved to Juventus for a then British record £65,000 transfer fee and played between 1957-1962, scoring 108 goals in 155 games, scoring the winner on his debut against Hellas Verona, he was Seria A top scorer with 28 goals and voted player of the season winning the Scudetto three times and the Italian cup twice, scoring the winner in all his first three games for Juventus.   John is still regarded as a legend in Turin and was nicknamed Il Gigante Buono (The Gentle Giant).  He was voted the clubs best ever foreign player at their centenary 1n 1997.  In his early thirties, he moved back to Leeds for a club record fee for Leeds United of £53,000, making his debut as a centre half for the 1962 season, and scored 3 goals in 11 games.  Italy had not forgotten John Charles, he moved back to Roma for £70,000 in the 1962-1963 season scoring 4 goals in 10 games.  Finally moved to Cardiff City ending his league career there in 1966.  John Charles also played for Wales, he was injured and did not play in the quarter-final against Brazil in Sweden, and he still managed 15 goals, in 38 games for Wales.  John’s goal to game ratio matches the best with a goal every 1.86 games.  I saw John Charles play in the late 1950s, a big man in every sense of the word.  A much loved man on and off the field, John died in Wakefield on 21st February 2004.

John Charles, 3rd from the right on the back row, with his Juventus team in 1959

Number 3. STANLEY MORTENSEN

I am selecting Stanley Mortensen for not only his excellent goalscoring performances, he was my first football hero and tried to sign me when I was playing in nonleague football as a teenager, I also met him later in life and he was truly a lovely man in every sense of the word.   Stan was born in South Shields on 26th May 1921, he was not the tallest of forwards, but he was physically strong and had a burning desire to score.  Sadly, his career was blighted like many of his era by the Second World War; he joined Blackpool in 1941 and was a guest for both Bath City and Arsenal for the 1943-1944 season and the 1944-1945 season respectively.  He was much loved in Blackpool, he had a great sense of humour and would have a drink with supporters, he was actually more popular in Blackpool than the more famous Stanley Matthews, he was courageous and his goal record at Blackpool was 197 goals in 317 appearances, he also played for England in wartime scoring 3 in 3 games. His performances for England outside the war period also showed his quality with 23 goals in 25 games, including four against Portugal and a hat trick against Sweden.   Stan later managed Blackpool between 1967 and 1969, when he nearly made the mistake of signing me.  His statistics at top level stand-up with the best, scoring 220 goals in 342 games, for a ratio of one goal every 1.56 games.   Stan sadly died on 22nd May 1991.

England Soccer Stars at Giant Axe

Stan Mortensen, extreme left swapping memories with his old England colleague Wilf Mannion, Earlestown manager, next to “Morty” before a Lancaster City match against Earlestown in the Lancashire Combination in 1961.  Also in the photograph are two of Stan’s former Blackpool colleagues, Cyril Robinson and Johnny Crosland, far right, Lancaster City’s latest acquisitions.

On this photograph you will see the autographs of many of the England team who played in the 1950 World Cup in Brazil including Stan Mortensen and Wilf Mannion who both scored in the first game, a 2-0 victory over Chile in Rio de Janeiro on June 25th 1950.  These are from the collection of Bert Williams memorabilia and Bert said Stan was always the comedian of the party signing himself as the “Rock King”.  He also sometimes signed autographs as “the second hand car dealer” or “sports dealer”.

Number 2. ALAN SHEARER

Alan Shearer was born in Gosforth, Newcastle upon Tyne, England on 13th August 1970.  He played for the famous Wallsend boys club and moved as a teenager to Southampton where he stayed between 1986 and 1988.  Despite his tender years and only being used sparingly at first Alan scored 23 goals in 118 games, initially used frequently as a substitute due to his tender years.

Alan moved to Blackburn Rovers for an English transfer record of £3.6 million and played for them between 1992 and 1996, he helped Blackburn live the impossible dream by lifting the Premier League Trophy with the help of Jack Walker’s money and an excellent squad put together at Blackburn over that period of time.  His goal scoring record at Blackburn was brilliant, 112 goals in 138 games, strong, physical, aggressive, he was not on every centre halves Christmas card list but he was certainly on the supporters list.  He eventually moved to his boyhood love, Newcastle United, for a world record transfer of £15 million, finishing his first season at Newcastle for the third consecutive season as the leading Premier League Scorer with 25 goals in 31 games in the 1996 season.  Alan stayed until 2006, scoring 148 goals in 303 games, nearly taking Newcastle to the title.  Persuaded not to retire by Graeme Souness he eventually broke Jackie Millburn’s record of 200 league goals for Newcastle.

He was also a major driving force in the England squad between 1992 and 2000, scoring 30 goals in 63 games. His overall goal ratio was 313 goals in 504 games, for a ratio of one goal per 1.6 games which would stand up with anybody.

Alan was awarded the freedom of the city by Newcastle-upon-Tyne and the title of deputy Lieutenant of Northumbria, giving you some idea of his popularity in the North East.

Alan Shearer, left, celebrates winning the Premier League Trophy
for Blackburn Rovers with Chris Sutton in 1995

Number 1. JIMMY GREAVES

Jimmy Greaves was born on the 20th February 1940 at Manor Park Essex; he for me was the most complete goalscorer I have ever seen. Smallish and not the strongest build, he just had a gift that you can’t learn in terms of goalscoring. Scored lots of goals with both feet and I remember him returning from his spell at AC Milan and watching him turn over my Blackpool at White Hart Lane on 16th December 1961, he scored a hat-trick on his debut, mind you he always scored on his debut for whatever team he played for.  Unusually for Jimmy, two of the goals in the Blackpool game were scored with his head and the third with a bicycle kick from inside the box.

Jimmy started off at Chelsea, struggled to score at first only managing 122 goals in one season in the youth team, this habit was to follow him throughout his career.  Jimmy played for Chelsea between 1957 and 1961; he scored 124 goals in 157 games, scoring 41 goals in 40 games in his final season for Chelsea.

Jimmy then moved to AC Milan for £80,000 in the 1961 season, Jimmy tried to cancel the deal to stay in London but Vani the Milan manager refused to change the deal.  Jimmy as usual scored on his debut in a 2-2 draw with Botafogo, people said to me that he failed in Italy, not so; he did not get on well with new manager Nereo Rocco, Jimmy scored 9 goals in 12 games in Milan including one in the Milan derby v Inter.  Jimmy wanted to come home and Bill Nicholson was the lucky man who eventually signed Jimmy Greaves for Spurs for a fee of £99,999, as he did not want the pressure on Jimmy as being the first £100,000 footballer, not that it bothered Jimmy, who just continued to do what comes natural, with which ever team he played for.  Jimmy played for Tottenham between 1961 and 1970 his record at Spurs was 220 goals in 321 games.

In 1968-69 Jimmy scored 27 goals in 42 games to finish as the First Divisions leading scorer for the sixth and final time.

For England Jimmy was also just as prolific scoring 44 goals in 57 games and for the purists among us, we could not believe he was left out of Alf Ramsey’s 1966 World Cup winning team.  Jimmy Greaves was the Division I leading scorer for six seasons, a never to be repeated feat, he also holds the record of six hat tricks for England.  Late in his career, Jimmy moved to West Ham United who were struggling at the time, he still managed 13 goals in 38 games.

Jimmy Greaves’ statistics are amazing, 397 goals in 547 games when judged at the top level, he also played in an era when centre backs and defenders were far more physically intimidating than today but Jimmy still managed one goal in every 1.37 games.

A one-off in every lifetime, Jimmy Greaves will never be forgotten by anyone who saw him in his pomp; his statistics for whichever team he played are eye watering.

Jimmy Greaves, in typical silky, smooth style, leaves Frank McLintock
trailing in his wake in a game for Spurs against Arsenal in 1964

Jimmy Greaves scoring with a rare header in a 9-2 victory over Notts Forest in September 1962
Scorers on that day for Spurs were
Terry Medwin, John White, Les Allen (pen), Cliff Jones (2) and of course Jimmy Greaves with 4

 

Jimmy was a total one off, the best and only one of his kind.

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