“As Harry Kane (213) continues to chase Alan Shearer’s record 260 Premier League goals, I wondered who was the last person to lead the list before Shearer,” begins Eric Hardy-King. “How many different leaders have there been? Obviously Brian Deane was there from the start, and I think Teddy Sheringham finished top scorer in the first season, but who else was outright leader? And how long has each player been top?”
First things first: this answer required an underground data dive, examining everything manually, so please don’t bet the farm on the table at the bottom is 100.00% correct. What we can say without fear of contradiction is that in December Alan Scheer will celebrate 30 years as the Premier League’s outright record goalscorer. He’s been out alone for the past 10,791 days, and nearly 11,000 in all.
The last man before Shearer to hold the record was another Spurs striker, Teddy Sheringham, between April and December 1993. Before playing together for their country for the first time, Shearer and Sheringham dominated English football in a different way. As successful as Sheringham was, he probably wouldn’t have kept the record if Shearer suffered a serious knee injury midway through his first Premier League season. At the time, Shearer had 16 goals, five more than anyone else.
As for the progression of the record, let’s start at the dawn of time: 3 p.m. on Saturday, August 15, 1992. Brian Dean scored the first Premier League goal after five minutes to give Sheffield United an early lead against Manchester United. He held the record alone for exactly four minutes until Coventry’s new signing John Williams (aka the Flying Postman) scored against Middlesbrough at home.
Deane was the first man to score two Premier League goals to put Sheffield United 2–0 up after 51 minutes. Shearer joined him half an hour later after winning two belters on his Blackburn debut in a 3–3 draw at Crystal Palace. In the closing minutes of the opening games Mark Robins (for Norwich, who won 4-2 at Arsenal) and Le Chapman (for the champions, Leeds, 2-1 at home at Wimbledon) joined them.
Shearer was the first to three goals as Blackburn’s deflected shot secured a 1-0 win over Arsenal on Tuesday, although he was joined by Robins, Deane and Williams 24 hours later. Shearer then suffered one of the worst drought spells of his Blackburn career, going two games without a goal. That, and moving a match against Everton, allowed others to catch up. In chronological order, the leading goalscorers – outright or aggregate – were again Deane, David Hirst (Sheffield-Wednesday), Eric Cantona (Leeds United) and David White (Manchester City).
On 15 September, just one month into the season, Shearer took his rightful place by scoring twice in a 3–2 loss at home to Everton. It was his seventh and eighth goals of the season and he was irresistible in the months that followed. Two more against Leeds on Boxing Day took his tally to 16, but he suffered a knee injury in the second half of the season. At the time he was five ahead of the next highest scorers – Hirst, White, Robins, Dalian Atkinson (Aston Villa) and Ian Wright (Arsenal) – and 10 ahead of Sheringham.
Sheringham ate the deficit by scoring nine times in five games in January and February. And as the other strikers’ goals dried up, he was joint top scorer with Shearer after converting a penalty in a 1-1 draw at Chelsea on March 20. He was alone after hitting two more in a 5–1 win over Norwich on 9 April, eventually winning the Premier League’s first season Golden Boot with 22 goals (including one for Nottingham Forest) for Les Ferdinand (QPR ) at 20 and Dean Holdsworth (Wimbledon) at 19.
Sheringham started the 1993–94 season strongly, with nine in 11 games, but was then out from October to April with a knee injury of his own. This allowed the newly fit Shearer to take over. After a few appearances off the bench, including a cathartic equalizer in Newcastle, he made up for lost time with a wintry frenzy. On 18 December 1993, at 4:36 pm, he scored in a 2–0 win at home to Manchester City. It was Shearer’s 16th league goal of the season, his 15th in 12 starts since returning from injury – and his 32nd in the all-new Premier League. You know the rest.
With the Premier League just 16 months old, not much was said about the overall records, and Shearer’s performance was barely mentioned at the time. Over the next decade or so, the legend grew along with his goal tally.
In total, including that period at the start of 1992-1993, Shearer has held the outright record of 10,978 days, plus 33 as joint record holder. His total of 11,011 puts him light years ahead of the next best, Sheringham, by 273 days. The Premier League has only been around for 11,281 days, so Shearer has been the top scorer for 97.61% of its existence – jointly or outright.
Here’s the full list of players who put their heads to the pillow as the Premier League’s record goalscorer (the first number in brackets is the number of days they spent as outright leader, the second number when the record was shared).
Alan Scheer 11,011 days (10,978/33)
Teddy Sheringham 273 (246/27)
Brian Dean 13 (0/13)
David White 10 (10/0)
Eric Cantona 8 (4/4)
David Hirst 8 (3/5)
Mark Robins 6 (0/6)
Le Chapman 3 (0/3)
John Williams 3 (0/3)
NB: Deane and Hirst held outright mid-match – Deane on the first day for about 34 minutes, Hirst on the second Saturday for about 41 – but never overnight.
A number of players had the joint record of one Premier League goal before Deane scored his second on opening day. They were, in chronological order, the above John Williams, Nigel Pearson (Sheffield-Wednesday), Alan Smith (Arsenal), Gavin Johnson (Ipswich), Highlight Clear (Crystal Palace), Kevin Campbell (Arsenal), Stuart Ripley (Blackburn) and Barry Horne (Everton).
The Boss: play on a terrain near you
“Which musical artist or band has played on the most different football fields?” Sarah Burntin wonders.
“If anyone has done more than Bruce Springsteen, then: a) I will be very surprised; and b) fair play to them,” writes James Vortkamp-Tong. “The Boss has played at about 107 different football fields, which means every stadium a football team has called home.” Here’s the list James provided, organized by tour, from Milan to Melbourne, via Manchester.
“With the last of this season’s Euro 2024 qualifiers on June 20 and the Champions League qualifying round starting on June 27, is this the shortest close season in Europe? If so, what’s the next shortest? And related: which European based player(s) have the shortest time between their last match of 2022-23 and the first of 2023-24?” Derek Robertson wonders.
It’s no surprise that the answer to the first part of this question pertains to a particular pandemic. “Covid-19 was responsible for the occasion when one season started before the last ended,” Andrew Wright emails. “The pandemic-postponed 2019-2020 Champions League final between PSG and Bayern took place on August 23, 15 days after the qualifying round for the 2020-21 Champions League started.”
“Has a goalkeeper ever been booked or sent off for diving?” asked Allam Jeeawody in 2007.
Where better to start the search than with Jens Lehmann? He collected eight Premier League yellow cards with Arsenal in 2006-07, but the best of the bunch came from Chelsea when he fouled Didier Drogba for shoving him while the referee turned his back. Drogba ducked pathetically, jumped to his feet and went for revenge with a barge. Lehmann also went down and both players received a yellow card.
It’s probably worth mentioning the infamous incident involving Chilean Roberto Rojas, a flare and some fake blood, as reported in this previous Knowledge column, but Luis Vallespín’s story about Real Madrid goalkeeper Paco Buyo comes closest in the near a goalkeeper booking for diving. “Real played Atlético Madrid in December 1988 and Atlético’s Paolo Futre was sent off for hitting Buyo,” Luis stated. “But TV replays showed that Buyo had fallen to the floor without being punched, so he was suspended.” Lehmann would be proud.
Can you help?
“Why did Dino Zoff play for Newmarket Town in 1965 and how did he score two goals?” asks Dan Taylor.
“While reading an article about the number of 23-year-olds in England’s current U-21 squad, there was mention of 25-year-old Gary Bailey playing in goal at the 1984 European Championships. Is a player who is four years older than the age group of the competition a record?” asks Chai from Atlanta. And who is the youngest?
“N’Golo Kanté has bought the Belgian third division team Royal Excelsior Virton,” writes Nick Williamson. “Who was the first player to own a club (not the first owner to play)? Who was the youngest? And has a player played for a club he/she owns?”
“Gary Lineker (and others) have been hailed as deadly in the box, and we often hear about scoring a ‘tap-in’,” writes Kevin Scorah. “I was wondering if there’s ever been a hat-trick of tap-ins, and if so, what’s the shortest cumulative distance over which three goals have been scored?”
Email us your questions or tweet @TheKnowledge_GU.
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