Henry Boyd, Arsenal’s top goal scorer on a goals per game ratio: an update

Updated 9 October 2018

Please note that we have been kindly provided with more information by Colin MacKenzie of the website Scottishsporthistory.   What I have done here is left Andy’s original article for Arsenal History Society as it was written, and added extracts from Colin’s work at the end.

The new material is published from the headline HENRY BOYD – A TALENTED BUT TAINTED FOOTBALLER.

I am most grateful to the authors of this article to agree to the reproduction of so much of the article here.

First then, Andy Kelly’s original commentary…

By Andy Kelly

In our recent quiz I asked:

Of players who have played more than 30 first team competitive games for Arsenal, which player has the best goals scored per game ratio?

I must admit that I only discovered who this was shortly before setting the quiz and I was surprised that it wasn’t one of our most well known forwards. The table below shows the players in the top 10 that trail behind our man who enjoyed finding the net on a regular basis.

Player Years played Games Goals Goals per game


Ted Drake

1934 – 1939





Ronnie Rooke

1946 – 1949





Harry King

1913 – 1920





Jack Lambert

1926 – 1934





Reg Lewis

1936 – 1953





James Henderson

1892 – 1895





Ian Wright

1991 – 1998





Joe Baker

1962 – 1966





Thierry Henry

1999 – 2007




As you can see there are some fantastic players in the list. Most do not need an introduction. Those that do are Harry King who was signed during the summer of 1913 and played most of his games in the Second Division before the First World War, and James Henderson whose haul was helped by the fact that he scored 12 goals in 8 FA Cup qualifying round games against the likes of City Ramblers and the 2nd Scots Guards.

Henderson actually played three games alongside our most prolific goalscorer at the start of the 1894-95 season.

So, who was our man? He was Henry Boyd who scored 32 goals in 41 games between September 1894 and December 1896. This gives him a goals‑per‑game figure of 0.780. Henry also had a bit of story.

Born in Pollokshaws, Glasgow, in 1868 Henry played his first senior games in England for the short-lived Sunderland Albion. When Albion folded in 1892 he moved to Burnley where he played four league games, scoring one goal and then on to West Brom where he scored one goal in seven league games. Not the most prolific of goalscorers but the Woolwich Arsenal committee obviously saw something in him and brought him down south in May 1894.

Henry played his first game in the club’s colours in a 4-0 friendly win against Fleetwood Rangers on 8 September, scoring one goal. Two days later he made his league debut at home to Grimsby. Woolwich Arsenal lost 1-3 with Boyd scoring Arsenal’s goal.

He then put on an amazing run, scoring eight more goals in the next five league games:

Date Opponents Score Boyd’s goals
10 Sep Grimsby (H) 1-3 1
15 Sep Burton Swifts (A) 0-3 0
22 Sep Bury (H) 4-2 2
29 Sep Manchester City (H) 4-2 3
6 Oct Lincoln City (H) 5-2 2
13 Oct Newton Heath (A) 3-3 1

During this period he also scored five goals in three friendlies. However, on 15 October he broke his ankle whilst playing in a friendly against Sunderland. At this time, friendlies played a big part in Woolwich Arsenal’s fixture list. They played 30 league games during 1894-95 and 31 friendlies. The attendance of 10,000 for the Sunderland game was the second highest home gate of the season.

Some sources state that the broke his ankle in the previous league game against Newton Heath. This is an assumption as it was known that he broke his ankle but these sources did not look into the fact that he played against Sunderland.

These sources also state that the injury kept him out of the game for a year as his next league appearance wasn’t until October 1895. However, the injury wasn’t that bad and he returned to the team two months later on Christmas Eve in a friendly against New Brompton (who are now known as Gillingham).

What happened next is that Henry went AWOL. He got homesick and returned to Glasgow. Boyd wrote to the Arsenal directors apologising for his disappearance and asking if they would take him back. The directors ignored his request until October 1895; with Arsenal holding his registration he was unable to play for any other team.  He returned to the team and scored in the 5-0 win against Burton Swifts. All told he scored 13 goals in 22 League and FA Cup games during 1895-96 as well as 30 in 17 friendlies.

The following season he carried on where he had left off with 10 goals in 12 games. Then came a big problem. Boyd was one of the players that played in the 0-8 defeat against Loughborough in December 1896. We’re not sure exactly what happened but reports suggest that he and some other players, having been criticised by the directors for their lack of effort in that game, got drunk and threw some choice insults back at them.

Whatever the reason, Boyd was suspended “sine die” by the club and was transferred to Newton Heath (who later became Manchester United) on 18 January 1897.

Henry’s record at Woolwich Arsenal was:



FA Cup

United League



Season Apps Gls Apps Gls Apps Gls Apps Gls Apps Gls


































He continued his rich vein of scoring at Newton Heath with 32 goals in 60 games which included hat-tricks in consecutive games at the start of the 1897-98 season.

In the summer of 1899 Boyd returned to Scotland to play for Falkirk, after which we can find out no more. If you know what became of Henry would love to know.


By Robert Bradley, Douglas Gorman and Colin MacKenzie

Extracts from information supplied from Scottishsporthistory   Please note I have extracted just the general information about his life and the Arsenal related events.  The full story can be found on the Scottish Sport History site.

1869 29 April: Henry Boyd is born at Torbush, Morningside, a mining village in the Cambusnethan area
of Lanarkshire. His father is John Boyd, a coal miner employed by the Chapel Coal Co. Ltd, and his
mother is Margaret Boyd (nee O’Bryne). O’Bryne is probably a mis-spelling of O’Brien in the 1869
Cambusnethan register of birth (entry no 295). In due course Henry is also known as “Harry”
1871 2 April: the Scottish census shows the Boyd family resident at Tarbrax Oil Works, Carnwath,
Lanarkshire, about 20 miles from Morningside.

1890 5 August: the Sunderland Daily Echo reports that Boyd has been spotted at the local railway
station with two other Scots about to join Sunderland Albion. He is identified by the newspaper as
coming from the Tollcross area. He is 21 years of age. Boyd plays at centre-forward in 11 matches for
Sunderland Albion in the Football Alliance, scoring 8 goals including four in an 11-1 win over Walsall
Town Swifts on 27 December. He also participates in 3 FA Cup ties, scoring once. The Scottish Referee
of 1 December reports that Boyd and his colleague J.C.Smith have returned to Scotland to enlist two
more players.

c.1891-92 Boyd sails to America. How he is able to afford his fare and how he spends his time overseas
are not known. While there he meets Pat Gallocher, a former Burnley player, who recommends that
he contacts Burnley on his return.

1892 8 August: Boyd joins Burnley after his sojourn in America. He makes his debut at Wolverhampton
on 3 September, but is later suspended over a disciplinary matter, according to the Burnley Express of
24 September. His new club does not rate him very highly, although in his last game on 22 October he
scores 8 goals for Burnley Swifts v. Peel Bank Rovers (a).

1892 28 October: after 4 League games (1 goal) at Burnley, Boyd is offloaded to West Bromwich
Albion, who are desperately seeking a new centre-forward. He signs on at £2.10s a week and receives
a £5 signing on fee. Due to make his first appearance v. Aston Villa on 5 November, Boyd is ruled out
through a knee injury sustained in practice. His debut for Albion in a Wednesbury Charity Cup match
v. Everton (h) on 21 November is underwhelming – he seems exhausted after half-an-hour and has to
be switched from centre-forward to half-back.

Subsequently, his form and conduct are so poor that West Bromwich Albion resolve to give him seven days’ notice from 31 December that his services are no longer required. It is proposed in a club minute of 28 December that his railway fare back to Scotland should be paid.

1893 7 January: Albion have a change of heart and give him a League debut v. Burnley (h) in which he
earns plaudits from the local Free Press newspaper: “…he played a clever and strong game, the
spectators frequently applauding smart feats by which he eluded his opponents…It is a false dawn, however, for Boyd participates in only 6 more League matches (1 goal) until 13 April when he last appears v. Preston North End.

1893 7 April: arrested for assaulting Richard Darby, a timber merchant from Smethwick and a wellknown Albion supporter.

1893 17 April:  He fails to answer a summons on 17 April and a warrant is issued for his arrest at West Bromwich police court. Boyd disappears from the Midlands, presumably returning to Scotland, where he signs for Third Lanark in May.

1893 20 May: the Glasgow Evening Post reports that Boyd has been given permission to take part in
Scottish football; he is thus reinstated to amateur status. Boyd first plays against Rangers on this day
in the Glasgow Merchants’ Charity Cup. He is now living at 112 Hawthorn Street, Possilpark, Glasgow.

1893 12 July: the unfortunate Richard Darby dies at his home at 19 Lewisham Street, Smethwick, at
the age of 31, having failed, it is rumoured, to have fully recovered from being kicked by Boyd. He
leaves a wife Eunice, whom he has married at the age of 17. He has suffered for five days from acute
uraemia (a condition associated with chronic kidney disease or acute kidney injury) and has been in a
coma for 16 hours.

1893 25 November: Henry Boyd scores a hat-trick for Third Lanark v. Inverness Thistle (h) in a Scottish
Cup tie.

1894 27 January: Boyd is chosen for the Scottish League against the Irish League at Celtic Park and
scores once in a 6-0 victory. On 3 February he plays at centre-forward for Third Lanark who lose 3-5
to Celtic in the Scottish Cup semi-final. He also plays 15 League games in 1893-94, scoring 6 times.

1894 3 March: Boyd is selected for team D in a Scottish international trial at Ibrox Park.

1894 14 May: Boyd re-invents himself by signing for Woolwich Arsenal of the English Second Division.
On 6 June his son Henry is born at Mansion Street, Possilpark, Glasgow, his father’s profession being
given as that of a coal miner.

1894 8 September: after travelling to Glasgow without permission Boyd is persuaded to return and
makes a goal scoring debut for Woolwich Arsenal in a friendly match v. Fleetwood Rangers. Although
playing in just six games at the start of his Arsenal League career, including a debut goal v. Grimsby
Town (h), he obtains 9 goals, three of these coming against Manchester City (h) on 29 September.
Boyd also plays in a friendly against his old club West Bromwich Albion (h) on 17 September.

1894 15 October: Boyd breaks an ankle bone in a friendly v. Sunderland and is side-lined until
Christmas Eve when he returns for Arsenal in a friendly v. New Brompton. He then goes absent without
leave and returns to Glasgow.

1895 25 January: the Sporting Life comments on his desertion, saying that punishment is appropriate
for leaving his club in the lurch. Boyd finally contacts Arsenal, asking to be forgiven and taken back.
Arsenal, who have retained his registration, eventually relent at the end of September and welcome
him back.

1895 19 October: the rejuvenated Boyd plays his first match v. Burton Swifts (h) and scores in a 5-0
win; subsequently, he becomes Arsenal’s leading League scorer in 1895-96 with a further 12 goals in
21 League games and as many as 30 in 17 friendly matches.

1896 Now captain at the start of the season, Boyd provides 10 more goals in 12 League fixtures. He is
then suspended sine die for reasons which remain obscure at the time but involve a 0-8 defeat at
Loughborough on 12 December. Rumours suggest that certain players, having taken to drink after club
officials criticise them for lack of effort, proceed to throw insults back in their direction. Boyd is placed
on the transfer list, but asks for the suspension to be lifted which is refused. In 79 League and friendly
games for Woolwich Arsenal he has scored 80 goals to become Arsenal’s top goal scorer of all time on
a goals per game ratio.

1897 18 January: at the age of 27, Henry Boyd is transferred to the Manchester club, Newton Heath,
Second Division runners-up in 1897, for a fee of £45. Boyd scores 5 goals in 10 League outings for his
new employers, including one on his first appearance against Loughborough Town (h) on 6 February.
At the end of the season he takes part in three Test Matches to decide relegation and promotion, but
Newton Heath are unsuccessful.

1897-98 at the beginning of this campaign Boyd is in explosive form, obtaining hat-tricks against
Lincoln City (h) on 4 September and Burton Swifts (a) a week later. He plays in every League game (a
total of 30) and becomes the club’s leading scorer by obtaining 23 goals including three more v
Loughborough Town (h), on 29 March 1898.

1898-99 at the start of the new season Boyd is suspended for missing training. Eventually he reemerges
to score 5 goals in 12 League encounters before a further suspension in March 1899 for misbehaviour ends his career at Newton Heath. He does not play for the club again.

1899 26 August: after a career total of 82 goals in 132 League matches he signs for Falkirk of the
Scottish Central Combination at the age of 30 but misses his debut v Stenhousemuir because of the
death of his 13 day old daughter Elizabeth. Evidence of Boyd subsequently playing for Falkirk has yet to be discovered.

1899 2 September: an old problem that has plagued him throughout his life resurfaces in public when
the Kirkintilloch Gazette reports an appearance at the local burgh court on 28 August where he is
accused of punching his wife Annie Allan in his own home at East High Street. His defence, which does
not impress the magistrates, is that he was “mad with drink”. He is fined two guineas or one month’s
imprisonment. During these proceedings it comes to light that two court cases concerning assault by
Boyd have also occurred recently.

1901 1 March: Henry Boyd is married again to Annie Allan at 216 Dalmarnock Road, Glasgow. The
couple have been living together since 1893 and have a six year old son.

1904 9 February: Annie Boyd dies of “ulceration of the stomach: peritonitis” at the early age of 34.
The place of death is given as 44 Dalmarnock Road, Glasgow, and Henry Boyd registers the death.

1906 9 November: described as a widower and coal miner, Henry marries Janet Trotter at the age of
37. They are living at 85 Springfield Road, Glasgow.

1913 14 September: the somewhat chaotic and colourful life of Henry Boyd comes to a tragic end at
the age of 44 when he dies in a psychiatric hospital, Hartwood Asylum, at Shotts, North Lanarkshire
(entry no 71 in the middle district of Shotts register of deaths). The cause of death is shown as general
paralysis of the insane, a medical euphemism for the final stages of the sexually transmitted disease,
syphilis. His home address is given as 101 Causewayside, Tollcross. His former Sunderland Albion
team-mate Jack Rae also dies at the same location of the same illness.

6 Replies to “Henry Boyd, Arsenal’s top goal scorer on a goals per game ratio: an update”

  1. It’s kind of funny. Boyd’s story is uncannily similar to that of Robin Van Persie 🙂 After limited success with clubs of minor stature, he joins Arsenal, and goes on to develop a clinical touch. Then he breaks his ankle, but returns in great style. And then Arsenal concede 8 goals in one game, he insults the manager, and goes on to join what we know as ManU… Even the hat-trick bit fits!
    History doth repeat itself 🙂

  2. Wikipedia makes no mention of the homesickness and AWOLing that you mention, but it does have something to say about his post-Woolwich life:

    “Boyd spent two and a half years with Newton Heath, scoring three hat-tricks in the 1897–98 season that he spent with the club, as he racked up 22 goals in total. However the following season, 1898–99, he only played five times (but still scored five goals), and in August 1899 he left Newton Heath for Falkirk.

    “In all he scored 35 goals in 62 games for the Bank Street club, which makes him one of their most prolific forwards in terms of goals per game.”

    “He died in Scotland in July 1935.” Which would make him 67, and would have allowed him to live long enough to see Arsenal well into its first era of greatness, presuming the Scottish newspapers covered English football.

  3. Mike, I’ve deliberately not used Wikipedia. I assume that the date of death is sourced from Tony Matthews’ book. Matthews wrote a Who’s Who of Arsenal players which had so many mistakes in it that it cannot be used as a reference source on its own. If you look at the history if the Wikipedia entry you will see that I updated it just over 2 months ago to change the game in which he broke his leg.

  4. Cheers for that story zdzis.

    Wikipedia! … helping kids copy and paste their way to GCSE’s for years.

    History research uses many sources. Whenever I see it hasn’t, I don’t bother reading the results.

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