James Boyle was born on 11 July 1886 in Springburn, Glasgow and started out playing for Towerhill – a team the for whom the only reference to which I can find is an entry for them playing in the 1876/7 Scottish cup.
In 1890 he signed for Celtic and played his first game against Vale of Leven on 24 January 1891. He scored for Celtic for the first time on February 7 1891. He also won a cup medal when he played in the Glasgow Cup Final in 1891, Celtic’s first major honour.
It is said in some references that he left Celtic and joined Clyde in 1893 after making just nine appearances at inside right but later that year he moved south. But at this point there are contradictions in the account of his career, Arsenal saying he came straight from Celtic in November 1893.
Either way he seems to have been one of the many engineers who travelled south looking for work at the Woolwich factories and he played for Arsenal for the first time on 9 December 1893 against Northwich Victoria (away). This was the club’s first away point in the league, and Jimmy Boyle scored. He wore number 9 that day (this making another contradiction as he is referred to primarily as an inside right in some quarters. He rarely played that position for Arsenal).
After the Northwich game he had a period out of the first team, but then returned for the last nine games of the season at centre half. That gives him ten appearances in his first season although Arsenal FC’s site states 11.
The following season he retained the number five shirt playing 28 league games and scoring three goals, as well as playing in the club’s single FA Cup match that season.
1895/6 however must have been a strange campaign. Boyle started out at left half, moved back to the centre, and then for three games played in goal, becoming on 14 December 1895 the fourth goalkeeper in 15 matches for the club, two of the others (Amber and Hatfield) getting but one game each prior to Boyle’s three. Arsenal then brought in Fairclough in goal for the remainder of the season. Jimmy Boyle got two more outfield games that season, one at right half, one at centre half.
1896/7 saw him get 13 games and score twice playing again mostly at centre half but twice at inside left. Overall he scored nine goals in 66 matches Arsenal. On 15 February 1897 he captained Woolwich Arsenal in a friendly against Celtic but thereafter left to join Dartford.
After his move to Dartford we have no record of James Boyle, one of the few men to play both in goal and outfield for Arsenal. Any further information would be welcome.