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Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
Garry Doyle

The forgotten 62-year record that Erling Haaland is closing in on.

Here's some breaking news. A game called football existed before 1992 and the start of the Premier League.

Certain people played it pretty well too: Pele, Diego Maradona, Zico, Ferenc Puskas… Jimmy Greaves.

For some of you, Greaves’ name is really only in your head because Harry Kane stole his record as Tottenham's all-time leading goalscorer.

But it wasn’t just White Hart Lane where Greaves did some damage.

Originally he was a Chelsea man, where he scored 124 goals in 157 games, including 41 league goals in the 1960/61 season.

So, before we look at Mo Salah's 38-game Premier League record that Erling Haaland is chasing, let’s look firstly at when competitive football really began.

It wasn’t 1992 with the Premier League's rebrand - instead it came some 104 years earlier when a chap called John Goodall became the first striker to score 20 league goals in a season.

A few years later Sunderland’s John Campbell was the first to go past 30.

We had to wait another 34 years before anyone got to the 40-mark. Todd Harper was that guy, setting the tone for the decade that followed, when seven players, including Ireland’s Jimmy Dunne, scored 40 or more league goals in a season.

You may not care; you may scoff at the likely defensive lapses that went on in that era.

But the goalposts were the same size then as they are now.

The offside law was fairly similar.

You didn’t have VAR but there was a ref and linesmen.

And even if tactics were a bit looser, if terms like a low block and a high press had yet to be invented, it was still some achievement when Dixie Dean scored 60 in a season for Everton.

That became even clearer after the Second World War when no one got beyond 38 for the season until the year John F Kennedy was inaugurated as President of the United States.

No sooner had the world found out who JFK was than they were getting to grips with the news that this young band called The Beatles were headlining a venue called The Cavern Club.

All this while Jimmy Greaves kept scoring and scoring and scoring - finishing the 1960/61 season with 41 league goals, the only time any player has gone past the 40-mark in an English top tier campaign since World War 11.

Now look at what’s happening in Manchester.

Never mind United’s revival under Erik ten Hag.

Never mind the accusation that City are easier to play against with Haaland in their team than they were without him.

Know your history and cop on to what’s going on around you.

So far this season, Haaland has played 25 league games and scored 27 times.

People are getting giddy because he is closing in on Salah’s record of 32 goals for a 38-game season, Alan Shearer and Andy Cole's target of 34 Premier League goals for a 42-game campaign.

Well, start getting giddier because at the rate Haaland is going, he’ll be beyond Salah’s mark by the end of March.

That’s when you really start diving through history’s scrapbook.

In the 135-year history of English top-flight football, there have been only eight occasions when the top scorer went beyond the 40-mark.

It happened seven times between 1926 and 1935 and has occurred once since, Greaves’ golden year in ‘60/61.

Now, belatedly, we are about to have a sequel.

City have 12 games left.

That’s 12 games for Haaland to reach a footballing Everest.

Getting beyond Salah’s 32-goal mark is merely a Mont Blanc - because those who score 40 league goals in a season breathe rarified air - like Greaves did at Chelsea, like Lionel Messi did in 2011/12, 2012/13 and 2014/15 at Barcelona, like Cristiano Ronaldo did in 2010/11, 2011/12 and 2014/15 at Real Madrid.

The 40-league goals in a season mark has never been reached in Serie A, has been surpassed only once in France’s Ligue 1 and just twice in the Bundesliga.

That’s the real target Haaland is chasing.

And that is why it is absolutely bizarre that a debate about his usefulness rattles on in England with Thierry Henry the latest to say City have become easy to plan against since they bought the Norwegian.

“I understand exactly what Titi (Henry) wants to say for the fact we put balls to Haaland,” responded Pep Guardiola, City’s manager.

“But to be less predictable is not (just) in terms of Haaland. It is in terms of the way we can make the process to arrive in different channels into the final third, not just with Erling.”

The strange thing is that Guardiola has to justify himself.

Strange because only 13 players in England's top tier have got beyond 30 league goals in a season across the last half century.

Haaland is three shy of that total and with a scoring ratio better than a goal per game, he’ll hit the 30-mark in no time.


In the sense that he scores almost every time he plays, yes.

This is greatness we're watching. And it's time we sat up and appreciated it for what it is.

Players to get beyond 40 league goals in a season in Europe’s top five leagues

England top tier

1960/61 - Jimmy Greaves 41 (Chelsea)

1934/35 Tedd Drake 42 (Arsenal)

1931/32 Dixie Dean 44 (Everton)

1930/31 Tom Waring 49 (Aston Villa)

Jimmy Dunne 41 (Sheffield United)

1929/30 Vic Watson 41 (West Ham)

1928/29 Dave Halliday (Sunderland) 43

1927/28 Dixie Dean (Everton) 60

1925/26 Tedd Harper (Blackburn) 43

Ligue 1

1970/71 Josip Skoblar (Marseille) 44


1971/72 Gerd Muller (Bayern Munich) 40

2020/21 Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich) 41

La Liga

2010/11 Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) 40

2011/12 Cristiano Ronaldo 46

Lionel Messi (Barcelona) 50

2012/13 Messi 46

2014/15 Cristiano Ronaldo 48

Messi 43


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