King Kenny Crowned First Goalscorer

Authors Mark Metcalf and Robert Boyling on the site of where the first League goal was scored

Years of debate over who scored the first ever goal in league football anywhere in the world appears to have come to an end with new research by football authors Mark Metcalf and Robert Boyling of the British Library showing that Bolton Wanderers forward Kenny Davenport’s strike at approximately 3.47pm on Saturday 8th September, 1888 was the first ever goal in The Football League.

Metcalf and Boyling’s findings establish that the match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Aston Villa played the same day kicked off at 3.30pm rather than 3.00pm as previously thought by the game’s historians. Consequently, the own goal scored in that match by Aston Villa full-back Gershom Cox after 30 minutes would not have been the first ever goal.

Metcalf, whose book ‘The Origins of The Football League’ (Amberley Publishing) is published on August 9, said: “There has been significant amount of debate over the years over who scored the first ever league goal with at least three other players having been credited with the honour at some stage.

“Kick-off times in the early years of The Football League would vary from club to club and occasionally matches would get delayed because of the away team arriving late. 

“Robert and I spent many months trawling through the historical records in an effort to prove that the first league goal was not an own goal as was widely thought. Eventually we discovered an advert for the match in the Midland Evening News which listed the game at Wolves as kicking off at 3.30pm. Therefore the first goal has to be the one scored by Kenny Davenport two minutes into Bolton’s match with Derby which kicked-off at 3.45pm at the club’s first ground, Pikes Lane.”

This weekend The Football League marks its 125th Anniversary with six special anniversary fixtures and its Head of Communications, John Nagle, said: “There have been 515,412 goals scored in the 125 years of The Football League and millions more in leagues across the globe. However, there can only be one ‘first goal’ and after years of debate, it appears that we now have the answer.

“It is particularly fitting that it should be scored by a player who played for his hometown club for the best part of a decade rather than an own goal.”

 The old Pikes Lane stadium, where the first League goal was scored


Kenny Davenport was born in Bolton and played for Wanderers for nine seasons after joining the club from local rivals Gilnow Rangers in 1883. Two years later he became Bolton’s first ever England international when he played in a 1-1 draw against Wales at Blackburn. 

As an ever-present in the first League season he also scored 11 goals. Normally an inside-left, Davenport made 56 League and twenty-one FA Cup appearances for Wanderers, scoring 36 goals. He left the club to play for Southport in 1892, just two years after he made his second appearance for his country, when he scored twice in a 9-1 victory against Ireland in Belfast in 1890.

Davenport died in 1908 aged 46.

Match information from the local newspaper for Villa versus Wolves (left) and the first League goalscorer, Kenny Davenport (right)

OPENING DAY RESULTS - 8th September 1888

Bolton Wanderers 3-6 Derby County (3.45pm)

Everton 2-1 Accrington (4.25pm)

Preston North End 5-2 Burnley (3.50pm)

Stoke 0-2 West Bromwich Albion (3.30pm)

Wolves 1-1 Aston Villa (3.30pm)

THE FIRST GOAL – previous contenders

The honour of scoring the first goal in Football League history has long been a matter for debate by the game’s historians. Previously the goal was thought to have been in the Preston North End v Burnley match, although the scorer of the goal is disputed with both Jack Gordon and Fred Dewhurst having been given the credit at different times.

More recently, the generally accepted view has been that the own goal scored by Aston Villa’s Gershom Cox in the 30th minute against Wolves was the first goal.


The Football League is to mark the 125th anniversary of its first season (1888/89) with a programme of special anniversary league fixtures to be played on the opening weekend of the 2013/14 campaign.

The six matches - two in each division - will feature a number of the founder members of the world's original league football competition, as well as other pairings of historical significance.

Sky Bet Championship:

Burnley v Bolton Wanderers

Derby County v Blackburn Rovers

Sky Bet League 1:

Preston North End v Wolverhampton Wanderers

Sheffield United v Notts County

Sky Bet League 2:

Newport County v Accrington Stanley

Rochdale v Hartlepool United


• A total of 515,412 goals have been scored in The Football League since 1888

• The home club scored 62% of this total with 38% being scored by the away club

• Arthur Rowley is The Football League’s all-time record goal scorer with a total of 433 goals

• Dixie Dean holds the record for scoring most goals in a season – 60 for Everton in 1927/28

• Luton Town’s Joe Payne scored most goals in a game, netting 10 times against Bristol Rovers in April 1936

• Jim Fryatt scored the fastest ever League goal, after just 4 seconds for Bradford (Park Avenue) against Tranmere Rovers in April 1964

• In September 2000, Wycombe Wanderers scored twice within 9 seconds without the opposition touching the ball (with goals being scored either side of the half time break)

• On 15th September 1888, the second weekend of the first Football League season, Burnley’s Bill Tait scored the first ever hat-trick in the Clarets’ 4-3 win against Kenny Davenport’s Bolton Wanderers

• James Hayter scored the fastest ever hat-trick, getting three goals in just 2m20s for AFC Bournemouth against Wrexham in February 2004

• Peterborough United hold the record for the most goals in a season, scoring 134 times in winning the Division 4 title in 1960/61

• Darwen conceded the most goals in a season, having to pick the ball out of the net 141 times in Division 2 in 1898/99

• The most goals scored in a single league game is 17 (Tranmere Rovers 13-4 Oldham Athletic, December 1935)

• Of the 136 teams to have played League football, Maidstone United are the only one to have a goal difference of 0 for their overall League record

• A total of 23 goals were scored on the opening day of The Football League in September 1888

• A total of 587 goals were scored in The Football League’s inaugural season, an average of 4.45 per game

The spot where the first League goal was scored


‘The Origins of the Football League by Mark Metcalf tells the story of the Football League season 1888/89, when twelve clubs combined to play regular fixtures for the first time. The result was to revolutionise not only English football but virtually every nation and sport since then. Every match is described, and profiles of all those who played – amateur and professional – during this thrilling historic season, in which Preston were ‘invincible’ and set the standards for other great teams to follow, are given. The analysis of match reports is so comprehensive, in fact, that this book conclusively proves who scored the first League goal in world history.

Amberley Publishing’s The Origins of the Football League will be available to buy from all good bookshops, on Amazon, or at for an automatic 10% discount, from Friday 9th August priced £14.99.’