Dave Halliday

Dave Halliday from Dumfries was a stunningly prolific goal scorer. From starting his career at Queen of the South, Halliday scored 375 senior goals as well as scoring goals at two then non-league clubs. He is the 10th highest league goal scorer in UK football history. He is among a very select group of 28 players to have scored over 200 goals in England’s top division. In the IFFHS list of the world’s highest league goal scorers Halliday is 56th. His 38 Dundee goals in 1923-24 made him top scorer in Scotland’s top tier that season. His 43 Sunderland goals in 1928–29 gave him the same distinction in England’s top flight that season. He is the most recent of only two players to have been outright top scorer in both divisions.

As a manager only Halliday and Alex Ferguson have guided Aberdeen to be Scottish champions. Halliday also won both cups with Aberdeen and was also successful managing Leicester City.



Early years and Queen of the South 

Dave Halliday was born in Dumfries on December 11th, 1901 and started in local schools football where he featured on the left wing. He attended Noblehill Primary, then Dumfries Academy. Halliday then trained as a motor mechanic with car manufacturer Arrol-Johnston and played for the works team, one of three clubs who merged to form Queen of the South in 1919. However despite having played in the trial matches arranged in the formation of the new club Halliday did not join Queens until January 17th 1920. Between playing for Arrol-Johnston and Queens, Halliday had a brief spell with Tayleurians. After joining Queens until the end of the season in May 1920 Halliday played 19 games.

With this being Queens first season after formation, the club’s fixtures comprised of challenge games and local cup competitions. This included the Dumfries Charity Cup played over three weekends in May. On May 8th Queens thrashed Dumfries F.C. 7-1. A week later Queens saw off Solway Star 4-0 in the semi final before facing Dalbeattie Star in the final.

A then record crowd of 4500 (many watching from roofs and other points of elevation) watched the game. An early Halliday shot went wide following good lead up work involving Ian Dickson (Dickson also left Queens to score goals in England’s top flight). However it was Dalbeattie and their physical style of play who took the lead. Queens equalised through Willie McCall (later of Blackburn Rovers) before Halliday’s efforts bore fruit. One Halliday shot hit the post, another went inches wide before he put Queens ahead five minutes before half time. Connell hit Queens’ third a minute into the second half before Halliday beat Borthwick to cross for McCall to bring up a 4-1 final score.

Dave Halliday scored 13 goals in his 19 games at outside left for the Doonhamers in 1920. Unsurprisingly he attracted the attention of other clubs. He was offered terms by St Mirren after the cup final win over Dalbeattie. Halliday asked for time to think the matter over before the Thursday after he agreed to sign on one condition - that he would be allowed to retain his employment with Arrol-Johnston and travel to Paisley on match days. 

Later in 1924 Halliday’s 16-year-old brother Billy (born Dumfries, 14th November, 1906) joined Queen of the South. As well as being a naturally gifted inside left, Billy was strong, fearless and committed. Another of the Halliday brothers, John, also had a short spell on the playing staff. 

St Mirren

Dave Halliday moved to St Mirren where he scored twice in 13 league games. 


In 1921 Dave Halliday went to Dundee, for whom Alec Troup played on the left wing. Dundee moved Halliday to centre forward. And so, at that moment, a goal-scoring phenomenon was unleashed. Finding goal scoring as natural as breathing he became one of the most prolific centre forwards in the game, finishing as Scottish top scorer in 1923-24 with 38 goals from 36 appearances - an excellent return in the era of the 3 man off side rule. Halliday reached the Scottish Cup final in 1924-25. Dundee knocked out the reigning Cup holders 3-1 at Dens Park on the way, Airdrie, despite a tenacious game from Hughie Gallacher. Halliday scored Dundee’s third in this game where the press also praised his distribution. Halliday was top scorer for Dundee in the run to the final with five goals. In total Halliday scored 90 goals in just 126 league appearances for the Dees. 

While he was with the Dens Park club Halliday was capped for the Scottish League in the 1-1 draw against the English League at Ibrox Park on 15th March 1924. The Scotland goal was by future Wembley Wizard, Alan Morton. Despite scoring consistently throughout his career as a striker Halliday was never once picked for the full Scottish national side. He had the misfortune to play his best football at the same time as the most prolific goals to games scorer in Scottish International football history, Hughie Gallacher. 

Dave Halliday´s goal scoring exploits attracted attention from elsewhere yet again. In 1925, to the delight of goalkeepers throughout Scotland, Halliday was on his way South. 


In 1925, English top division side Sunderland paid £4,000 for Halliday´s services, replacing Charlie Buchan in the team. With a direct, facing the goal style, Halliday’s goal stats at Sunderland make unbelievable reading.

Halliday announced himself on Wearside in immaculate style - two doubles then two hat tricks in his first four Sunderland games. No other player has surpassed his 36 Sunderland goals of 1926/27. For his part this is the lowest goals return of his four full seasons on Wearside. Halliday´s 43 goals in 1928-29 saw him succeed Bill ’Dixie’ Dean as top scorer in England’s top division for the season. This remains Sunderland’s highest number of league goals scored by one player in a season in the club’s history.



Halliday scored four goals in one game on three occasions (all in the league, against Manchester United, Portsmouth and Sheffield United). He also hit 12 hat tricks - the most three goal strikes by any Sunderland player in history (11 in the league and one in the FA Cup). Seeming to victimise certain teams, one of the hat tricks was also against Sheff Utd as were two against Man Utd. Two hat tricks were against West Brom. Man Utd felt Halliday’s venom more than any other team when he played for Sunderland (14 goals from 10 games). Against Liverpool, not once did he fail to score - Halliday has a tally of 12 goals from eight games against them while with Sunderland. In eight games against Bolton he scored eleven times. West Brom played four games against Halliday at Sunderland and conceded eight goals because of his finishing. The list goes on and on and on....

Of 27 clubs who Halliday played against for Sunderland, only five were able to contain him to a 50% goals per game strike rate or less. Halliday played against two teams that he failed to score against at least once. Notts County were one (two games). The other was Cardiff City (a very decent top division side at the time, and the club of another Queens legend, George McLachlan). Remarkably in view of Halliday’s prowess of raining goals at the time, he failed to score against them in six games. Despite not scoring himself, Halliday enjoyed 3 wins and a draw from the six games.


(Halliday playing against Newcastle)


No other player at Sunderland has given the club’s score keeper a greater feeling of job security than Dave Halliday. Halliday hit his first 100 league goals for Sunderland in just 101 games. This makes him the fastest player to 100 top division goals in English football history. He has the best strike rate (goals to games ratio) of any Sunderland striker in the club’s history - 164 goals in 175 games (155 league from 166 games and nine in nine FA Cup outings) . This is an average of 0.937 goals per game. Only one of his goals was from the penalty spot. Only Buchan and all-time Sunderland top scorer Bobby Gurney have scored more goals for the club than Halliday. However neither get anywhere near Halliday´s eye popping strike rate (both Buchan and Gurney have a strike rate at Sunderland of below 0.6 goals per game).

Despite Halliday’s goals, trophies proved elusive, with Sunderland achieving no better than third place (twice) and fourth place (once) in Halliday’s four full league seasons at Roker.

While at Sunderland in November 1927 Dave’s brother Billy joined nearby rivals Newcastle United. The same season at Sunderland saw the debut of Adam Allan to witness Halliday’s potency first hand. Allan played 65 games for Sunderland in league and cup. The centre half later joined Queens to be a cornerstone of the team that finished fourth in Scotland’s top division in 1933/34.


In 1929 Dave Halliday signed for Herbert Chapman’s Arsenal as an intended replacement for Jack Lambert. Halliday debuted against Birmingham City on 9 November 1929. The man still regarded by many as Arsenal’s greatest ever player had debuted 10 weeks before, Alex James.

Halliday scored a relatively modest number of goals in 1929-30 with 8 goals in 15 games (including four in a 6-6 draw with Leicester City). However, he was dropped towards the end of the season in favour of Lambert, and missed out on the 1930 FA Cup Final, which saw Arsenal claim their first major trophy with a 2-0 win.

Manchester City

Dave Halliday signed for Manchester City only a year after joining Arsenal. A team mate of Matt Busby at City, Halliday again scored consistently hitting 47 goals in 76 league games. He also scored four goals from six cup appearances. At Man City in January 1932 he scored a hat trick against former club Sunderland in just ten minutes.

Man City reached the FA Cup semi finals in 1932 where they lost 1-0 to Halliday’s ex club, Arsenal. In 1933 Halliday again missed the FA Cup Final, a game City lost 3-0 to Everton.

Clapton Orient

Dave Halliday saw out his senior playing career outside England’s top flight with Clapton Orient (as the East London club were then called) between 1933 and 1935. He was still a regular goal scorer with 33 strikes in 53 matches.

Yeovil & Petters United

After leaving Orient, Dave Halliday became player-manager of non-league Yeovil & Petters United. Halliday played for Yeovil in the FA Cup proper where predictably he added to his senior goals tally - three more to add to the list. In the 1937/38 FA Cup Halliday took Yeovil into the 3rd round draw. However Halliday had returned to Scotland before the game away to Manchester United.

Halliday’s placing in the history of the world’s greatest ever goal scorers

To give some measure of Halliday’s ability, 28 players have scored over 200 goals in England’s top division. Halliday is in that list along with such names as Jimmy Greaves, Bill ‘Dixie’ Dean, Alan Shearer, Hughie Gallacher, Ian Rush and Denis Law.

The list includes 5 Scots (as well as Halliday, Gallacher and Law, there is also Andrew Wilson and David Herd). Of the five, Law and Herd played their entire professional club careers outside Scotland. Wilson started at Clyde before he moved South to play for The Wednesday (as the Sheffield club were then named). This leaves Queen of the South as the only club in Scotland to have had two ex players to have since gone on to score over 200 goals in the top flight of English football – Hughie Gallacher (247 goals place him tenth) and Dave Halliday (207 goals place him 21st).

Halliday and Gallacher also feature in the list of footballers with the highest number of league goals in England and Scotland. Halliday is 10th with 336 goals from 449 games. Gallacher is 3rd with 406 goals from 554 games. While in absolute terms Gallacher scored more goals, in relative terms it is Halliday who has the higher goals per game ratio (74.8% v 73.2%).

Halliday similarly features very well looking at his goal scoring at a global level. Unsurprisingly with the above info, Gallacher also features prominently. As of 2010 in the IFFHS list of the most successful Top Division Goal Scorers of all time, Gallacher is placed 30th in the world with 336 top division goals in Scotland and England from 466 games. Halliday is 56th in the world with 303 from 394 top flight games, again in Scotland and England. Once more when comparing strike rates between the two greats, it is Halliday who is more prolific (76.9% v 72.1%). To put some context on this list by picking out a few other names; 1st is Pelé, 3rd is Ferenc Puskás, 4th is Romario, Gerd Müller is 10th, Gunnar Nordahl is 15th and Jimmy Greaves 16th. Further down Johan Cruyff is placed 63rd and 97th is Diego Maradona.

Dave Halliday is one of only two players to have been outright top scorer in both of the top divisions in Scotland (38 Dundee goals in 1923/34) and England (43 Sunderland goals in 1928/29). The only other person to achieve this feat outright is David McLean in 1913 with The Wednesday (they did not change name to Sheffield Wednesday until later) and in 1919 with Rangers.

Non selection for Scotland

These impressive stats beg the question again, why was Dave Halliday, a genuine all time great of goal scoring not only in the UK but also at world level, never rewarded with a full international cap for Scotland? At least part of a clue comes from the afore mentioned IFFHS list of the most successful Top Division Goal Scorers of all time. Halliday was in competition with Gallacher for the international centre forward spot. Also further up the chart than Halliday is someone even higher than Gallacher, Celtic & Clydebank’s Jimmy McGrory. Impressive as McGrory’s scoring prowess is (410 goals in 408 league games), McGrory never proved himself outside of Scotland, something Halliday and indeed Gallacher each did in emphatic fashion with 200+ English top division goals.

The IFFHS list doesn’t tell the entire story behind Halliday’s non international selection. 1928/29 was Halliday’s best season, the one in which he ended up first in England’s top division scoring chart with 43 goals. At the end of that season Scotland embarked on a three game tour to Norway, Germany and Netherlands. Gallacher did not play and this was before McGrory was given his short run in the national team to add to the one cap he currently had. The centre forwards who played on the tour were David McCrae of St Mirren (and later briefly of QoS) and Rangers’ Jimmy Fleming. Further, Gallacher spent four years without appearing in full internationals in the early 1930s. Numerous centre forwards were tried in his absence, none of whom established themselves to dominate the position for the national team in the way Gallacher had in the mid and late 20s. Halliday was not among those to be given a chance.

Is Dave Halliday the greatest goal scorer never to play for Scotland? It’s a matter of personal opinion but he would appear to be one of two outstanding candidates. The other is Hughie Ferguson, scorer of the winning goal for Cardiff City in the 1927 FA Cup Final playing alongside George McLachlan. If arguing Ferguson’s case, going back to the IFFHS list of the world’s highest top division goal scorers, Ferguson is 18th on this list - his 361 goals place him above Halliday and also Gallacher for that matter. In Scotland Ferguson topped the league scoring chart three times compared to only once by Halliday. If arguing Halliday’s case, a greater number of his goals were in England, a standard with a greater strength in depth than in Scotland. Most of Ferguson’s goals were for Motherwell with well under 100 goals in England’s top league. This is compared with the 200+ listed above for Halliday in England’s top tier that includes the 1928/29 title of the division’s highest scorer, a feat Ferguson never achieved in England.


Dave Halliday hung up his boots and returned to his native Scotland in December 1937 to become manager of Aberdeen. In April 1938 he signed George Hamilton from his ex club Queen of the South. This would be as shrewd a signing as Halliday would ever make as Hamilton would show himself as a player of genuine class.

It was after the Second World War when national trophies started to arrive at Pittodrie for the first time, thus securing Halliday’s place in the Aberdeen Hall of Fame. Aberdeen won the 1945-46 League Cup (although this was a reduced version of the League Cup, and does not appear in all official records). In 1946-47 Halliday’s team won the Scottish Cup with the inspirational Hamilton scoring in the final. Aberdeen also reached the League Cup final that year.

Halliday added to the Doonhamer connection at Pittodrie in 1948 when he signed Dumfries born ex Scotland international Bobby Ancell.

In the 1951 League Cup Halliday’s side beat Rangers home and away in the group stage to eliminate the Glasgow club. Then came a titanic quarter final against the team who were then Scotland’s top side, Hibs. Each team won their home leg 4-1. By the time of the replay on Monday 2nd October, they would have known that their semi final opponents on the subsequent Saturday were scheduled to be Queen of the South. Drawing 1-1, a 2nd replay was played on the Tuesday. It ended up a Dons disaster as they were on the end of a 5-1 Hibs hammering.

Halliday returned to the Scottish Cup final in 1953 with a series of ties that went to replays. Motherwell drew 5-5 at Pittodrie before being blitzed 6-1 at Fir Park. Next was an excellent win against the still excellent Hibs side of the era (1-1 away, 2-0 at home). Third Lanark were knocked out in the semis in another replay before the Dons lost 1-0 to Rangers in a replay in the final.

Halliday went to the Scottish Cup final again the season after. A second round trip to Duns produced an avalanche win (8-0). Next were two wins against Edinburgh opposition; 3-1 away to Hibs and 3-0 at home to Hearts. The semi final draw brought a game against Rangers at Hampden. Halliday returned North with a stunning 6-0 win against the Ibrox club in the bag. The final brought the opportunity of a Glasgow double to match the Edinburgh double from earlier in the cup run. it was not to be as Sean Fallon hit the winner for Celtic to take the league and cup double with a 2-1 win.

1954 brought international duty and an encounter with the right winger of Queen of the South, Bobby Black. "Davie Halliday, the first time I ever met the bloke was when we went to Ireland. He was the manager of the Scottish League team that went to Ireland when I played for the Scottish League. We flew across on the same plane and got chatting and one thing and another. Then of course in the hotel we did a bit of chatting. I knew he had a Queen of the South connection but he was manager of Aberdeen at the time. All of the Halliday family were a football mad sort of family. A lot of them were pretty good players." Under Halliday’s management the Scots returned with a 3 - 1 win. Black scored two goals.

1955 brought ambitions of a league and cup double for Halliday himself. Rangers were beaten for the second Scottish Cup season running. Next, Hearts were vanquished in the quarter final. Aberdeen were 2-1 up in the semi final against Clyde. Scotland left winger Tommy Ring then scored his second of the game to equalise in the 89th minute. Clyde were then victorious in a 1-0 replay win, just as they were against Celtic in the final (in the replay against Celtic, Ring was again the scorer). Another victim of the semi was Willie Wilson, the goalkeeper from Dumfries who had been unable to win a regular game at Queens ahead of Roy Henderson; Wilson broke a finger in the semi meaning he missed the final. In charge of the semi was triple World Cup referee, Bobby Davidson, father of future Queens goalkeeper, Alan Davidson.



The league was a different story. Aberdeen finished three points ahead of Celtic for Halliday to become the first manager to lift the Scottish Championship with Aberdeen. All appeared to be looking good for Halliday at the Dons but this was not the case. Firstly he was disappointed that the club refused to pay his players an additional bonus for winning the league. Secondly, with the new era of European club football about to begin, Halliday had to swallow the additional disappointment of the SFA overlooking his side as Scottish Champions and instead selecting Hibs. Hibs had been Scotland’s top side at the start of the decade with their ’famous five’ forwards. Now they were no longer even the top team in Edinburgh with Hearts now on the way towards being Scotland’s top team at the end of the decade. Hibs were selected to play in the inaugural European Cup despite having finished fifth in the league, 15 points behind Aberdeen in the era of two points for a win. Halliday decided enough was enough and accepted an offer from elsewhere.

In Dave Halliday’s span in charge of the Dons he was the club’s most successful manager before the arrival of Alex Ferguson. Only Halliday and Ferguson have managed Aberdeen to be Scottish champions.

Leicester City

After leaving Aberdeen, Dave Halliday spent three years at the helm of Leicester City. He guided them to a Second Division title and promotion in 1956-57. The season after, he signed another player originally from Dumfries - ex Celtic stalwart, Joe Baillie. Leicester scored 91 league goals that season, sixth highest in the division. 102 goals against though meant a last game fight for survival when placed two spots above bottom. Halliday stuck to his attacking principles and sent out an offensively minded line up. The 1-0 win at Birmingham sent down the club where Halliday had been hero worshipped - Sunderland. While Halliday left the Leicester job in 1958, the 1957 promotion was the start of the club’s longest ever top division run, ending in 1969.

Dave Halliday returned to Aberdeen where he retired from football after Leicester City. He died on 1st January 1970.

As one of the world’s greatest ever goal scorers it is hardly surprising that Dave Halliday is the greatest goal scorer Dumfries has ever produced. Added to this with a long and trophy winning career in management, Halliday would make a more than worthy Scottish Football Hall of Fame nomination.

Kirk McLean

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