There have already been 642 goals scored by substitutes across the top four tiers of English league football this season, more than ever before. We look at how important subs have become in the English Football League.

Substitutes are proving to be more important than ever before. With matches lasting longer and managers able to make five subs in league matches, players coming off the bench have made an incredible impact on English league games in 2023-24.

In England’s top four tiers, 642 goals have been scored by substitutes in league action this season – that’s already a record. There were 617 in the whole of the English Football League (Premier League, Championship, League One and League Two) last season, and we’ve already gone past that by 25 with two months of the 2023-24 campaign remaining.

In the Premier League alone, we’re now just six goals away (126) from equalling the previous record for substitute goals in a season (132 in 2022-23), while a higher proportion of goals have been scored by subs in the 2023-24 campaign so far (14.3% – excluding own goals).

Much has been said about Jürgen Klopp’s excellent use of substitutions to change games in Liverpool’s favour across the season so far, with his side scoring 23 goals via subs across all competitions in 2023-24. That tally is the joint most among all clubs in the top four tiers alongside promotion-chasing Championship sides Ipswich Town and Southampton.

It is Ipswich who have seen the most league goals scored by subs in England this season, however. Kieran McKenna’s side have recorded 21 in the Championship, including a brace from Ali Al-Hamadi in Saturday’s 6-0 demolition of Sheffield Wednesday at Portman Road.

The Iraqi international is one of nine different players to have scored a league goal as a sub for Ipswich this season, with that tally only exceeded by Wigan Athletic and Stockport County in 2023-24 (10 different sub scorers). Overall, there have been 435 different players to come off the bench and score across the top four tiers in 2023-24, but none have scored as often as Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy (six) – half of the Foxes’ 12 sub goals in the Championship.

Derby County lead the way in League One with 15 of their goals in the competition this season coming from substitutes. A crucial 1-0 win over promotion-chasing rivals Bolton Wanderers on Saturday was sealed by a goal from a sub, with Kane Wilson heading in with 12 minutes remaining.

While Liverpool top the charts for total goal involvements by subs in the Premier League this season (22 – 11 goals, 11 assists), it’s Brighton and Hove Albion who lead the way for the most goals scored by subs (12). That tally is three away from the record scored in a single Premier League season by a team’s substitutes – 15 set by Arsenal in 2009-10, Manchester City in 2011-12 and Liverpool in 2015-16.

Brighton’s tally is 11 more than rivals Crystal Palace, who have scored just one goal via a substitute in the Premier League this season – that coming via a Jean-Philippe Mateta penalty on 9 December versus Liverpool. Even then, the goal was in vain, as Liverpool’s own super-sub Harvey Elliott scored a winner in added time.

Across the 92 clubs in England’s top four tiers this season, just one has failed to score a single goal through a substitute. Despite making 142 subs in total, Shrewsbury Town haven’t seen any of them score so far in 2023-24. The last player to come off the bench and score for them in league competition was Rekeil Pyke over a year ago, scoring the second goal in a 2-0 win over Wycombe Wanderers on 25 February 2023.

Plenty of games have already been won and lost thanks to the impact of substitutes in English league football this season, but with so many of the best teams leaning on the strength of their benches, they could end up deciding titles, promotions and relegations in 2023-24, too.

Enjoy this? Subscribe to our football newsletter to receive exclusive weekly content. You should also follow our social accounts over on XInstagramTikTok and Facebook.