Staveley, Derbyshire born centre forward Sam Raybould played for Poolsbrook United in 1890, Staveley Colliery in 1891 and North Staveley in 1892 before joining Chesterfield Town on trial the following year. His trial wasn’t successful and he moved to Ilkeston Town later in 1893 from where he joined First Division Derby County in the summer of 1894, making his Football League debut against Nottingham Forest that September, scoring in a 4-2 victory at The County Ground. However he only scored once more in a total of 5 appearances for The Rams that autumn before re-joining Ilkeston Town in 1894, playing again for Poolsbrook United in 1896, Ilkeston Town again in 1897 and Bolsover Colliery in 1898.
His re-entry to League football came with Second Division New Brighton Tower in 1899, where he scored 10 goals in 14 appearances through to January 1900 including a hat-trick at Luton Town 2 days before Christmas, before being bought by First Division Liverpool for £250, money that would prove a fantastic investment.
Raybould was the first player to score 100 League goals for Liverpool, a feat he achieved in 162 First and Second Division matches between 20th January 1900 and 9th December 1905. Raybould was top-scorer with 17 in 33 appearances when Liverpool won the League Championship for the first time in 1901 but his most prolific period came two years later when he grabbed 32 goals from 34 League and Cup games, a haul that included 4 goals against Grimsby Town in December 1902, His abilities were obvious to everyone. “He is a dangerous player when in possession, and backs who make mistakes might as well concede a goal straight away,” the local press reported admiringly.
After becoming the first Liverpool player to score 30 goals in one season in 1902-03 Raybould got himself in trouble with the football authorities by agreeing to ‘financial inducements’ to sign for Southern League Portsmouth along with teammates John Glover and William Goldie. The Southern League was the dominant competition in Southern and Central England outside the Football League. When The Football League was founded in 1888 it was based entirely in the North and Midlands with the establishment of County Football Associations in the South being firmly opposed to professionalism. Portsmouth tried to use lack of regulations of transfers between the Leagues to their advantage, but their approach was deemed as illegal and Raybould was suspended for seven months for agreeing to sign for Pompey. He was also given a lifetime ban on ever signing for the south coast side. His absence proved significant as Liverpool slumped from fifth place a year before to relegation candidates. During the enforced break Raybould was very successful in quarter of a mile professional sprints in the Midlands and is said to have run 120 yards (110 meters) in just over 11 seconds. His ban lasted until 31st December 1903, but he seemed to have been forgiven for wishing to move as he was selected for the first team straight away in January. But, even Raybould’s four goals from 15 games towards the end of the season could not prevent relegation to the Second Division.
Raybould was a strong and powerful striker with a wonderful turn of speed, good ball control and was praised for his daring rushes up-field and judicious distribution of play to the wingers, but first and foremost, his deadly scoring capacity. He was moved from centre-forward to left wing in the Second Division and struggled to make an impression in the opening matches for which he was greatly criticized. At the time he suffered more abuse from his own fans than any other player, as they had expected him always to score goals. In the end Raybould came good and scored 19 League goals as the club made an immediate return to the First Division as Second Division Champions.
He then made a significant contribution when the First Division was won just a year later by scoring 11 goals in 25 matches. The last of Raybould’s 211 League appearances for Liverpool came on the final day of the 1906-07 season at home to Sheffield United and he marked the occasion in typical fashion with a goal, the last of the 130 he scored for the club from 226 appearances. Even though for being such a sensational goalscorer for Liverpool he never played for England, but did feature three times for The Football League playing The Scottish League between March 1901, when he played in a 6-2 defeat in Glasgow, and April 1904, his other two appearances finishing in victories.
Thirty-two-year-old Raybould eventually left Liverpool in the 1907 close season for Sunderland where he scored 12 goals in 28 appearances in the 1907-08 season keeping Sunderland just above the relegation places. After only one season he went to join Woolwich Arsenal and scored 7 goals in 30 appearances in his single season with The Gunners before moving back to the East Midlands to join Chesterfield Town in 1909, helping them to the Midland League Championship in 1909-10, scoring 14 goals in 47 games in his two years there. He finished his career joining Sutton Town in 1911 and finally Barlborough United in 1913.