Full name: William Ralph Dean
Date of birth: 22/01/1907
Dixie Dean is, quite simply, one of the greatest centre-forwards ever to have played the game.
William Ralph ‘Dixie’ Dean was born on 22nd January 1907 in Birkenhead, Merseyside. He began his professional football career at Tranmere Rovers in 1923, where he showed early signs of his remarkable ability, scoring 27 goals in just 29 appearances for the club. Two years later he moved across the River Mersey to Everton, the club he loved and is most famously associated with, for a fee of £3000.
Dean’s impact at the Toffees was immediate. He scored 32 goals in his first full season at the club. But his illustrious career almost never came to be. Dean was involved in a motorcycle crash with his girlfriend in June 1926. He broke his jaw and fractured his skull in the accident, and doctors told him he would never play football again. Just 15 weeks later, Dean defied the odds and returned to playing football for Everton.
Astonishingly, Dixie proved to be an even greater goalscorer after his accident than he had been before it. He played the last 27 games of the 1926/27 season, scoring 21 goals. But it was during the next season, 1927/28, that the name of Dixie Dean would go down in footballing legend.
In the first nine games of the season, Dean scored 14 goals, including five in one match against Manchester United. By January he had scored 39 goals, breaking Everton’s club record for most goals scored in a season by a single player, previously held by B.C. Freeman.
The next record in Dean’s sights was the First Division goalscoring record, which stood at 43. He broke that record in mid March. With 13 league games remaining, Dean was 17 goals away from breaking George Camsell’s record for most league goals in a single season in English football (59).
It was not going to be easy for Dixie. He went through an uncharacteristically dry spell of four games without a goal. His international call-ups meant he had to score 17 goals in the last seven games of the season. Incidentally, Dean made 16 appearances for England, scoring 18 goals, including two hat-tricks.
A return to the scoring trail left Dixie going into the last game of the season, against Arsenal, needing to score a hat-trick to break the record. Everton had already been crowned First Division champions due to title rivals Huddersfield losing a few days earlier. Over 60,000 fans packed into Goodison Park to see Dean’s passage into legend.
Things didn’t go according to plan, with Arsenal scoring first. But Dean would not be denied, and straight from the kick-off, equalised for Everton from twenty yards. One down, two to go. Midway through the first half, Dixie was brought down in the penalty area. No-one else could possibly step up to take the penalty, and sure enough, Dean slotted home from the spot. One more.
But Arsenal still weren’t following the script, and an own goal saw the sides go into half time at 2-2. Minutes felt like hours during the second half, and it seemed like Dixie’s 60th goal would never come. Then, five minutes from the end, he rose in the area to head home from a corner, and Goodison Park was sent into rapture. Dixie Dean was officially a legend.
Despite being relegated into the Second Division in 1930, Dean stood by his beloved Everton, for whom he was now captain. His goalscoring prowess did not falter, and his 39 goals in 37 games helped propel Everton straight back into the top flight as Second Division champions.
Everton went on to win the First Division title in 1932, and the FA Cup in 1933, Dean playing a major part in both campaigns. Indeed, he scored in every round of the 1933 FA Cup besides the semi-final. Numbered shirts were introduced for the first time in the 1933 FA Cup final; Dixie Dean became Everton’s first number 9, the reason why Evertonians still hold the number 9 shirt in high esteem.
By the time Dean left Everton for Notts County in 1937, he had scored 383 goals in 433 appearances. To this day, he remains Everton’s all-time leading goalscorer. That, along with his record for 60 goals in a season, looks unlikely to be beaten any time soon.
Dixie was as respected for his sportsmanship as he was for his goal scoring record. He was never booked or sent off in his entire career, despite coming under such intense provocation that he actually lost a testicle during a match.
Once he left Everton, Dean’s career began to wind down. After Notts County he enjoyed a spell with Sligo Rovers in Ireland before ending his career at Hurst FC in 1939. He scored ten goals in seven appearances for Sligo Rovers, and helped them on the way to the FAI Cup final, which they eventually lost to Shelbourne. Dean scored five goals in a 7-1 win over Waterford, which still remains a Sligo Rovers’ record for most goals scored in one match.
After retiring from football, Dixie continued to work for a living. It should be noted that in his day, professional footballers did not acquire the same wealth as those who play in the modern game. He owned and ran his own pub, the Dublin Packet in Chester, and also worked as a porter for Littlewoods Pools at their offices in Walton, Liverpool. Despite his status as an English footballing legend, his co-workers remembered him as a “quiet, unassuming” man.
Ironically, Dixie is believed to have despised the nickname Evertonians had given him (due to his dark complexion and curly brown hair) and preferred to be known as Bill.
Befitting of a man so famously associated with Everton FC, Dixie Dean passed away at Goodison Park on 1st March 1980, just minutes after the final whistle of a Merseyside Derby match. He was 73 years old.
- BBC Radio Merseyside’s 4th “Greatest Merseysider”: 2003
- Inducted into the National Football Museum Hall of Fame: 2002
- Football Writers’ Association inscribed silver salver: 1976
- Hall of Fame Trophy: 1971
- Lewis’s Medal to commemorate 200 league goals in 199 appearances
- Sunday Pictorial Trophy for 60 league goals: 1928
|1923-1925||Tranmere Rovers||30 (27)|
|1938-1939||Notts County||9 (3)|
|1939||Sligo Rovers||7 (10)|
|1939||Hurst F.C.||2 (1)|