Dixie Dean is heralded as an Everton legend and rightly so. As a record goal scorer and all around respected man of the people, he represented the everyday people of Merseyside, especially Birkenhead where he was born and raised.
In the days where footballers earn eye-watering salaries, it’s hard to imagine the inter-war period where the likes of Dixie Dean earned just £8 a week for record-breaking seasons. The period of time meant that £8 a week wasn’t a bad wage, but also meant that early retirement and lifelong security was not destined to be on the cards.
When Dixie retired, he took up several jobs, including working at the Littlewoods Organisation and running a pub in Chester, but the time soon came for a testimonial to show appreciation for Everton’s greatest player.
Testimonials in football have been commonplace for nearly as long as the game has been an institution. Typically, they tend to be a day of celebrating the career of any given player who has spent at least ten years at one club.
While today they are used to raise money for charities and organisations nominated by the player, when wages were low for footballers, they were a chance to donate money to support them when their life on the pitch had come to an end.
It’s a chance for fans and professionals alike to pay tribute to the loyalty and service a player has given to a club and crowds turn up in large numbers to do so.
Most testimonials are held while a player is still at a club and coming to the end of their career or just after retirement, but Dixie Dean’s wasn’t held until twenty-five years after he’d hung up his boots for good. Much to the disdain of many Everton supporters, Dixie was not given a formal send-off from the club to whom he had given so much in the 1930s.
Dean had fallen on tough times financially and chairman of Everton, John Moores, wanted to organise a tribute to the record-breaker while raising money for his retirement. And so, 57-year-old Dixie Dean was invited to Goodison in April 1964 for a celebration of his career.
Dixie was the guest of honour that day and was tasked with placing the ball in the centre circle to start the day off as both Everton and Liverpool Football clubs came together to honour the great man.
The event raised £7000 for Dixie Dean and his family and helped fund his retirements when he eventually left Littlewoods when he was 65.
While the Merseyside Derby has been dubbed the ‘friendly derby’ of football, there has always been a sense of fierce rivalry between the two. In Liverpool, you’re either a red or a blue and there are no two ways about it. Of course, there are rare occasions of unity, the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 saw the two teams cast aside their differences in order to search and fight for much-needed justice and Dixie Dean’s testimonial was a much more light-hearted, joyous occasion that did so.
Their stadiums may only be a park apart, their colours so different and their history so divided, but events such as Dixie Dean’s testimonial are a testament to how great the two clubs can be when they come together in unity for the greater good.
There are more similarities between the clubs than differences and, while the rivalry is still alive and well, there is still the Merseyside bond that keeps these clubs in the light of football.
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