Here at The Dixie Dean Hotel – owned by Signature Living – we are proud to be associated with the name of the world’s greatest ever centre forward. In order to celebrate the opening of the hotel, the impending football season and also to highlight the forthcoming Football Quarter in our city – which will comprise of ourselves and our neighbour The Shankly Hotel, we have compiled a short synopsis of the great man’s career by virtue of numbers. Our aim is to utilize these as a method of briefly illustrating the phenomena that was Dixie – both for those of a Toffee persuasion but also to give those who may visit us in the future a flavor of the man after whom our hotel is named.
William Ralph “Dixie” Dean was born in Birkenhead, Merseyside on January 22nd, 1907. There was no bright star in the sky over St. James’ Church. No three wise men – although if you were to ask an Evertonian, there should have been. He was the only boy in a family that will eventually comprise of 6 girls. From a young age his talent with a football outshone his abilities and indeed interests in anything else, as Dixie himself would be the first to admit that he was never an academic. Following school – which he left at 14 – as most working-class kids did in those days – and despite his inordinate talent, no offer from a League club was forthcoming so he followed his father into working for the Railways. Dixie’s dad was a train driver and had, indeed, once driven the Royal Train which was a huge honour at that time. It was he whom secured his son the position. Billy Dean began on nights, although he didn’t mind, despite the rats which were both numerous and apparently huge as it allowed him to play football during the day which of course he continued to do.
Dixie played football and prospered for a local side, Heswall, from where he was eventually scouted for Tranmere Rovers. He would only be at his hometown club for approximately a calendar year, but while there he would score an impressive 27 goals in the same amount of appearances. A couple of other noticeable incidents from his time at Prenton Park: It was the first place the cry, “Give it to Dixie” was to be heard. It would eventually become his theme tune. Tranmere was also the club where he would lose a testicle due to an injury sustained whilst playing. I say injury; however, assault would be more accurate. Dixie Dean’s talent even at that tender age was so prodigious that during one away game at Oldham the experienced centre half warned him not to be so flash – he meant scoring and embarrassing him and if he were to do so again then he would regret it. Finding the net for the second time in the match he was approached by the defender who violently kicked him in the crown jewels, resulting in a swelling so bad it required the eviction of one of the occupants. Dixie Dean never complained but did like to retell the anecdote of how he once went to hospital and lost a stone!
With a posse of more than 20 league clubs chasing his signature he was eventually approached by his only football love – Everton Football Club and duly informed their representative that he would accept whatever terms were on offer as Everton were the only team that he wanted to play for. As if it was pre-destined all along. He signed for his boyhood club on March 16, 1925 for what would be a ride that nobody, least of all those of a blue persuasion, would ever forget.
His first two seasons in an ageing, under-performing side saw him shine, to provide glimpses of what was to come but not yet the workaday brilliance, the all-consuming luminescence week-in/week-out that was about to light up not just Goodison Park, but the whole of English and indeed World football. Ironically, if it were not for the Hand of Providence, the whole thing may have simply vanished before it had even begun.
In June 1926, the year of the General Strike and its soul-destroying austerity, Dixie was on a close season motorcycling excursion to Wales. He and his lady-friend were involved in a collision with another motorcycle-and-sidecar. The upshot was that Dixie’s friend, thankfully, only suffered superficial injuries. Dixie, on the other hand was seriously wounded. A broken jaw and fractured skull that would require extensive surgery and a metal plate being temporarily inserted into his head, were among the most severe injuries sustained.
Everton club Doctor, “Doc” Baker, was informed that their lad was currently fighting for his life and there was no chance whatsoever that he would be able to play professional football again.
Thankfully for every Evertonian since, that diagnosis was proven incorrect as the sheer physical constitution of Dixie simply refused to give up the game he loved. Upon his returning to action- in a reserve team fixture at Huddersfield Town, a special train was commandeered for supporters to witness the return of their hero. Dean was involved in a clash of heads during the game, which resulted in the desperate cries of Toffees fans screaming out, “His head. His head…”. Seconds later, when all was deemed fine, they sang, “He’s alright. He’s alright,” in jubilation.
And boy was he alright, more than alright in fact. By the following year he was about to become literally unstoppable as a centre forward. Evertonians were blessed. At Goodison Park the 1927-28 season was remarkable for many reasons thanks to the unveiling of the new Archibald Leitch designed double-decker stand at Bullen’s Road. This gave the first team returning to Goodison, a stadium that met the standards expected from a founding football league club. As a result, the side began well in the chase for the first division championship.
Dixie Dean meanwhile was now in the business of setting records. By New Year’s Eve he had scored 34 goals which these days would be enough to win leading goal-scorer for the whole season. Dixie had done it within 4 months. In February when scoring a hat-trick at Anfield in a Merseyside Derby, Dixie scores his 99th, 100th and 101st league goals. All before his 21st birthday. This was also the day that he famously bowed three times to the Kop. “They didn’t like it very much.” he would often recollect.
The campaign was becoming exceedingly profitable for our young centre forward. Local newspapers were now openly discussing the possibility of him overcoming the score record of 59 goals, set the previous season (although in division 2) by George Camsell of Middlesborough. Going into the final week of matches, Dixie required a further 7 goals to break the record. With two fixtures remaining, the blues played Burnley away midweek. Dixie Dean scored 4 times before half-time but then picked up an injury and was substituted with a thigh injury at the interval.
It was touch-and-go for Dixie at this point, whether or not he would make the Toffees final fixture at Goodison Park. He was only 3 goals from making history…
In the intervening days, Everton as a club did all they could in order to get him fit for the Arsenal game. This involved dispatching Trainer Harry Cooke to stay at his house and employing intensive “heat therapy” plasters every two hours, waking him throughout the night to continue the regimen.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of it remarkably, the method worked and Cook did indeed return his star forward to fitness, to take his place on the pitch to face the Gunners. What transpired will remain in the annals of English Football folklore for as long as the game exists.
The Arsenal side, of course, were an institution of repute throughout the game and were nobody’s pushovers. In fact they did everything possible to thwart our hero’s pursuit of achieving his record. Dixie scores a header then converts a penalty kick during the first half but, with the clock running down he still needed to score one for the record…
This is how a local newspaper reported what happened next…
“Troup took the corner kick and out of a ruck of probably 14 players Dean, with an unerring accuracy nodded the ball into the extreme right side of the goal. There has never been such a joyous shout.” Thus, in the Golden Jubilee of Everton Football Club Dixie Dean scores 60 league goals- including 5 goals in a game, 4 goals in a game and 3 hat-tricks from a combined team total of 102 to break the goal scoring record whilst the Toffees go on to be champions of England. Dean amasses a personal total of 100 goals from all his combined games during the campaign- including Internationals and Representative fixtures. As an example of genuine sporting excellence, it is simply breathtaking and remains a record that nobody in this country has ever come near to equalling.
Despite this achievement – the like of which would never be seen again, allied to the fact that Everton were champions – the expected dynasty did not ensue. Instead, within two years the side suffered the indignity of relegation from the top-flight. This would be the first occasion that the club had dropped out of division 1 in its history and are the last of the founder members clubs of the League to do so. Nevertheless, sending Dixie Dean to play against second division defences was akin to trusting the Big Bad Wolf with the keys to the henhouse as he once more filled his boots. Meanwhile Everton would go on to set a points record that was only broken by Tottenham Hotspur’s double winning side of 1960-61. Dixie scored a total of 48 goals in 42 matches and was back in the first division before you could say, the greatest centre forward that the world has ever seen.
Upon the club’s return to the top table, Dixie Dean failed to find the net in the opening five fixtures. Is he ill, they asked? Our 6th match of the campaign is at Anfield as he proceeded to bag another hat-trick in front of the crimson supporters. Two games later we embarked on a 5-match winning run whence the side score 34 times with Dixie himself bagging 13. He was certainly not ill as his standards, consistency and pure unadulterated talent were truly a thing to behold. It is at this point, in a fixture against Arsenal a side whom run like a thread throughout his career that Dixie Dean was first introduced to a tactic specifically invented to prevent him from scoring goals. It will later become ubiquitously adopted throughout the global game and be known as man-to-man marking. That is how much of a threat to defenders he had become.
The side do not merely settle back in division 1, but take it by storm as a team amass a total of 116 goals, 84 at Goodison Park- with 21 home games in total even those with only basic mathematics can work out the ratio of 4 goals per home match for the campaign. Dixie Dean plays in 39 matches and scores 45 goals. He scores 5 times in a game twice, 4 in a game once with 5 hat-tricks as the Toffees once again lift the League Championship trophy.
During the summer months Everton – the first English club to ever undertake a pre-season tour to Europe visit Germany and Austria. The National Socialist or Nazi Party are beginning to come to prominence and will shortly assume control of the Government. As a result of his reputation as a goal-scorer allied to his dark hair and looks Dixie becomes the focus of what would now be termed a media campaign basically designed to unsettle him. At a fixture in Dresden and with Hermann Goering and Joachim von Ribbentrop (both leading Nazi Party officials) in the stadium Dixie Dean as Everton captain refuses when requested that the team make the Nazi salute. This, as one might imagine, did not go down well. The England team playing in Munich in 1938 infamously made the salute. By September 1939 the country was at war with Germany. Dixie Dean’s gesture was ultimately justified.
Back on the pitch the domestic campaign is not of the standard of its predecessor yet the chanteuse that was the domestic knockout competition was finally and belatedly making eyes at Dixie. As a football club Everton had won the F.A. Cup once- the only occasion to date that it had visited Merseyside while neither of our clubs had even graced a final since the showpiece had relocated to the Empire Stadium yet Everton had lifted the league title on three occasions in the interim. For Dixie Dean it was becoming “a thing.”
The side secured their first ever appearance at Wembley and even though they could have easily slipped up in the semi final against West Ham United they became confirmed finalists with their opponents to be, Manchester City. As an aide to viewers, commentators on radio broadcasts of major games was becoming more popular. As a result, the Football Association decided to initiate a numbering system for players, as an easy method of identification.
Following a toss-up between the clubs, it was decided that Everton would wear 1-11 and their opponents 12-22. Therefore, as Everton’s captain Dixie Dean would become the world’s original #9 leading out his team in the showpiece. The game itself was a cakewalk. The Toffees run out as 3-0 victors, with our captain and centre forward scoring one of the goals. The celebration goes long into the night and upon their return to Merseyside the team are greeted by a crowd of 50,000 at Lime Street Station. A further 500,000 fans in total were on the streets of the city before being transported to Goodison Park in the same carriage that carried the 1906 side where a further 60,000 fans were waiting.
Sadly, it was to be the last hurrah of Everton’s ultimate champion as regards to honours, but, Dixie was about to become tutor the young Tommy Lawton. A player who went on to become a genuine great of the English game and lead the Toffees to the first division title in 1938. Dixie Dean finally left Everton FC in March 1938, almost 13 years to the day that he signed. He would only leave in body however, as his spirit had entered the club’s foundations and ethos. Little did Dixie know, he would ultimately become the father of everything we stand for.
Supreme excellence yet at the same time always via fair play. His personal relationships with both the Liverpool FC goalkeeper of his time, Elisha Cook, and later in life, Bill Shankly stand as testimony to his liking to score against the Reds whilst also counting some of his rivals as friends. In Bill Shankly’s case, a close friend.
Dixie Dean was not only exceptionally talented at football, he was adept at most sports involving a ball playing golf off a handicap of 2, an being an excellent cricketer. He even once played baseball for an England XI in an arranged fixture versus “The Yankees” at the White City Stadium as well as playing for the Liverpool Caledonians.
So that was the career, at least the chronological synopsis of what happened. The real beauty however lies in the numbers. These days not just in sport but in wider society statistics abound. There isn’t an election fought on the planet today that doesn’t have opinion polls before, then exit polls after. Contemporary Sport, particularly TV coverage, is awash was statistical analysis yet when Dixie Dean played football such things were mere semantics.
He is literally the forebear of Everton Football Club. Whom we attain to be. It is therefore high time that we reviewed his numerical dominance.
0: Dixie Dean was never booked nor sent off during his professional career.
1: Football Quarter: Dixie Dean stands first in the all-time English goal-scorers league.
2: Two become one: Dixie Dean lost a testicle as a result of an injury whilst playing for Tranmere Rovers.
3: Hat-tricks: Whilst Dixie Dean did not invent the hat-trick, he was its finest exponent amassing a total of 37 during his illustrious career. A record in English football that still exists. Counting just his hat-trick goals he would lie 5th in the all-time Everton goal-scoring charts.
4: Trophies: Dixie Dean lifted four trophies as an Everton player. 2 X League Championships, 1 X Second Division Championship and 1 X F.A. Cup.
5: The most goals that Dixie Dean scored for Everton in a professional match was five. He did it twice.
7: The most goals Dixie Dean scored in a single game was seven. He achieved this in a reserve team fixture versus Bradford Park Avenue in 1925.
9: The world’s original: As Everton centre forward and captain Dixie Dean becomes the first player ever to wear the #9 shirt in a competitive game- the 1933 F.A. Cup Final. Our restaurant at The Dixie Dean Hotel is named in honour of this event. Moreover, if Everton F.C. are to be linked with any shirt number over and above the others then it is without doubt the #9.
11: The amount of goals Dixie Dean scored for Everton at Anfield.
-60 league goals in a single season in the first division- 1927-28. He has a goals-per-game average for the season of 1.13 even in the games in which he did not play.
-100 League goals before the age of 21.
-200 League goals in 199 games aged 23.
-300 League goals in 310 games.
-362 League goals in 400 games.
-200 goals in 198 games for Everton.
-349 League goals for Everton in 399 games.
-20 League goals plus in 9 consecutive seasons.
-30 League goals plus on 4 occasions.
-353 League goals in just over 12 seasons beating Steve Bloomer’s career record of 353 over 22 seasons.
-473 goals in 502 League, Cup, International, Representative and Charity matches.
-18 Derby goals. 16 in the League and 11 at Anfield.
-18 goals in 16 games for England.
-9 goals in 6 matches for the Football League.
– Dixie Dean ends with a career League and Cup average of 0.875 goals per game at Everton Football Club. To clarify, that is almost a goal a game over a 13-year period whether he was on the pitch or not. As a feat of supreme athleticism, it is incredible while as a statistical analysis it remains beyond impressive.
William Ralph “Dixie” Dean passed away on March 1st, 1980 at his spiritual home, Goodison Park aged 73 whilst attending a Merseyside Derby. It was wholly fitting. That night BBC Match of the Day dispensed with their usual titles and theme music and instead simply showed an image of Dixie Dean over silence.
The opening proper of The Dixie Dean Hotel in September will also mark the unveiling of the Football Quarter on Merseyside. We are about to launch website articles, blogs and a regular podcast allied to other avenues all geared to further developing both the individual personalities of both hotels as well as the clubs they represented and indeed our great city as we go forwards. We would love you to join us.
Up the Football Quarter Toffees.
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