Arguably the greatest goalscorer ever to grace the English game and undeniably the greatest Everton player of all-time, Dixie Dean was a true gentleman and an amazing icon.
Still the owner of countless records and trophies, Dixie Dean was known for his incredible skill at scoring goals with his head and his service to football.
We look back at the outstanding life of Everton legend, Dixie Dean.
William Ralph “Dixie” Dean was born at 313 Laird Street in Birkenhead on 22nd January 1907. His family on both sides hailed from Chester and he was the grandson of Ralph Brett, a train driver who drove the royal train during the reign of George V.
Dean grew up as a supporter of Everton, thanks to his father, William Sr., who took him to a match during the 1914–1915 title-winning season. Dean had an exceptional footballing talent and unwavering passion for the game from a young age.
When Dean was young, the country was going through the First World War, and between the ages of 7 and 11 he delivered cow’s milk to local families as part of the war effort and helped attend to the family’s allotment which sustained them through the war years.
He attended Laird Street School, but throughout his education only had eyes for football.
“My only lesson was football … I used to give the pens out on Friday afternoons … the ink, and the chalks. That was the only job I had in school.”
When he turned 11 he started secondary school at Albert Memorial Industrial School, a borstal school in Birkenhead. The Dean family chose this school because of the football facilities on offer. The family home had little room for him due to their size and Dean was happy with the arrangement. He could play on the school’s football team and spent a lot of time on the playing fields, practising his skill with the ball.
He left school at 14 and started work for the Wirral Railway as an apprentice fitter with his father, who worked as a train driver. During this time Dean began to really miss being able to play football all day.
He took a night job so that he could concentrate on his first love, football.
“The other two apprentice fitters, they didn’t like the night job because there were too many bloody rats around there … rats as big as whippets. So, I took their night job, and of course, I could always have a game of football then. Kicking the rats.”
However, things quickly began to look up for the budding star and he would soon be leaving the rats behind.
The sons of Dean’s manager at the Wirral Railway happened to be directors of New Brighton A.F.C. and they quickly took an interest in signing Dean.
However, Dixie Dean declined the offer from New Brighton, instead signing for local team Pensby United. It was here that Dean attracted the attention of a Tranmere Rovers scout, his local team.
He began his career as a centre forward for the Rovers in November 1923 and stayed there for 16 months, scoring 27 goals in 30 league appearances. All 27 were in the second of those two seasons in which he averaged exactly a goal per game.
His amazing footballing skill and exploits attracted the interest of many clubs across England, including Arsenal and Newcastle United.
His father had taken him to a league game at Goodison Park when he was eight years old and he had been an avid fan ever since.
It was a dream come true for Dean when Everton secretary Thomas H. McIntosh arranged to meet him at the Woodside Hotel in 1925. Dean was so excited that he ran the 2.5 miles (4.0 km) distance from his home in north Birkenhead to the riverside to meet him. He signed for Everton in March 1925 having just turned 18.
Dean signed for Everton for £3,000, then a record fee received for Tranmere Rovers.
He made an immediate impact, scoring 32 goals in his first full season.
However, his footballing career was halted in the summer of 1926 after a serious motorcycling accident at Holywell, North Wales left Dean with a fractured skull and jaw. Doctors were unsure whether he would fully recover from his injuries and there were fears he would never return to the game.
Amazingly Dean made a full recovery and returned to play in the 1927-28 season, in which he would make history.
During the legendary 1927-28 season, Dixie memorably scored a record 60 league goals and Everton won the First Division title.
When they were relegated to Second Division in 1930 Dean stayed with them. The club went on to immediately win the Second Division in 1931 followed by the First Division again in 1932. They then immediately won the FA Cup in 1933 (in which he scored in the final) – a sequence unmatched since.
He was the first Everton player to wear the number-9 shirt and by 1934, Dean was captain of the Everton side.
“Ordinary players butt the ball with the crown of their heads,” wrote a contemporary report. “Dean artistically glides it downwards with the side of his head.
In this respect he excels every other famous centre-forward.”
However, the harsh physical demands of the game (as it was played then) took their toll and he was dropped from the first team in 1937.
Dean made his debut for the England national football team against British rivals Wales at the Racecourse Ground in Wrexham in February 1927, less than a month after his 20th birthday. In his total 16 appearances for the team, he scored an amazing 18 goals.
His final game for England came in a 1–0 victory over Ireland in October 1932 at Blackpool F.C.’s Bloomfield Road, when Dean was 25 years old.
Dean was involved in the 1927 and 1929 editions of the British Home Championship. During the 1927 edition, Dean scored four goals in his two games for England and scored twice against Scotland at Hampden Park. Despite the loss, the Scots won the competition overall and applauded Dean, who finished the tournament as top scorer. In the 1929 edition, he scored in his only outing against Ireland at Goodison Park.
Following his amazing success at Everton and internationally, Dean moved to Notts County at the end of the 1937-38 season. He only played nine games for his new team, scoring three goals in total.
After a short run with Notts County he moved to Ireland to play for Sligo Rovers in January 1939 to help the club in their FAI Cup campaign, he was 32.
Dean scored ten goals in seven games for the club, including five in a 7–1 win over Waterford, which remains a club record for the most goals scored in a single game. He also played in four Cup matches, scoring once in the 1–1 final against Shelbourne, who won the replay 1–0.
He ended his professional playing days with Hurst, now known as Ashton United in the Cheshire County League 1939–40 season, managing two games (and one goal) before the outbreak of war truncated his career.
Dixie Dean retired from football in April 1941 and spent the next years of his life running a pub in Chester called the Dublin Packet.
In January 1972, Dean was admitted to St. Catherine’s hospital in Birkenhead after suffering from the effects of influenza and was released a month later. However, after this his health continued to decline over the years.
Dixie became increasingly homebound after he was forced to have his right leg amputated due to a blood clot in November 1976.
A couple of years later, Dean died on 1 March 1980 at age 73 after suffering a heart attack at Everton’s home ground Goodison Park whilst watching a match against their closest rivals, Liverpool. It was the first time that Dean had visited Goodison Park in several years, due to ill health. Famously he had attended lunch before the game with Bill Shankly who had praised Dixie’s playing style, commenting that he was the greatest centre-forward there will ever be.
“He belongs in the company of the supremely great, like Beethoven, Shakespeare and Rembrandt.”
His funeral took place at St. James’ Church on Laird Street, the street on which he was born, in Birkenhead and was attended by thousands of football fans.
In total, Dean scored 383 goals for Everton in 433 appearances, an exceptional strike-rate which includes 37 hat-tricks. He was known as a sporting player, never booked or sent off during his career despite rough treatment and provocation from opponents.
When asked if he thought his record of scoring 60 goals in a season would be broken, Dean said:
“People ask me if that 60-goal record will ever be beaten. I think it will. But there’s only one man who’ll do it. That’s the fellow that walks on the water. I think he’s about the only one.”
A statue of Dean was unveiled outside Goodison Park in May 2001 by local sculptor Tom Murphy, which was erected outside the park end of Goodison Park at a cost of £75,000 with the inscription “Footballer, Gentleman, Evertonian”.
A year later, he became one of 22 players inducted into the inaugural English Football Hall of Fame. Dean was the first Everton player to wear the number-9 shirt, which in later years would become iconic at the club.
Signature Living have taken the task of transforming a glorious former court building on Victoria Street in Liverpool into a Dixie Dean Hotel, which will be a fitting tribute to the great man.
Located opposite the ever popular Shankly Hotel, this area will be transformed into the first ever Football Quarter, to celebrate the great footballers this city has produced.
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