Mention the name Dixie Dean to Everton fans no matter their age and you can bet they’ll go all nostalgic and quite rightly so, as he is a legend to the blue half of Merseyside and that’s why they have a statue of him outside Goodison Park.
But his name is famous outside of Everton too because of the amazing sixty goals in 39 games he scored for the Toffees in the season of 1927/28: a record that has never been beaten and probably never will.
Born in Birkenhead in 1907 as William Ralph Dean he was given the nickname of Dixie because it is said that his dark swarthy looks resembled someone from the deep south of America rather than the cold climate of Liverpool. The nickname stuck with him throughout his life.
Dixie started his playing career at Tranmere Rovers in 1923 and in the two seasons he was there he scored 27 goals in 30 appearances. That brought him to the attention of Tranmere’s bigger local rivals Everton, who were impressed with the 5’10” tough, stocky centre-forward with great heading ability and who could score goals with his feet too.
So the Toffees bought Dixie for £3,000, a club record then for Tranmere Rovers and it was money well spent as Dixie banged in 32 goals in his first season for his new team. But in the following year whilst on holiday in Wales Dixie had a motorcycle accident and suffered a fractured skull and a broken jaw and it looked like his football career was over just as it was starting. But with a steel plate inserted in his head as rumour had it, Dixie made a full recovery and he carried on playing for his beloved Everton the team he supported as a boy.
Dixie must have been as hard as nails as he not only fought back from the injuries he sustained in his accident but he also lost a testicle caused by a robust challenge during a matc! I bet the player who tore Dixies nut off never even got booked. I also imagine Dixie never rolled about the pitch in agony holding his groin area shouting for his attacker to be sent off as, he was never booked or sent off himself in his whole career – a remarkable feat, seeing the treatment dished out to him by opposing hatchet men.
Can you imagine a player losing a bollock after a challenge today? Although Vinnie Jones did grab Gazza’s nuts in a match but luckily he didn’t end up with one ball like poor Dixie did.
But back to Deans goal scoring exploits and the season of 1927/28 when he netted an astonishing 60 goals, which not only put him in the record books it secured Everton the title. Dixie had pressure put on him to reach the 60 goals as Middlesbrough had a top striker too in George Camsell, who was on a remarkable 59 goals and he was confident that magic total was out of the Everton strikers reach.
But Dixie had other ideas and on the final game of the season he scored a hat-trick in a 3-3 draw with Arsenal at Goodison Park in front of a crowd of 48,000, which put him on sixty goals leaving Camsell regretting his words.
So the Evertonians not only lifted the title, they had a new hero to worship in Dixie Dean who in that famous campaign, notched 5 hat-tricks which included four goals against Burnley and all 5 when they thrashed Manchester United 5-2 – it’s no wonder his name is so revered at Goodison Park.
Yet he wasn’t finished banging in the goals as he netted 44 times when Everton won the First Division title again in 1931/32 and add to this his international tally for England of 16 goals in 18 appearances and you can see that he was a goal machine.
Of course the questions is always asked – would Dean have been as prolific if he was playing today ? It is a question that really can’t be answered as football has changed so much over the decades but players can only play in the era they are destined too can’t they?
But I bet if Dixie was alive today he would be staggered at how much money is now in the game and how the lifestyle is so much better than the one he had. He never owned a car and travelled to matches by tram and his diet consisted of a bowl of tripe poached in milk washed down with a pint of bitter. I doubt if the likes of Messi or Ronaldo have got that down on their pre match menu!
But to Everton fans Dixie Dean is a true football icon and how fitting it was that Dixie passed away at his beloved Goodison Park whilst watching Everton playing their bitter rivals Liverpool in 1980 from a heart attack aged 73. The word legend is used freely these days but it sums up in one word perfectly what Dixie Dean is not only to Everton supporters but to football past and present.