The following is a chapter from Jim Koeghan's latest book, Everton's Greatest Games: The Toffees' Fifty Finest Matches which covers standout matches from a club history stuffed with great occasions and memorable encounters. "Dixie's 60", obviously, recounts the game where William Ralph Dean set the record for the most goals scored in a single league season, one yet to be matched and one unlikely ever to be broken.
Everton's Greatest Games is available now for purchase from Amazon and Waterstones.
v Arsenal 3–3
5 May 1928
Football League Division One
ALTHOUGH Dean had been scoring for fun since establishing himself as Everton’s first-choice centre-forward, the team had not prospered. The Blues ended the 1926/27 campaign in 20th position, one place off ‘the drop’.
Despite Dean’s contribution that season (albeit more limited than desired, after he spent a chunk of the early months of the campaign recovering from a serious motorbike accident), the team’s total goal tally deteriorated from the previous year, and at the back they were porous, shipping a greater number of goals than both clubs that were relegated.
In response, the board began bringing in recruits to address Everton’s problems. At the back, to plug up a defence that was worryingly leaky, Warneford ‘Warney’ Cresswell was signed from Sunderland, a player who subsequently became known as the ‘Prince of Full-Backs’.
Then, from Stockport County, Everton brought in the talented outside-right Ted Critchley – providing Dean with a source of delivery to match that he had been receiving from the diminutive Troup on the left.
As an investment to end the club’s permeable defence and get even more out of Dean, it was one that yielded spectacular dividends.
After a patchy start, form picked up dramatically, and by the end of November Everton were top.
Although they were unquestionably tighter at the back, a key reason for the club’s ascent up the table was the form of Dean, which was mesmerising.
With the deliveries provided by Everton’s wide men, Dean was on fire. By the end of that same November, the colossus of Goodison had played 15 games and found the net 27 times, including hat-tricks against Portsmouth, Leicester City and Manchester United.
Tentatively, Dean had his sights on the English goalscoring record, which had recently been set by George Camsell of Middlesbrough, who had scored 59 goals during the 1926/27 campaign (albeit in the second tier). With just over a third of the season gone, he was nearly half-way there.
Over the months that followed, despite a winless streak that lasted from mid-January until the end of March, Everton remained in the hunt for the title. It was a sustained assault, attributable in no small part to Dean’s continued potency.
By late March, after bagging a brace in a 2–2 draw against Derby County, he reached 45, claiming the record for most goals in a First Division season (previously held by Ted Harper of Blackburn Rovers).
As the season closed, both the club and Dean (although he slightly less so) were still well positioned to claim their respective titles. In the league, with three games to go, it was a head-to-head battle between Everton and Huddersfield Town for the title. In the goalscoring stakes, Dean needed nine more goals to beat Camsell’s record. For Everton’s unstoppable centre-forward, it was a tough proposition but not one beyond his skills.
Dean bagged two in a 3–2 win over Aston Villa and then followed this with four in a 5–3 victory over Burnley. At the same time, Everton pushed further ahead of Huddersfield, and, after the Yorkshiremen lost their penultimate match of the season (a game in hand away at Villa), the title was Goodison bound.
The presenting of the trophy would have been exciting enough for Evertonians. After all, it was the first time in over a decade that the club had won any silverware. But there was also the issue of Dean’s record to consider. Three more goals were needed to best Camsell, and there was just the one game left to do it.
But would the great man play?
In the penultimate match of the season, Dean had sprained a leg muscle and limped off. With Saturday approaching and the leg continuing to give him some jip, Everton’s trainer/physio Harry Cooke sprang into action.
‘From the Wednesday night until the Friday, he was with me at home, my home in Alderley Avenue, Birkenhead,’ Dean told John Roberts. ‘Old Harry kept putting clay plasters on [the muscle] until the Friday night, even leaving one on overnight as well. Old Harry cured it and on the Saturday, of course I was fit. ’
On the day itself, although the official attendance was said to be 48,715, it’s thought that around 60,000 (nervous) Blues crammed into Goodison to witness history being made.
Did the man himself share those nerves? Like he did at every home game, Dean caught the number 44 tram from Water Street, got off and walked along Goodison Road, chatting all the time to fellow fans. He was relaxed, motivated and, as he revealed to John Keith in Dixie Dean: The Inside Story of a Football Icon, confident in his abilities:
‘I need three goals against Arsenal, who were the greatest club in the land. But that didn’t worry me whatsoever, I always used to think, “I’m better than you. ”’
Despite Arsenal taking a quick lead through Shaw, the hopes and dreams of the fans were given a huge boost not long after, when Dean opened his account with a typically powerful header.
Minutes after Arsenal had kicked off again, the man himself was brought down in the box by Butler, who had been drawn into a reckless tackle. Penalty to Everton!
There was only person to take it. Goodison held its breath.
‘I intended to place the penalty in the corner,’ he later recalled. Instead ‘it went in-between the keeper’s legs. It wasn’t one of my better kicks. ’
Not that it mattered. Camsell’s record had been equalled. And, with most of the game remaining, Dean needed only one more to nudge out in front.
As the crowd waited for him to strike again, Arsenal levelled. With the title secured and that scoring record exercising minds, it was one of those rare occasions at Goodison when the opposition’s efforts to secure victory hardly mattered.
What was of more concern to the increasingly agitated crowd as the minutes ticked along was the growing impregnability of the Gunners’ defence, which seemed determined to spoil the day. No matter what Everton threw at it, the back line remained resolute.
And then, with around four minutes left, Everton won a corner. Troup trotted out to take it. As the ball came in, ‘Dean was in the midst of a bunch of players – friend and foe, and when it was a case of whose head was going to reach the ball first, it was a foregone conclusion it would be Dean’s. He nodded the ball into the right hand corner of the net,’ reported the Football Express.
Goodison exploded. It was a noise so loud, so the story went, that it sent the pigeons around the Pier Head scattering off into the sky.
‘You talk about explosions, and loud applause; we have heard many explosions, and much applause in our long pilgrimage, but, believe us, we have never heard such a prolonged roar of thundering, congratulatory applause before as to that which ascended to heaven when Dixie broke the record,’ Thomas Keats later wrote.
Along with that unprecedented roar, in the immediate aftermath of the goal Dean got to experience another ‘first’, as he later recalled to John Keith:
‘Somebody ran on the pitch and stuck his whiskers in my face and tried to kiss me. Well! I’d never seen a supporter run onto the field until that day. ’
This excitable Blue was then grabbed by the collar and pushed into the hands of a nearby policeman by the referee.
By contrast to the level of excitement in the crowd, the reaction of Dean and his fellow players was more measured. The man himself merely bowed to Goodison in response to his goal and then received a succession of handshakes from his team-mates (and the Arsenal keeper).
‘There was no pulling me about and all that in those days, there was a bit of a knock on the shoulder or a touch of the hand or something but there was never any of this here love-making going on,’ he later told John Roberts.
The remaining minutes of the match passed by in a deafening whirl of noise as the crowd sang and cheered without pause. When the end came, the pitch was flooded with Blues eager to celebrate not just the club’s first title win that decade but also the remarkable achievement of their beloved centre-forward.
Not that they would find Dean. Just prior to the game’s conclusion, the hero of the hour had already made a quiet exit, as he later confided to John Roberts: ‘I turned round to the referee and I said: “Look, I’m going off, if you don’t mind, tell them I’m going off for a ‘Jimmy’ or something. ” And he said: “Listen, if I were you I’d be in there now. ” I went off, and that was that, because I would have got murdered. ’
Although Arsenal had managed to sneak a late equaliser through Shaw, it did nothing to diminish the celebrations amongst the crowd. They had witnessed something truly remarkable.
Since that glorious day, although there have been great centre-forwards at Goodison and elsewhere within the game, none have come close to what Dean achieved. Football might have been different back then and the likelihood of scoring such a haul more realistic, but that shouldn’t undermine what he did.
Despite the game’s more open nature, it was immeasurably rougher. Football during the inter-war years was tough, and centre-forwards took the kind of punishment that would make modern players run to the referee in tears.
Scoring 60 goals in that era took skill, determination and an unerring eye for goal. Dean had the lot and did something memorable with them. And, more importantly, he did it all in a Blue shirt, playing for the club he loved.
Everton: Davies, Cresswell, O’Donnell, Kelly, Hart, Virr, Critchley, Martin, Dean, Weldon, Troup
Arsenal: Paterson, Parker, John, Baker, Butler, Blyth, Hulme, Buchan, Shaw, Brain, Peel
Referee: W. Harper
Reader Comments (18)
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1 Posted 04/10/2017 at 10:37:18
"60 goals, wow, you don't score like that any more. But it was a different time, goalies couldn't use their hands, you could assault the defender and not get sent off. Everyone was scoring 50 goals a season back then."
Well, people tend to say crap like that, and dismiss the legend's achievements. Let me give this record some context. First off, let's put Camsell to one side. Camsell is the Middlesbrough striker whose record Dixie beat. I want to put it to one side because Camsell scored 59 in Division 2. Let's look at just the top flight.
First point, in 1926 Ted Harper of Blackburn Rovers became the first ever player to break the 40 goal barrier with 43. So, just 3 years before Dixie's sixty, no one had ever scored more than 38 in the top flight! So Dixie smashed the top flight record by a staggering 17 goals.
So what happened after Dixie? Do we see Dixie opening the flood gates and everyone banging in 50 a season and just falling short of the big man?
Well, the 40-goal barrier suddenly became breached more often, with Halliday of Sunderland matching Harper's 43 in '29. Then in 1931, local lad Tom "Pongo" Waring scored 49 goals for Villa. Waring was from Birkenhead, is a Villa legend, but never played for anyone locally other than Tranmere. Incidentally his grandson or great grandson George Waring was on our books at least last season.
Dixie himself blasted in 44 in '32 as he fired us to the title. Then the great Ted Drake of Arsenal got 42 in '33. After this Jimmy Greaves got 41 in 1961. And that my friends was the last time anyone got over 40 goals.
So the context is this: Dixie Dean doesn't just hold the record, he holds it by a staggering 11 goals!! No-one has ever scored more than 49 goals in the top flight. Only one player other than Dixie has scored 45 or more, and he was also from Birkenhead. So next time someone belittles Dixie's achievements and makes out they were all at it, you can set them straight, only one other player has got within 17 goals of the record, and he was still 11 short.
2 Posted 04/10/2017 at 10:48:27
3 Posted 04/10/2017 at 11:12:05
I guess that's a connection I have to a part of EFC history nonetheless!
4 Posted 04/10/2017 at 11:13:54
5 Posted 04/10/2017 at 13:05:52
Also the Dixie comment about Arsenal being the greatest in the land is almost certainly a hindsight comment. In 1928, they'd never won a trophy although, over the next 10 years, there would be 5 league titles and two FA Cups.
6 Posted 04/10/2017 at 13:37:43
Steve, don't belittle the lower leagues too much: Terry Bly of Norwich City scored 52 league goals in the fifties, in the Third Division South, highest since the Second World War. Derek Dooley scored 46 for Sheffield Wednesday in the fifties... Not sure if John Charles scored over 40 for Leeds Utd, both in the Second Division – all worthy achievements.
7 Posted 04/10/2017 at 14:39:46
8 Posted 04/10/2017 at 14:59:14
The reason I like to highlight this is those loveable reds, and Man utd fans as well, are very dismissive of the achievement. When I was a kid, I recall that we used to talk about "post war" records, as if anything before 1945 didn't matter. Now the Premier League is well established, it's all Premier League records, as if anything before 1992 doesn't matter.
Most people do not think about what Dean actually did, and how amazing it was for the time and how amazing it will continue to be.
Also, I loved reading the stories as a kid. There's loads of myths around Dean now. I would love it if someone made a film on him.
You may recall a fantastic film called Cinderella Man. It's perhaps my favourite sports film. Its set in the depression era in America in the 1930s. Braddock flitters between amateur boxer and professional as he tries to provide for his family in difficult times. All the people I went to see the film with knew nothing of the real life boxer, and we went just because it was a boxing film and starred Russell Crowe and was not long after Gladiator. So we were all amazed by the story. It had a Rocky type story only better, and much better because it was true. If you've not seen it, do so.
The reason I bring it up is because for me, that is how I envisage the Dixie Dean film to be. To be made in the same style with a larger focus on the man, his family, and the local community. Dean was the first footballing superstar. This is highlighted by how the Queen at the time went to watch the 1933 FA Cup Final, her first ever, and she was introduced to all the players, and when she came to Dean, she said, "You don't need to tell me who this man is, he is the one I have come to see".
There's so many little stories that could be dramatized into the film. Such as when he was a young boy he would always be playing on the local fields. One day he came home when it was dark, and his mother asked him where his baby sister was, and he had to run back to the field to retrieve her in her pram where he had left her as a goalpost!
Or the story (since said to be a gross exaggeration as no doubt most of them are) that when Everton came to sign him he was out and was so upset at missing the secretary and thinking he might miss his chance, that he ran all the way to Goodison to sign for them then and there (missing out the bit about how he crossed the Mersey!).
Or the tale about how he developed his incredible strength from working in a pub and having to carry the empty barrels from the cellar, up the steps to the street. The story goes that two men used to carry a barrel between them, but 17-year-old Bill used to run up the steps with a barrel under each arm.
How about the tale where he was told he had to stay in bed after his accident, but he was bored. The doctor made his rounds and found Bill was not in bed. He asked the other patients where he was, and they pointed outside, where Dean was swinging from a tree branch collecting apples. The doctor promptly discharged him and let him get back to football.
There's loads of stuff about him. Highly exaggerated, some of it with poetic embellishment, some just made up, but ultimately, the accident, the recovery, the 60 goals, the death at Goodison in a derby – it all shows that the truth is far more extraordinary than even the legend.
Surely Kenwright knows a few people who can knock up a decent script and get the film made?
Edit: I should have added as per the original post, the drama of the last day, in fact the final few games, where he was left needing to score 7 goals in his final 2 games. The kind of dramatic flourish you would not believe in a fictional film.
9 Posted 04/10/2017 at 15:16:01
"His career was cut short when an infected leg had to be amputated following a serious fracture in his last match for the club.
"His career was abruptly ended on 14 February 1953, when he collided with the Preston goalkeeper George Thompson at Deepdale and broke his leg. An x-ray revealed that he sustained a double fracture.
"As he was preparing to leave hospital the following Monday a nurse noticed that there was no reaction in his toes when touched. When the pot was removed it was found that a small scratch on the back of his leg had become infected. Gangrene had set in and it was decided to amputate his leg. It was rumoured at the time that a chemical from the white touchline marking had got into his injury."
He would have been just 23...
10 Posted 04/10/2017 at 15:29:36
11 Posted 04/10/2017 at 15:57:48
I did see and thoroughly enjoy the film about James Braddock, it told a great tale of his perseverance and trials to eventually fight for The Heavyweight Championship of the World, despite the many set backs on his journey.
12 Posted 04/10/2017 at 16:12:46
Dixie Dean – The Peoples Legend: this is all I can find on YouTube:
There was also a play a while back... that website at the end of the trailer is no longer active.
13 Posted 04/10/2017 at 16:19:44
14 Posted 04/10/2017 at 16:24:28
Some great stuff in the commentary... "second spasm" !! Cholmondley-Warner to a tee!!
15 Posted 04/10/2017 at 16:32:33
16 Posted 04/10/2017 at 22:32:27
I'd rather see a film in either the style of a Cinderella Man, showing the hard times for the people in the era between the two wars, focusing on the community, the family and the man. You can knit this together easily by the fact that he is amongst the people getting the train and the bus and there's a few good stories you could incorporate into the film. You can even show him going into the crowd and thumping a supporter, as per the legendary "don't worry officer, I got this" story.
Or as an alternative, you can fictionalise a load of dialogue, like in the damned united. That was not a comedy, but it had a lot of funny moments due to the cheeky chappy larger than life character that Brian Clough was, when you disregard the egotistical maniac and rampant alcoholic side of his personality. Dean was also a larger than life character. He may have been a shy young boy, but he quickly grew into the legend as his career took off. You will find that is the case for all of the greats, even a quiet unassuming chap like Messi.
There is one hell of a story to be told here, and if it's made well, it would be watched all round the world, as many have forgotten just who William Ralph Dean was.
17 Posted 05/10/2017 at 11:18:58
Bradman - 99.9
Voges - 61.8
Smith - 61.0
Pollock - 60.9
Healey - 60.8
Sutcliffe - 60.7
In other words, the really really good humans get about the same, the immortals get something completely different.
18 Posted 05/10/2017 at 20:06:32
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