FOOTBALL: FOX'S 20TH CENTURY

1925-30: Dixie Dean

ON EITHER side of the Atlantic, two brilliant performers in their national sports were at the height of their careers. In the United States Babe Ruth was astonishing baseball fans, while in Britain the goalscoring power of Dixie Dean was making him a record breaker.

Primarily, William Ralph Dean, who hated being called Dixie, is remembered for scoring a First Division record of 60 goals in the season 1927-28. By strange coincidence Babe Ruth's record for a season was also set in 1927 and was 60 home runs. On a tour of Britain, Ruth went to White Hart Lane and met Dean. He was astonished to find that someone who could attract "as many as we get for the World Series" was only earning a basic pounds 8 a week, a pittance for a player who won two championship medals, made a successful appearance in an FA Cup final and played 16 times for England. Not only that, his total number of League goals was 379.

Born in Birkenhead in 1907, he developed into a powerful centre-forward who was quick off the mark and had formidable heading strength. Yet his career was often interrupted by injuries. He was repeatedly told he had chosen the wrong sport and would have been better off playing professional golf. At 20 he was playing off scratch.

A serious motoring accident in 1925, when he suffered a fractured skull, further delayed his chosen career. As a result, he made no great impression until 1927-28 when Everton, who signed him from Tranmere, suddenly swept up the table to finish as champions. By the last day of the season he had scored 57 goals. The record holder, George Camsell of Middlesbrough, had totalled 59 in the previous season. At Goodison in that final match Arsenal scored first. Dean equalised, then netted a penalty. Arsenal brought the scores level but with 12 minutes left Dean scored a typically headed goal to give him the record. The match ended 3-3. His total for the season in all competitions was 82.

Curiously, Everton finished only 18th the next season, with Dean scoring a comparatively modest 26 goals, and the Toffees were relegated in 1930. However, they returned to become champions again in 1932 and Cup winners in 1933.

By the age of 32, Dean was in poor physical shape and he stopped playing to keep a pub in Chester. It was not until he had been retired for 25 years that Everton finally arranged a testimonial match. A crowd of 37,000 went to Goodison Park, and it was at Goodison, in 1980, that he died.

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