Hednesford, Staffordshire born outside right Alf Dean began his football career with Tantany Rovers in 1893 and played for West Bromwich Standard in 1894, before playing for Midland League club Walsall Town Swifts in 1895. He joined First Division club West Bromwich Albion in September 1896, making his Football League debut at Nottingham Forest in January 1897, scoring the only goal of the match. He played twice more for Albion before the season end, and scored 2 goals in 5 matches for The Baggies the following season, before returning to now Second Division club Walsall in September 1898.
He was an ever present in 1898-99 for The Saddlers, scoring hat-tricks against Gainsborough Trinity and Darwen in a 13 goal haul, and he again reached double figures for them in 1900-01, and having scored 16 goals, including 5 in an FA Cup tie win over Wellington Town in December 1900, he was sold to First Division club Nottingham Forest for £120 in February 1901 after 36 goals in 72 appearances for Walsall.
His spell at Forest was brief and totalled 7 matches, with Dean joining First Division club Grimsby Town in May 1901, where he was described as “on his day one of the most dangerous forwards in the country”. He scored once in 17 appearances for Grimsby during 1901-02 before signing for Bristol City in May 1902. He was a regular for The Robins in the next three seasons, and a regular scorer, making double figures each season and scoring a hat-trick against Burnley in November 1903. After 38 goals in 95 appearances he moved to Southern League Swindon Town in the 1905 close season, where he scored 9 goals in 35 matches in 1905-06.
Dean joined Millwall Athletic in the summer of 1906 and scored 7 goals in 36 appearances for The Lions before heading to Scotland to join First Division club Dundee in the summer of 1907, scoring 10 goals for The Dark Blues in 18 appearances before returning to Millwall in the 1908 close season. His second spell at The Den yielded a further 8 goals in 24 appearances for Millwall, before he joined non league Wellington Town (now Telford United) in 1909. Thereafter he played for a number of non league clubs, Audley in 1911, Halmerend in 1912, Kidsgrove Wellington and Alsagers Bank Athletic in 1913, re-joining Halmerend in 1914, and he was fit enough after the First World War to turn out for Podmore Hall in 1919 aged 42 before his eventual retirement.