Birkenhead, Cheshire born centre forward William Ralph “Dixie” Dean is possibly the most famous goalscorer ever produced by the English Leagues and remains the only player ever to score 60 goals in a season. He began his football career with local teams Heswall and Pensby Institute. He then joined the professional ranks with his local club, Tranmere Rovers in November 1923, aged 16, making his Football League debut at Rotherham County in January 1924, making two further first team appearances before the end of his debut season, all without scoring. He then scored 27 goals in 30 appearances in a struggling Rovers side in 1924-25, including hat-tricks against Hartlepool, Barrow and Rochdale, before he signed for Everton for £3,000 aged 18 in March 1925, then a record fee received for Tranmere Rovers.
He scored on his Everton home debut in a 2-0 win over Aston Villa and scored 33 goals in his first full season, including four hat-tricks, as Everton finished mid-table. He missed the early months of 1926-27 due to a fractured skull in a motorcycle accident but still scored 24 goals in 31 games, including 4 goals in a 5-4 win over Sunderland on Christmas Day 1926. He was first selected for England in February 1927, scoring twice in a 3-3 draw with Wales at The Racecourse Ground, Wrexham. Dean scored twice more on his second cap, a 2-1 win over Scotland at Hampden Park in April, and back to back hat-tricks against Belgium and Luxembourg, finishing the 1927 tour with only a double against France. He went on to score a total of 18 goals in his 16 England caps through to October 1932, he also scored 9 goals in 6 representative matches for The Football League.
In 1927-28 season Everton won the League Championship, Dean scoring an incredible 60 League goals (and 3 more in the FA Cup), eclipsing George Camsell’s 59 goal spree that had been scored the previous season in the Second Division. He scored all 5 in a 5-2 win over Manchester United in October, and scored 17 goals (including this match) in the first 9 games of the season. While he didn’t score in the 10th game, a 1-1 derby match draw with Liverpool at Goodison Park, he made up for it with back to back hat-tricks against Portsmouth and Leicester City in the next two matches. He scored 4 goals in a 5-3 win at Burnley in April 1928 and three further hat-tricks against Aston Villa, Liverpool (the Anfield game a 3-3 draw) and Arsenal. He then scored twice as Everton won the FA Charity Shield in a 2-1 win over Blackburn Rovers in October 1928, however despite more than 20 League goals a season for the next two seasons, Everton struggled and were relegated in 1930.
In 1930-31 Dean scored 48 goals in League and Cup as Everton immediately won the Second Division Championship, and also reached the FA Cup semi final where they were beaten by West Bromwich Albion at Old Trafford. Dean’s haul included 4 goals on four occasions, against Oldham Athletic and Plymouth Argyle in the League and Crystal Palace and Southport in the FA Cup, as well as two further hat-tricks. He followed this with 46 goals in the 1931-32 campaign as Everton again won the League Championship, with 5 goals in a 9-3 drubbing of Sheffield Wednesday in October 1931, 5 more in a 7-2 win over Chelsea 4 weeks later, 4 goals in a 9-2 hammering of Leicester City at the end of November and 5 further hat-tricks across the season.
1932-33 produced FA Cup triumph for Everton, Dean scoring in their 3-0 win over Manchester City in the Final at Wembley, having earlier in the season bagged 4 goals as Everton won the FA Charity Shield at Newcastle United. But while 33 goals were scored by Dean that season, the physical demands were starting to catch up with him, and in his final four full seasons with The Toffees, by which time he was club captain, he failed to register 20 goals in two, missing much of 1933-34 due to injury. He scored his final Everton goal in a defeat to Arsenal in August 1937, and joined Notts County for £3,000 in March 1938 after 383 goals in 433 appearances for Everton including 37 hat-tricks.
His career soon tailed off, he scored 3 goals for County in 9 appearances before joining Irish League Sligo Rovers in January 1939, scoring 11 goals in 11 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), and was an Irish Cup runner up when Sligo were beaten by Shelbourne in the Final after a replay.Dean ended his professional playing days with Hurst (now Ashton United) in the Cheshire County League 1939-40 season, managing two games, scoring once, before the outbreak of the Second World War truncated his career. He made his debut in a 4-0 loss to Stalybridge Celtic; 5,600 people attended the game, paying sixpence, earning the club gate receipts of £140.
Only Arthur Rowley has scored more English League career goals; however, while Rowley made 619 appearances and scored 433 goals (0.70 goals per game), Dean scored 379 goals in 438 games (0.87 goals per game).
Everton arranged a testimonial for Dean on 7th April 1964. Over 34,000 people saw teams from Scotland and England (composed of players from Everton and Liverpool) compete; The “Scots” (with one Englishman and one Welshman) won, 3-1. The match raised £7,000 for Dean.
A statue of Dean was unveiled outside Goodison Park in May 2001 with the inscription “Footballer, Gentleman, Evertonian”. A year later, he became one of 22 players inducted into the inaugural English Football Hall of Fame.
NB in the photograph, taken at Goodison Park on 1st October 1932, Liverpool goalkeeper Elisha Scott punches clear under challenge from Dean. Two second half Dean goals gave Everton a 3-1 victory. The Liverpool defender behind Dean appears to be Jimmy McDougall.