England Caps: 16
Player: 1927 – 1932
Dixie Dean was capped 16 times for England before the Second World War and is one of the few players with a goal-scoring average of more than one a game. Even through high scoring games were more usual in those days there were fewer internationals in each year, so there were far fewer opportunities to get your name on the score-sheet.
In addition, the football was much more brutal those days and the rock-solid boots hardly made a deft touch easy. The ball itself was an unforgiving beast that would weigh a ton when it had taken up water when raining.
DixieFull name William Ralph Dean, he disliked the nickname that he was universally known by and preferred to be called Bill. The Dixie name is assumed to have come from his dark skin and tight curly hair, reminiscent of black people from the southern U.S., and rumour has it that he went into the crowd as he was coming off at the end of a league came against Spurs to punch a man who had racially abused him.
Local LadHe started for his local side, Tranmere Rovers, before being sold to Everton for £3,000 in 1925, and scored 32 goals in his first season with them. The following year he suffered horrific skull injuries in a motorcycle accident but made an astonishing recovery to go on to bigger and better things.
Dean was an all-round centre-forward, confident when dribbling, with a fierce shot and he could pass well too, making goals as well as scoring. Heading was his real forte though, renowned as one of the best with his head that the game has ever seen.
Stunning SeasonThe 1927-1928 season was Dean’s outstanding year as he scored 60 goals in the league, a record that is unlikely to be bettered unless the FA increase the size of goals. He scored 100 goals in all matches that season, four coming from international matches, where he had an uncharacteristically lean spell. He failed to score in the Home Championship at all, England losing all their matches on their way to taking the wooden spoon.
England DebutHe had made his debut for England in the previous season’s Home Championship, playing against Wales and scoring two goals in a 3-3 draw. In the final match, against Scotland in April, Dean saved England’s blushes, scoring both goals late in the second half to secure a 2-1 win. England had gone behind to an Alan Morton goal soon after half-time. Dean was given a standing ovation as he came off after the match, not such an unusual thing, except that the match was played at Hampden Park!
The Summer ToursThese performances booked Dean a place on the summer tour of Europe with games against Belgium, Luxembourg and France. This was when with Dean scored both of his England hat-tricks, first against Belgium in a 9-1 win, then again against Luxembourg, 5-2. Finally, he only managed two in the 6-0 win against France.
The following year, he went on tour again, scoring four goals in two games against Belgium and France. But Dean’s England career only lasted for five years, his final match being against Ireland in the Home Championship for the 1932-33 season. He suffered a lot of injuries, as it was the only way people could stop him, and he was reported to have lost one testicle in an operation following a tackle in his Tranmere days.
True LegendIt was injury that led to the end of his days at Everton, after 349 goals in 399 games, a stunning achievement. At the height of his prowess in the league, he was subjected to intolerably close marking. It is said that he jogged off the pitch during one match and when his marker asked where he was going, replied “for a pee, you coming or what?”
Out of all the players who have scored more than 10 goals for England, only a handful have an average of more than one goal a game, and Dean is one of them, a true legend.