DEAN, William Ralph 'Dixie'  [1907 - 1980]

Erling Haaland, generally acknowledged as the Premier League’s top striker, is reputedly paid around £375,000 per week. Taking into account inflation, in 1930 the equivalent would have been around £4500 every seven days. William Ralph ‘Dixie’ Dean, the undisputed top goal-scorer of his day, plied his trade in 1930 for the princely sum of £8 per week, dropping to £6 out of season.

Dean was born on 22nd January 1907 at 325 Laird Street, Birkenhead, the son of train driver William and his wife Sarah Emma (née Brett). He was the only boy of six children. He attended Laird Street Elementary School and Albert Industrial School, the latter being a borstal-type school which he chose as its footballing opportunities were better than other options. After leaving school he worked as an apprentice fitter in the engine shop of Wirral railways, but his prowess on local football was gaining widespread recognition and aged 16 he signed professional forms with Tranmere Rovers.

In the 1924-25 season he scored 27 goals in 27 games and was promptly signed by First Division Everton for £3000, then a record for an 18-year old. In his first full season at Goodison Park he scored 32 goals in 38 games. The 1927-28 season was a triumph for Dean. Everton won the championship and Dean broke the record for the most league goals in a season, beating the 59 scored by Middlesbrough’s George Camsell the previous season. With only two games to go Dean had notched 53 goals but scoring 4 away at Bunrley he came into the last game of the season at home to Arsenal needing 3 more. He duly delivered a hat-trick in a 3-3 draw. It seems a record that will last for all time, as Dean once said when asked if it would ever be broken he said “only by the one walks on water”. Astonishingly, all his goals came in just 29 games of his 39 appearances in the season.

Dogged by injuries his career ended in 1939, playing short spells with Notts County and Sligo Rovers after leaving Everton. He had scored 349 goals for Everton and notched 18 in his 16 England international appearances.

Outside football he ran an unsuccessful sports shop in the 1930’s in Birkenhead and after war service in the Royal Tank Regiment, he was the licensee of the Dublin Packet pub in Chester from 1946 to 1961. Everton chairman John Moores then found him a job as a security officer in the Liitlewoods organisation where he stayed until retirement in 1972. In 1964 Everton held a benefit match for Dean, with nearly 40,000 turning up to pay their respects to the great man. His later years were marred by health problems, having a leg amputated in 1976. He died in his beloved Goodison Park, collapsing towards the end of an Everton-Liverpool derby match on 1st March 1980.

On 9th April 2003 a bronze sculpture by Tom Murphy was unveiled outside Goodison Park.

Dean married Ethel Fossard at St James church, Birkenhead in 1931 and they had 3 sons and a daughter. Just before the war in 198 they were living at 16 Stopgate Lane L9and just after the war lived at ‘Avalon’ Deysbrook Lane L12 (I have not been able to establish the location of this house or if it is still standing).

16 Stopgate Lane  L9

The Dean family home in the late 1930's.

The statue of Dean outside Goodison Park


There is a comprehensive entry for Dean in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. and a fairly full entry in Wikipedia. local author Nick Walsh published an excellent 'official' biography of Dean in 1977. There are many clips of Dean on YouTube, an example being the short Pathé news profile on the talksport website. An interview between Dean and journalist Frank Keating in the Guardian is well worth a read.