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Dixie Dean – Greatest Centre Forward Ever?


Today marks 80 years since the greatest record in English football was set. W.R. “Dixie” Dean scored 60 times in a single season. His remarkable feat was honoured yesterday when his great grandson stepped out as club mascot for Everton’s match against Arsenal.

Dean scored a hat-trick against Arsenal in the final league game of the 1927/28 season to surpass the 59-goal mark that Middlesbrough’s George Camsell had set in the previous campaign, albeit in the second division. The 21-year-old Dean had hit four in his previous outing at Burnley and with Everton already crowned champions, 60,000 spectators packed into Goodison Park hoping to see if he could put the final touch on a great season. They were not sent home disappointed as the match ended in a 3-3 draw and Dean scored all the goals for his side.

In my experience at the rec/casual football level (I still play when I can), the best I’ve done is 5 goals in a match. Now scoff if you like but my point is not to extol my own virtues (I’m much better suited as a midfielder or full-back but have enough pace to pull off a flea-market Michael Owen impersonation from time to time) but to relay the feeling I had that day. It is a horrible cliche but it is also 100 percent true. There is a “zone” and I had found it. I was absolutely calm and I knew what I was going to do when the ball got to me but I didn’t need to think about it. It just happened and I probably could have scored a dozen if I had any talent :). Now, it’s one thing to do that at a casual level, I simply cannot fathom what it must feel like to do that in a stadium where 60,000 people are watching and the players you are up against are also amongst the best in the country and are motivated and paid to stop you. Also keep in mind that the game was more physical and Dean would have taken a battering over the course of the season.

Seeing Cristiano Ronaldo hit a brace on the weekend, which took his season total to 40, made me wonder if anyone will ever come close to such a staggering total again. The 40-45 goal range is viewed as a magnificent season and even goal-scoring machines like Gerd Muller, Marco van Basten, Josip Skoblar (Yugoslav great that ripped up the French league with Marseille) and Ronaldo have only even had a whisper of a hope of reaching 50 goals.

Personally, I don’t think it is possible with the way the game is played now. Without getting overly analytical and delving into all the whys and what-fors, I will give you two solid reasons why it won’t happen. First, team formations have become less attack-oriented and many teams choose to play conservatively in hopes of getting a draw from matches against the bigger clubs. Secondly a player with the potential to do it, like Ronaldo, will be rested for some of his clubs less-important matches.

If you want to read more about Dean, The Liverpool Echo has run an excellent 5-part series on him. There is also a documentary called “Dixie: People’s Legend” and you can view the trailer by following this link.

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  1. Matty Allman

    December 5, 2010 at 7:49 pm

    Dixie Dean is the greatest goal scorrer of all time. I support united but even i cannot deny that is What Dean is and any true football fan regardless of what team u follow surly must agree.

  2. Sara Mickleburgh

    November 6, 2010 at 3:37 pm


    Just wonderingn if you can help me…dixie is an absolute legend and that photograph is incredible. Really want a proper print of this…where can i get it from?


    • The Gaffer

      November 6, 2010 at 3:39 pm

      Not sure, Sara. Perhaps one of the readers can help?

      The Gaffer

  3. Paul Bestall

    May 12, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    It is an unfortunate effect of the advent of technology that many great players over the years are often overlooked when discussing “The Greatest” and we tend to concentrate on the last 50 years through no fault of our own. Dean’s record will probably never be beaten, a true testament to the mans skill and ability.

  4. Lonnie

    May 6, 2008 at 8:11 am


    I absolutely think he should be mentioned in that class of players. In total, Dean scored a total of 383 goals for Everton, in 433 appearances, as well as 18 in 16 appearances for England, which is an exceptional strike-rate.

    I think part of the problem is that Dean’s scoring exploits happened before the advent of television and the ever increasing media coverage the game has received. More people have had the chance to see Pele, Maradona, etc. and thus consider them to be a class above some of the earlier stars, if they even think about the early greats. Even greats from the 50’s and 60’s are often overlooked. Not taking anything away from the players mentioned but Dean is one I would put among the best ever. It was nice that the clubs did something to honor him.

  5. Sanjay

    May 5, 2008 at 7:12 pm

    Why is it that, Dixie dean is somehow never mentioned in the same breath as Pele, Maradona, Cruyff, Beckenbauer and co.?

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