Cristiano Ronaldo will rock up on Merseyside this week boasting a phenomenal strike rate for the 2013/14 season.
The Portuguese sensation has 17 goals in nine appearances in domestic and European competition at the time of writing, and such is the standard of the Real Madrid man’s remarkable goalscoring feats, questions will be asked about the milestones the former Manchester United man could potentially accomplish for Los Blancos this year.
And while he’s currently on course to better Lionel Messi’s domestic record of 50 goals in a season, perhaps Ronaldo will have his eyes on an even bigger haul. With that in mind, it’s rather apt that the Real Madrid man finds himself in Liverpool.
Before the inception of the Golden Shoe award, Dixie Dean—a £30 signing from Tranmere Rovers—scored 60 goals in the 1927/28 First Division season for Everton and it’s a record that has yet to be topped 86 years on. And while Ronaldo has started this campaign in scintillating fashion, it would be a major surprise to the see the Portuguese preserve a level that’d facilitate the besting of Dean’s mark.
Indeed, when asked if he thought anyone would beat his haul of 60 goals, Dean had this to say, per Kieran Gill of the Mail Online:
I think it will. But there’s only one man who’ll do it. That’s the fellow that walks on the water. I think he’s about the only one.
Dean made 399 appearances for the Toffees and netted 349 goals in the iconic blue strip. It’s a period of longevity and a goalscoring feat enough to earn any player legendary status with any club, but it was the 1927/28 season that etched Dixie’s name into the rich annals of the game.
In the 1926/27 campaign, Middlesborough’s George Camsell scored 59 goals in one season, a mark he would have understandably expected to last for many, many years. But from the outset of the very next season, it quickly became apparent that Camsell’s record could well be under threat.
Dean scored in the first nine games of the campaign for Everton, including five in one match against Manchester United at Goodison Park. The goals flowed with unerring consistency throughout the season, as Dean continued to showcase a forensic ruthlessness in front of goal. He went on to score hat-tricks against Portsmouth, Leicester City, Aston Villa and, perhaps most satisfyingly, against Liverpool at Anfield.
“Scoring there was a delight to me,” Dean said about the home of his Merseyside rivals. “I used to stick the ball in the net and bow three times to the Kop. They never liked me doing that”.
Despite finding the net seemingly at will, with two games remaining in the season, the Everton frontman found himself on 53 goals; six shy of Camsell’s record and seven away from breaking the record. After a quartet of strikes against Burnley in the penultimate game of the season—enough to secure the league title for the Toffees—only a hat-trick was needed against Arsenal at Goodison Park on the final day to break the record.
And although the Gunners took the lead in the third minute of the game, Dean had matched Camsell’s record before half time minutes on the clock, firing Everton into a 2-1 lead. Then, with the clock ticking down on the campaign, Dean leapt mightily to meet a cross and head home with aplomb in patented fashion. “The cheer was heard all the way to Aintree” say reports.
Everton won the title that season by a couple of points from Huddersfield Town, scoring 102 goals in the process. If you factor in goals in the FA Cup and international competition, Dean netted a staggering 82 times in 1927/28.
With teams deploying sides that were offensively loaded during Dean’s generation, goals were much more commonplace in the English top flight. And after the record was broken in consecutive campaigns, perhaps it wouldn’t have been surprising to see the mark topped pretty soon after. But nobody has been able to get near the Everton icon’s enormous haul since he set the 60-goal totem.
It’s a record he was rightly proud of too. When Bob Latchford famously scored 30 goals in the 1977-78 season for Toffees, Dean is reported to have mawkishly exclaimed “well done lad. But remember, you’re only half as good as I was”.
Dean stayed with Everton until 1937, sampling relegation, another league title win and an FA Cup triumph too. Naturally, he is a deistic figure at Goodison Park and remains Everton’s all-time top goalscorer to date. He was immortalised outside the stadium in L4 with a statue in 2001; it’s fittingly inscribed with the words “Footballer, Gentleman, Evertonian”.
His stature amongst Evertonians is unshakeable, but when the best of the British game are mulled over on various platforms, Dean rarely gets a mention. Perhaps it’s simply due to the fact that his achievements were so long ago, perhaps it’s difficult for supporters of the modern game to put those stunning accolades into context, but the former Everton man is something of a forgotten great.
Dean’s feats are some of the few from the post-war era that have stood the test of time though, which is truly remarkable when you consider the advances that have been made in soccer since his heyday. In a game that’s always done much to cherish it’s icons for bygone days, perhaps Dean should be revered a little more.
Indeed, back in 2012 when there was talk of Messi breaking Gerd Muller’s record of 85 goals in a calendar year, it was scarcely mentioned that Dean was a player who also notched the same amount as the legendary German, per the David Prentice of the Liverpool Echo.
The great and the good of Merseyside football have long attested to Dean’s genius though, and for a man of his supposed gentlemanly persona, you suspect that would have been more than enough. Legendary Liverpool manager Bill Shankly famously said of the Everton man:
Dixie was the greatest centre forward there will ever be. His record of goalscoring is the most amazing thing under the sun.
He belongs in the company of the supremely great like Beethoven, Shakespeare and Rembrandt.
If Ronaldo does go on to break Dean’s record—in a season that’ll be four games shorter than the one the Everton man played back in 1927/28—then it’ll be a truly remarkable achievement. But he’ll have to stay fit for the entire campaign, continue to score at a stratospheric rate and do so amid the rigors of a draining season, just as Dean did all those years ago.
With all those things considered, maybe Dixie was right after all. Maybe the man who walks on water is the only one truly capable of breaking his record.
Quotes courtesy of View From The Royal Blue Mersey
Follow Matt on Twitter @MattJFootball
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