What is indisputable is that Bill ‘Dixie’ Dean scored 60 league goals in 1927/28 – an English scoring record.
It is also incontestable that he added three more in two FA Cup ties, to give the ‘63 goals in all competitions’ mark which many media outlets have Manchester City marksman Erling Haaland currently chasing down.
But is that the full story?
Haaland’s current total of 51 includes 12 goals scored in the Champions League and one in the League Cup – competitions which didn’t exist when Dixie was tearing up the record books.
But other competitions did.
Like the afternoon Dixie silenced a 60,000 Ibrox crowd in Glasgow with two goals for the Football League against the Scottish League, a representative match which meant he had to miss an opportunity to add to his league goals tally that season. His Everton teammates drew 0-0 at home to Portsmouth while he was putting the Scots to the sword. Or keenly-contested international ‘trial’ matches, or full England internationals – often staged on the same day as league matches.
Some sources claim Dixie scored an astonishing 100 goals in all competitions in 1927/28 – but it takes some manipulating of the statistics to come to that total.
Nick Walsh’s seminal biography claims 100, but generously includes continental fixtures played at the end of the 1926/27 campaign and a Blackpool Hospital Cup match played on May 14, 1927 - rather than in the 1927/28 campaign itself.
Analysis of contemporary reports throughout that incredible campaign, however, suggests Dixie still scored 92 goals in all competitions in 1927/28 - an astonishing figure.
What is clear is that, like Haaland in his remarkable debut campaign in English football, Dixie was streets ahead of his goalscoring rivals in his greatest ever season.
Second in the top division’s leading scorer table that campaign was Burnley’s George Beel – with 35.
Here’s a run down of Dixie’s remarkable 92-goal campaign – from start to finish - with the goals numbered, and his league goals in parantheses.
GOAL NUMBER ONE
Trial match: Saturday 13 August, Blues v Whites at Goodison Park, 4-3. Dean scored one.
Pre-season “trial matches” were competitive affairs, between the likely starting XI for the new season and reserve players trying desperately to convince the selectors of their merits for inclusion. More than 16,000 spectators watched the first trial game, with Dean scoring once for the Blues.
TWO AND THREE
Trial match: Wednesday 17 August, Blues v Whites at Goodison Park, 3-2. Dean scored two.
Another healthy crowd gathered for a second public practice match four days later. Dixie showed the sharpness he would display throughout the season, scoring twice and “offering up many chances besides having a couple of rasping efforts saved".
FOUR (ONE LEAGUE GOAL)
First Division: Saturday 27 August v Sheffield Wednesday (home), 4-0. Dean scored one.
In an eventful opening to the new season Dixie missed a first-half sitter, flashed a header wide, saw another hit the crossbar, set up the opener for Alec Troup, assisted another for Dick Forshaw then finally opened his account for the new season hammering the fourth goal high past goalkeeper Brown.
First Division: Saturday 3 September v Middlesbrough (A), 2-4. Dean scored one.
Everton’s first away game of the new season was a personal triumph for Middlesbrough centre-forward George Camsell. The man who set the Football League scoring record of 59 league goals in Boro’s promotion campaign a few months earlier showed he was just as capable of scoring top-Flight goals with a hat-trick. But Dixie did add one more to his opening day strike.
First Division: Monday 5 September v Bolton (A) 1-1. Dean scored one.
Three league games, three league goals for Dixie, this time taking a pass from Ted Critchley, dummying a defender and almost casually slotting in the opening goal.
First Division: Saturday 10 September v Birmingham City (H), 5-2. Dean scored two.
Dixie made it five league goals in four games with two against Birmingham. Such was his consistency already the local media reported: “Dean scored his usual goal at the 58thminute” before adding a “brilliant” second three minutes from time.
First Division: Wednesday 14 September v Bolton (H) 2-2. Dean scored one.
Just a fortnight after drawing at Burnden Park, the Blues entertained Wanderers again and drew again. Dixie opened the scoring, just a couple of days after learning he had been selected by the Management Committee of the Football League to represent the League against the Irish League at Newcastle on Wednesday, September 21. The headline read DEAN HONOURED, indicating the status of the selection.
First Division: Saturday 17 September v Newcastle (A), 2-2. Dean scored two.
Dixie’s flying start to the season continued with both goals in a 2-2 draw at champions Newcastle United – the first point dropped at St James' Park by the home side since the previous December. Dean might even have celebrated a hat-trick had he been on penalty-taking duties, Jack O’Donnell seeing his spot-kick saved by home goalkeeper Willie Wilson, after Dixie had been upended in the area.
Football League v Irish League: Wednesday 21 September at Newcastle, 9-1. Dean scored 4.
Just four days after scoring two goals on Tyneside, Dixie was back to double his tally, scoring four goals in the opening 29 minutes of the Football League’s 9-1 demolition of the Irish league.
First Division: Saturday 24 September v Huddersfield (H), 2-2. Dean scored two.
Herbert Chapman’s Huddersfield were the team of the Twenties. Champions three times in succession between 1923 and 1926, they lifted the FA Cup in 1922 and in Dixie’s 60-goal season ran Everton close to the title and lost the Cup final to Blackburn. So a 2-2 draw at Goodison wasn’t a disappointment – especially with Dixie adding two more goals to his flying start to the season. Of his second goal a contemporary report read: “If there is a better header of a ball than William Dean, I would like to see him. No man could have scored a goal the like of which gave Everton the lead at the fifty-second minute but Dean. Both he and Goodall went up for Critchley's centre at one and the same moment, but Dean's head was the one that counted. He didn't drive the ball; he simply helped it on its way, and it was in the net before the majority of us had realized it. It was one of the finest goals of the season".
First Division: Saturday 1 October v Tottenham (A), 3-1. Dean scored two.
The story of the day ahead of Everton’s trip to White Hart Lane was whether Dixie could maintain his record of scoring in every game so far this season. He did. Twice, in a 3-1 away win.
First Division: Saturday 8 October v Manchester United (H), 5-2. Dean scored five.
In his finest performance of the season so far, Dixie scored all five goals in a thrilling 5-2 victory over Manchester United at Goodison Park. Just three days earlier the young striker had been denied the opportunity to add to his goals tally for the season in a midweek Lancashire Cup tie against second division Preston North End, when he and skipper Hunter Hart were rested from an otherwise first-choice line-up. Everton were well beaten 4-0. But the extra sharpness displayed by Dixie in the First Division fixture between two other Lancashire rivals proved the wisdom of the decision.
First Division: Saturday 29 October v Portsmouth (A), 3-1. Dean scored three.
After scoring in his first nine league matches of the season, Dixie finally drew a blank in the Goodison derby which ended 1-1. Then when West Ham were walloped 7-0 at Goodison the following Saturday, it was his stand-in Tom White who scored twice, with Dixie in Belfast winning his sixth England cap. He didn’t even have the consolation of scoring his 11th goal for his country, the visitors losing 2-0 with Everton team-mate Bobby Irvine opening the scoring for the Irish. But Dixie showed it was a brief interruption with a hat-trick in a 3-1 win at Portsmouth – a result which took his team top of the league for the first time that season.
First Division: Saturday, November 5 v Leicester City (H) 7-1. Dean scored three.
Dixie made it back-to-back hat-tricks and took his league tally for the season to 23 in a wonderful display against Leicester. Legendary Aston Villa and England striker Billy Walker was asked about the 20-year-old’s prospects and said: “The big secret of Dean's success, to my mind, is his positional play. When Dixie has his back to his own goal waiting for a ball coming in the air the other fellow is invariably an also ran. Dixie is sure to get that ball first and have nodded it to an inside partner or the centre-half before there is a chance to knock him off it. He wants a lot of beating at heading a ball and controlling it. If Dixie can keep clear of injury I make bold to say he may become the best centre forward of all time".
First Division: Saturday 12 November v Derby County (A), 3-0. Dean scored two.
Dixie opened and completed the scoring in a comfortable away win at the Baseball Ground, a stadium which had traditionally not been a happy hunting ground for the Blues.
Charity Match for Fleetwood District Fund, Wednesday 23 November: Football League 5 Blackpool 3 at Blackpool. Dean scored 4.
After drawing a blank in a visit of Sunderland to Goodison Park in a First Division fixture, Dean got back on the goal trail in a fundraising friendly for the Fleetwood Disaster. Six lives were lost and 1,800 homes flooded following a violent storm, and a Football League XI was selected to face Blackpool. Apart from his four goals, the match was significant for being the first time Dean had led a senior side out as captain, at just 20 years of age. One of his four goals was described by a manager present as “the hardest shot he had ever seen!”
First Division: Saturday 26 November v Bury (A), 3-2. Dean scored two.
Dixie was reported to have injured his ankle in the midweek fundraiser, but his powers of recovery were as remarkable as his goalscoring, taking his place at Gigg Lane and scoring twice in another important win. Just 48 hours later he was on international duty for England in a 2-1 defeat by Wales at Turf Moor, Burnley.
First Division: Saturday 10 December v Aston Villa (A), 3-2. Dean scored three.
After being shut out by Sheffield United at Goodison Park the week earlier in a goalless draw, Dixie showed his form on the road was as sparkling as ever with his fourth hat-trick of the season in a win at Villa Park. That took his league tally for the season to 30, but still no one was even mentioning the possibility of beating George Camsell’s 59-goal record, or even Blackburn striker Ted Harper’s top-flight record of 43. Instead the media was focusing on another landmark. The Daily Mirror reported: “Dixie Dean, the Everton crack, is within measurable distance of setting up a new record in football, namely scoring 100 goals in his first 100 games in senior circles. Already he has scored eighty-five goals in eight-eight matches".
First Division: Saturday 24 December v Arsenal (A), 2-3. Dean scored one.
Once again Dixie seemed more effective on his travels than on home soil. After failing to score in a 4-1 home victory over Burnley, he went to Arsenal on Christmas Eve and registered his 31st league goal. Of those goals 14 had come at Goodison and 17 away from home.
First Division: Monday 26 December v Cardiff City (H), 2-1. Dean scored two.
Cardiff’s blanket defence kept out the Blues for 75 minutes, after Harry Wake had given the Welshman an early lead. But Dixie twice breached their defences, before making the long trip to south Wales for the return fixture the very next day – a trip which ended 2-0 to the home side.
First Division: Saturday 31 December v Sheffield Wednesday (A), 2-1. Dean scored two.
In a match which featured top v bottom, and a snow-covered pitch, once again a Dean brace retrieved a losing situation and kept his side at the summit of the First Division table and the Owls rooted to the foot.
First Division: Monday 2 January v Blackburn Rovers (A), 2-4. Dean scored two.
Dixie continued his away goals form with two at Ewood Park, but they couldn’t prevent his side losing 4-2.
First Division: Saturday 7 January v Middlesbrough (H), 3-1. Dean scored two.
Dixie bagged a brace for the fourth time in five matches – and claimed the first of many records which would fall to him this season. Everton’s leading top-flight goalscorer had been Bert Freeman, who scored 38 in 1908/09 – but that two-decade old record fell to Dixie in the second half. The crowd rose to him, and the players and officials also congratulated him. Focus then turned to Ted Harper’s First Division record of 43, while the possibility of the youngster reaching Camsell’s 59-goal target was also mentioned in the media for the first time.
FA Cup third round: Saturday 14 January v Preston NE (H), 3-0. Dean scored one.
Different competition, same outcome. Dixie scored his 51st goal of the season against Lancashire rivals Preston in the FA Cup to secure progress to the fourth round.
England trial match: Monday 23 January, England v The Rest at The Hawthorns. Dean scored three.
Dixie had drawn a blank in a 2-2 draw at Birmingham on Saturday 21 January, the day before his 21st birthday. He celebrated the occasion at a footballers’ Sunday service in a Liverpool church, presided over by teammate Hunter Hart and in which Albert Virr read the lesson! Whether Dixie received divine assistance or not, he celebrated his first hat-trick as a 21-year-old for England in a trial match against ‘the Rest'. More than 12,000 spectators watched England triumph 5-1. He then enjoyed a more traditional birthday party at Blythe Hall in Claughton.
FA Cup fourth round: Saturday 28 January v Arsenal (A), 3-4. Dean scored two.
Everton’s ‘reward’ for dispatching Preston in the third round was a first ever FA Cup trip to Highbury. The tie proved as tricky as anticipated, with the Gunners winning 4-3 – but Dixie was on target twice for the visitors.
First Division: Saturday 4 February v Huddersfield (A), 1-4. Dean scored one.
Everton travelled to face their nearest rivals in the league title race, and the Yorkshire team cut the gap at the top to a point, with a game in hand, with a handsome home win. Rumours had circulated pre-match that Dixie would miss the match through injury, but he lined up against the Terriers and was the scorer of his side’s only goal, his 40th league goal of the season.
International trial match: Wednesday 8 February, England v The Rest at Middlesbrough, 8-3. Dean scored five.
In front of 20,000 fans Dixie scored five of England’s eight goals in a second international trial match. TRIUMPH OF DEAN was the headline in the Daily Courier.
The Liverpool Echo reported: “In representative football during the last two seasons Dean’s record is:
V The Rest 4 goals
v. Wales 2 goals
v. Scotland 2 goals
v Belgium 3 goals
v Luxembourg 3 goals
v. France 2 goals
V Irish League 4 goals
For Lancashire F.A 4 goals
V Rest 3 goals
V Rest 5 goals
V Ireland 0 goals
V Wales 0 goals
Outlets were starting to compile Dixie’s total goals tally – which may explain where some discrepancies sneaked in and the misleading total of 100 in the 1927/28 season in all competitions emerged. The Liverpool Echo, for example, insisted on including nine goals Dixie scored on a continental tour with the English FA, as goals scored in the 1927/28 season (see below) even though his hat-trick against Belgium was scored on 11 May 1927, three goals against Luxembourg on 21 May and two more against France on 26 May… which must surely be considered the end of the 1926/27 season rather than the 1927/28 season! If those goals were added to the 92 goals he scored in all other competitions the total rather neatly makes 100.
COLLECTION OF POINTS IN REPRESENTATIVE FOOTBALL- BY ENGLAND’S CENTRE
In view of the varied and differing statements regarding William Dean’s goals this season, “Bee” has gathered together the official list, and it forms a striking collection. As the Continental tour was played “this” season – last May – it is included. The goals scored by Dean in club and representative games are as follow;-
English League games (up to yesterday) …40
FA Cup ties………………………………………………3
Blackpool (Hospital Cup)…………………………..5
Continental Tour English F.A……………………..9
Fleetwood Disaster match ………………………..4
FA Trial at West Bromwich……………………….3
FA Trial at Middlesbrough………………………..5
First Division: Saturday 25 February v Liverpool (A), 3-3. Dean scored three.
Dean’s most satisfying performance of the season so far, undoubtedly came at Anfield in a clash headlined THE BEST MERSEY DERBY EVER in The Liverpool Echo. It was Dixie’s 100th appearance for the Blues – and he celebrated with a hat-trick. The third goal levelled Ted Harper’s top-flight scoring record of 43 and a correspondent with the pen name ‘Impressionist’ wrote in the Athletic News, “Fulsome praise enlarges heads, especially those of susceptible footballers, but I can guarantee that William Dean takes just the same size in hats as he did in early days with Tranmere Rovers – a finely modest young man, and a grand footballer. Well, Dean made his one hundredth appearance in the League for Everton, and celebrated with three goals, largely of his own making, and entirely of his finishing genius. Give Dean the semblance of a chance, and it is some degree of odds on a goal. What with momentous change in the laws, and evolution of ways and means, comparisons are difficult. Nevertheless I place Dean in a select gallery of the greatest centre-forwards I have seen".
Football League v Scottish League: Saturday 10 March at Ibrox, 6-2. Dean scored two.
With Dixie needing one more goal to beat Ted Harper’s top-flight record, the Blues promptly went four matches without scoring! Goalless draws against West Ham and Portsmouth, and 1-0 defeats at Manchester United and Leicester, saw Everton overtaken at the top by Huddersfield. The Blues dearly needed Dixie’s eye for goal in the home match against Pompey, but while his teammates were struggling to break down the visitors, Dean was silencing 60,000 spectators in Glasgow with two goals in the Football League’s 6-2 success against the Scottish League. Dixie scored the fifth and sixth goals for the visitors – but notably he had also started to take penalties, seeing a penalty kick saved by Scottish keeper John Falconer eight minutes into the second half.
First Division: Saturday 24 March v Derby County (H), 2-2. Dean scored two.
With title hopes appearing to slip away, more attention was focused on Dean’s chase for individual honours. He got the goal needed to finally surpass Ted Harper’s top-flight record at Goodison against Derby, coincidentally his 100th league goal for the Blues, and promptly added a second to salvage a point after his side had trailed 2-0. Pundits were now starting to talk about George Camsell’s record...
First Division: Friday 6 April v Blackburn Rovers (H), 4-1. Dean scored two.
Dean missed Everton’s first win since January, at Sunderland, through an England international commitment - an unhappy one! While Everton were winning 2-0 at Roker Park, Dean was nearly 300 miles away at Wembley leading the England line in a 5-1 humbling by Scotland’s ‘Wembley Wizards’. Consolation was that the Blues quickly snapped up Scotland’s inspirational forward, Jimmy Dunn from Hibernian to join Dixie. Back with his clubmates Dean revived title hopes by adding two goals in the opening 14 minutes against FA Cup finalists Blackburn.
First Division: Saturday 7 April v Bury (H) 1-1. Dean scored one.
A sign that Dean was targeting George Camsell’s record was evident in that he took his first penalty for Everton, against Bury. However, he drove it against the goalkeeper. He finally found the target eight minutes from time, off his ankle! The draw looked like a point gained when Liverpool won 4-2 at Huddersfield to put their neighbours back on top of the table on goal average, albeit with the Yorkshire side boasting three games in hand!
Representative match: Monday 9 April in Dublin, Leinster FA XI 2 Everton 3. Dean scored one.
Dixie concluded a busy Easter by crossing the Irish Sea to face a Leinster XI in a representative match, scoring one of his side’s three goals.
First Division: Saturday 14 April, Sheffield United (A), 3-1. Dean scored two.
Dixie took his league tally to 50, as the Blues cut Huddersfield’s lead at the top to a single point.
First Division: Wednesday 18 April, Newcastle United (H), 3-0. Dean scored one.
Dixie won the battle of the legendary centre-forwards, scoring once while Newcastle’s Hughie Gallacher drew a blank as Everton overhauled Huddersfield at the top, although with the Yorkshiremen still boasting two games in hand.
First Division: Saturday 21 April, Aston Villa (H), 3-2. Dean scored two.
This time Tom ‘Pongo’ Waring, Dixie’s old Tranmere clubmate, was the legendary visiting centre-forward in opposition – and once again Dixie came out on top, scoring two goals to his old pal’s one.
First Division: Saturday 28 April, Burney (A), 5-3. Dean scored four.
With only two league games remaining, talk of Dixie matching Camsell’s record had gone quiet – until a remarkable afternoon at Turf Moor. The centre-forward struck after just 30 seconds, went on to complete his hat-trick before the half-hour mark, and added another after the interval in one of the games of the season.
Dean’s fourth, in the 63rd minute, ensured a 5-3 win and moved him within two goals of matching Camsell’s 59-goal mark, three off beating it. Burnley’s George Beel scored twice, as he ended the season second to Dixie in the top-flight’s scoring charts – but way behind Dean on 35 goals.
First Division: Saturday 5 May, Arsenal (H), 3-3. Dean scored three.
Perhaps one of the most famous occasions in Everton’s history kicked off with Everton already crowned champions! Huddersfield had collapsed – losing 1-0 at home to Sheffield United on the Monday and 3-0 at Aston Villa 48 hours later – placing all the focus on whether Dixie could overhaul Camsell’s record. Of course he did. He opened the scoring after three minutes, scored his first penalty of the season three minutes later to claim a share of the record – then had to wait until eight minutes from time as Arsenal tried desperately to deny him the outright record. The famous goal came from an Alec Troup corner, headed in to the Park End goal to rapturous scenes.
Tour match: Saturday 12 May 1928 v Basle (A), 2-0. Dean scored two.
Dixie’s itinerary was a busy one after the famous Arsenal clash. Everton celebrated at the North-Western Hotel on Saturday night, visited the White Star liner in Gladstone Dock on Monday, went to the Empire Theatre the same night, the Shakespeare Theatre the following night, then on Wednesday morning departed for Switzerland on an end of season tour. Dixie’s participation in the four-match tour was limited to the opening two games, because of England commitments – and he delighted the 6,000 Swiss crowd with both goals in Everton’s opening victory.
Tour match: Sunday 13 May v Berne (A), 5-0. Dean scored one.
Dixie was in action again the very next day, but the exertions of a long, record-breaking season were starting to take their toll. He started, and scored in front of 8,000 spectators but “stubbed his ankle” after only three minutes and was replaced by substitute Kelly for 15 minutes while he received treatment. The touring reporter noted: “Dean has had two of his poorest matches, consequent upon injuries". After the match he headed off to join the England squad, the Echo reporting: “The arrangement was that he should leave the party after the second match and join up with the international side. He is naturally anxious to play, for he has scored 98 goals to date in all matches in the last twelve months, and wants to ring up the full year with the hundred. I think he will manage it all right". In time the 100 goals became associated with 1927/28 season rather than a 12-month cycle.
Full International: Thursday 17 May, France 1 England 5 in Paris. Dean scored two.
Dixie recovered from his injuries sustained in Switzerland to score twice for England in the Colombes Stadium in Paris. Without him, his teammates beat a Swiss XI 1-0.
Full international: Saturday 19 May, Belgium1 England 3 in Antwerp. Dean scored two.
In the Olympisch Stadium in Antwerp, Dixie finally brought the curtain down on the most remarkable individual scoring season football had witnessed, with two goals – his 15th and 16th in an England shirt in just 10 internationals.
It had been an unprecedented campaign – 60 league goals, 92 if every competition he took part in is included – or 100 if the eight goals he scored on England duty the previous May are also generously added on.
What was incontestable is that a living legend had burst onto the scene.
Even before the 1927/28 season had started, The Liverpool Echo’s Louis T. Kelly included Dean, then just 20-years-old, in his greatest ever Everton XI!
He wrote: “For centre forward some may disagree with the choice of Dean, and might favour the prodigy of the early nineties, Fred Geary to wit, or perhaps Sandy Young, John Southworth, or Bert Freeman, not forgetting Tommy Browell and Bobby Parker".
After the campaign had ended there was surely no doubt.