by Neil Adderley
In season 1926/27 of the English second division, Middlesbrough and later, England centre forward, George Camsell, in his first full season at the club, scored a remarkable 59 league goals which would fire Boro’ to the championship and promotion to the top flight. It was a goal scoring achievement many thought would never be broken.
Only a few months later, in the second match of season 1927/28, Camsell’s Boro met an Everton team led by another colossal young centre forward, William Ralph ‘Dixie’ Dean. The newly promoted second division champions came away with a famous victory, with George Camsell firing all four goals in a 4-2 win. However, it would be Everton who went on to be crowned first division champions that year, whilst Boro were relegated. Incredibly, aged just 21, Dixie Dean would go on to take George Camsell’s ‘unbreakable’ scoring record, by just the one solitary goal.
05 May, 1928
Everton vs Arsenal, Goodison Park
One could be forgiven for thinking the Evertonians who had crammed into Goodison Park on that early May afternoon, had done so solely to salute the newly crowned English first division champions. There was however, another very specific reason for the 48,715 supporters to make their fortnightly pilgrimage that fateful day.
The final game of the 1927/28 season at Goodison Park would see Harry Cooke’s Everton meet Herbert Chapman’s revered Arsenal side, yet all eyes would be transfixed on just one man, Everton’s record chasing centre forward Dixie Dean. His race to surpass George Camsell’s ‘unbreakable’ feat had been on course throughout the season. Dean had found the net in all of the first nine games, including a consolation goal, as Camsell netted four for Boro, as well as banging in all five in a 5-2 rout of Manchester United. By the turn of the year, the footballing fraternity began to believe in the unbelievable, when on New Year’s Eve at Sheffield Wednesday, the goal hungry Dean bagged his 32nd and 33rd goals in just 23 games. The Birkenhead born centre forward’s unquenchable thirst for goals continued unabated into 1928, with 11 strikes in the following eight games. The highlight being a hat trick in a 3-3 draw at Anfield.
Those three goals however, would see Dixie Dean and Everton go on a four game run without scoring. Suddenly the tilt at George Camsell’s season old record was thrown into doubt. A Dean double at Derby County put a halt to the poor run of form, yet despite further braces against Blackburn, Sheffield United and Aston Villa, Camsell’s record haul would stand, unless that was, Everton giant Dean could find seven goals in his final two games.
Everton’s penultimate fixture, a short journey to face Burnley at Turf Moor ended in a 5-3 victory for the men in Royal Blue. The Lancashire derby would see Dean grabbing four of the seven goals he needed. Now, with 57 goals in 38 games, it was as if Dixie Dean had written his own thrilling script. The final act of which was to be played out in front of the adoring Evertonians at Goodison Park. One game to play, three goals to score……
Arsenal, who had not travelled North to make up any numbers, came quickly out of the traps, scoring the opener within a couple of minutes. Everton, the champions, replied with an inevitable Dixie Dean header and then, just on half-time, Dean equalled George Camsell’s record goal haul. After being dragged down in the box, Dean stepped up to convert his 59th goal of the season from the penalty spot. As the clock ticked ever down and with just minutes left to play, the 60 goal dream was hanging by a thread when, on 85 minutes, Everton forced another corner. The Toffees Scottish outside-left, Alec Troup, floated his cross into the danger area and, as time stood still at Goodison Park, William Ralph ‘Dixie’ Dean rose majestically above the Arsenal defence to bury his header past the Gunners goalkeeper, William Paterson.
With that Goodison goal, Dixie Dean had overhauled George Camsell’s record. A truly astonishing accomplishment. In the 39 games the Everton legend appeared in that season, Dean found the net in 31 of them, with 14 braces and 7 hat tricks, including a 4 and 5 goal haul against Burnley and Manchester United respectively.
An eyewitness account, as documented in his ‘History Of The Everton Football Club 1878/9–1928/9,’ by Everton historian and author Thomas Keates, epitomizes the sense of unbridled joy, unchecked wonder and no little relief experienced by all who attended the Grand Old Lady that spring afternoon in 1928. Those Evertonian souls lucky enough to have witnessed Dixie Dean’s mind blowing achievement.
“You talk about explosions, and loud applause; we have heard many explosions, and much applause in our long pilgrimage, but, believe us, we have never heard such a prolonged roar of thundering, congratulatory applause before as to that which ascended to heaven when Dixie broke the record.”
Dean’s record of achievement, at both domestic and national levels, is extensive and beyond remarkable. However, it surely has to be his extraordinary feat of scoring 60 English top flight league goals in one season, that shall remain the most celebrated record of them all.