Saturday, 9 June 2012

Dixie Dean at the School of Science

Goodison Park, Liverpool, Saturday 24 October 1928

So many people in crowd that my feet don’t touch ground. Have never seen such perfect grass. White of lines makes it even more beautiful. There is no air, just smell of pipe tobacco.  Father tells me to look out for William Ralph Dean: “Birkenhead lad, only eighteen years old and he got a hat-trick last week at Burnley.” Man next to us says he thinks Dean will get three more today. When players come onto field, cheering is so loud I can’t hear what Father is saying and feel sick in stomach with excitement.

Just three minutes have passed. William Dean – I hadn’t imagined him so young or so dark – comes onto ball with rush like Liverpool train hitting mouth of tunnel just before Hamilton Square. There is a slap of leather on wood as ball smacks into post and everybody (twenty-eight thousand voices) roar as it hits back of net. I try to roar too but am too out of breath to make much noise.

Second goal is even better. Chedgzoy runs down wing and dribbles past two players. When he crosses ball, Dean comes rushing in and crashes into Leeds defender, who falls to ground with blood trickling from above his eye. Ball flies into corner of net off Dean’s head. Goalkeeper can’t believe it. Feel a little sorry for him even if he does play for Leeds. Explosion of noise. When is quieter, huge man with beard turns to Father and says, “Forehead like a brick wall.” Father nods, pats me on head.

“Told you, didn’t I, son?” said the man next to us when Dean scored his third goal. Father kept shaking his head as if couldn’t believe what was happening. Asked me strange questions when we were walking away after match. “Did you see how the crowd changed when he got the hat-trick? Did you see the light in their eyes?” Started talking about God. “That’s the light you see when disbelief evolves into belief. The missionaries speak of it.” I could still see the ball rolling down the back of the net (beautiful!) and William Ralph Dean lying in the mud with his arms outstretched.

From the diary of The Mick, The Wooden-Legged Elephant

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