It's always a bloody nightmare going to Goodison Park

If You Know Your History

“It wouldn’t matter if we had Dixie Dean playing for us, it’s always a bloody nightmare going to Goodison Park.” – Sir Alex Ferguson

On 28 September, 1884, Everton Football Club beat Earlestown 5-0 in their brand new home. Due to the rapidly growing interest in Association Football and the sheer numbers of spectators Everton home games were attracting, the club had no choice but to relocate the short distance from Priory Road to a new venue owned by local landowner Mr. John Orrell.

A friend of the club, as well as Everton chairman Mr. John Houlding, Orrell had offered land to the club for a modest payment in rent.

The inaugural Football League match at the ground, played almost four years later on September 18, 1888, was contested between Everton and Accrington.

Everton’s tenure at the stadium would see the club turn professional, become a founder member of the English Football League, first compete in the FA Cup, introduce goal nets to Association Football and be crowned Football League champions for the season 1890-91. The following year would be Everton Football Club’s final season as tenants of Anfield.

The reasons behind the clubs relocation from Anfield were many and complex and are well documented. Boil those reasons down and the conclusion as to why, is as relative now as it was over one hundred and twenty years ago; cold hard cash. Some things it seems, actually never do change.

The irreparable fracture of the clubs board of directors forced Everton out of Anfield, a break that would in 1892 see director George Mahon lead the club to England’s first purpose built football stadium.

Albeit not for the want of trying, and failings, of more recent chairmen, 121 years later, Goodison Park, remains the home of Everton Football Club.

In this special feature, we recall three 20th century matches played at Goodison Park, each one, for very different reasons, a defining moment in the long and glorious history of the Grand Old Lady of English football.

The Unbreakable – Broken

In season 1926/27 of the English second division, Middlesbrough and 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 from Goodison Park 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 beat George Camsell’s ‘unbreakable’ scoring record by just the one solitary goal.

05 May, 1928, Everton vs Arsenal, Goodison Park

You 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 on 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 a run of 11 strikes in the following eight games, the highlight of which 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.

The above eyewitness account, as documented in his ‘History Of The Everton Football Club 1878/9–1928/9,’ by Everton historian and author Thomas Keates, epitomises 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.

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.

Goodison Park – The Grand Old Lady (pt 2)