The last day of Dixie Dean’s life …...a sad, poignant and unforgettable one for me. It was Saturday, March 1, 1980, the date of the Mersey derby at Goodison, and also the launch of the Everton and Liverpool Annuals which I wrote in conjunction with award-winning photographer Harry Ormesher.
The publishers held a lunch for the book trade at the former Holiday Inn Hotel in Liverpool’s Paradise Street and asked me to invite the top table guests. So I invited legendary Liverpool and Scotland star Billy Liddell, former Everton and England centre half Brian Labone , Anfield icon Bill Shankly and Dixie , who are pictured together at that lunch, with me standing between them in the background.
Dixie was then in a wheelchair, having had a leg amputated, and as we sat talking football at the lunch table Shankly rose to his feet and with, the power of oratory that inspired players and fans alike, delivered a eulogy to Dixie, who shed a tear when he heard Shankly’s words.
“We have in our midst today a man who was the greatest at what he did,” Shankly declared. “He belongs in the company of the supremely great, like Beethoven, Shakespeare and Rembrandt .
“His record of goalscoring is the most amazing thing under the sun . Dixie was the greatest centre forward there will ever be. Nobody who’s ever been born could head a ball into the net like him. When he connected it frightened people.”
After the lunch I took Dixie and Shanks in a taxi to Goodison as my match guests. During the journey Shanks asked Dixie when he last saw a Mersey derby.
“The last one I saw I played in ………before the war,” Dixie revealed.
The match that day in 1980 was a bad tempered affair – Liverpool winning 2-1 - but when Peter Eastoe scored Everton’s goal late in the game Dixie collapsed in his stand seat and was soon pronounced dead from a heart attack.
The great warrior had left us. He had departed this life looking at the very stage on which his deeds made him immortal. Bill Shankly’s lunchtime euology had become Dixie’s obituary …….and, as Shanks said, Dixie belongs in the company of the supremely great. I just feel privileged to have been in HIS company on his last day on earth.