During the 1950s and 60s , when having a flutter on the football pools was all the rage, one of the favourite punts on the coupon was predicting draws and home and away wins on the treble chance. But it’s the chance of a treble that separates the super strikers from the rest, those sublime goalscorers whose career records are littered with hat tricks. Treble hits are the gold-plated calling cards of the great marksmen.
And standing supreme in the table of English football’s hat trick plunderers is Dixie Dean with 37 for Everton in 433 appearances. That works out at as a hat trick less than every dozen games !
In addition, Dixie scored three hat tricks for his first club Tranmere Rovers, two for England and one treble for the Football League representative side, making a very grand total of 43.
There was much justifiable acclaim for Lionel Messi’s hat trick for Barcelona in their Champions League win Dutch champions PSDV Eindhoven last month. It was the 48thof his career while his rival 21st century icon Cristian Ronaldo has amassed 51 trebles along his career path.
And the fabulous Brazil star Pele is credited with 92 hat tricks. All, though, is not what it seems. Pele’s career statistics – 1,281 goals in 1,363 games – include all kinds of unofficial matches including friendlies and tour games, so there is no valid direct comparison.
Also, Pele, Messi (679 club appearances to date) and Ronaldo (771 appearances) have career outings massively in excess of Dixie’s 475 senior appearances for Tranmere, Everton and Notts County. As they say, if you haven’t got a ticket you can’t win the lottery.
Dixie’s most famous hat trick was, of course, his threesome against Arsenal at Goodison on May 5, 1928 which elevated him into the record books, almost certainly for all time, as the man who scored 60 League goals in one season, a total out of the reach of many entire clubs, let alone individuals.
His first treble came in October 1924, scored for Tranmere in their4-3 Division Three North win over Hartlepool. And his first for Everton – to become the youngest to hit a hat trick for the club – came at Burnley in October 1925 at rhe age of 18 years 268 days .
His last hat trick was for Everton in their 4-2 victory over West Bromwich Albion in the old First Division in November 1936. He twice scored hat tricks against the “old enemy” Liverpool, both at Anfield – in a 3-3 draw in February 1928 and another in a 3-1 win in September 1931, his treble completed in the opening 21 minutes, much to the Kop’s chagrin.
Dixie’s heading power – demonstrated by his ability to head the ball into the net from the halfway line during Goodison practice sessions – played a key role in assembling his hat trick collection.
“Ordinary players butt the ball with the crown of their heads and it usually goes over the bar”, wrote Thomas Keates in the original History Of The Everton Football Club. “But Dean artistically glides it downwards with the side of his head. In this respect he excels every other famous centre forward.
“His head play is the primary contributor to his success although as a ball hunter and ground shooter, forceful yet cool and deliberate, he seems to have nothing to learn.” I think Thomas was impressed !
Dixie was just thankful for the talent he possessed. “For me, “ he told me “the heading trick was a gift ……an absolute gift. I could time it practically to a second and, of course, you had to have keen eyes to watch the ball sailing across.”
He collected three consecutive hat tricks for Everton spanning two seasons: 4 goals against Burnley and 3 against Arsenal at the end of 1927-28 and 3 against Bolton at the start of 1928-29.
Dixie scored five goals in Everton matches twice in a month in 1931. In a span of 33 minutes he grabbed a nap hand in the 9-3 win over Sheffield Wednesday in October and in November rattled in another quintet in a 7-2 drubbing of Chelsea between the 5th and 32nd minutes of the match.
It included the fastest hat trick of headers in domestic football history, scored between the 5th and 15th minutes.
For Dixie Dean, English football’s hat trick king, it was invariably a case of ‘heads you win.’