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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Mike Walters

Erling Haaland is a phenomenon but Everton legend's record will never be broken

All hail to the king – no need for his subjects to swear allegiance, because at Everton he has always been the blue-eyed boy.

Erling Haaland's goalscoring deeds for Manchester City have earned him a guard of honour but, with respect, he is still miles behind the greatest record of all time. Back in 1927-28, Dixie Dean scored 60 League goals in 38 games – and 63 in all competitions – a feat which is unlikely ever to be eclipsed by a Blue Moon or on any other planet.

And if you know your history, it's enough to make your blue blood boil when Dean's phenomenon is airbrushed by hipsters who think football was invented when the Premier League 'brand' was introduced in 1992. Champions at the League summit 95 years ago, Everton are dicing with danger in the foothills now, but Dean's statue stands guard outside Goodison Park as a reminder of happier times.

In Liverpool city centre, a hotel bearing his name on Victoria Street is opposite another one named after Anfield royalty Bill Shankly: Red and blue, side by side, as it should be.

Haaland is now a dead cert to win Player of the Year in every poll for player of the season, but let's get it straight: Although 35 goals in 34 games is some going, he'll have to whistle Dixie to become the king of all ages. And the only coronation this month was this weekend's choir practice at Westminster Abbey.

Dean's family are delighted that Haaland's exploits have brought their ancestral pariarch's accomplishments into high definition. His granddaughter Melanie Prentice, who is guest relations manager at the Dixie Dean Hotel, said: “In some ways we are grateful to Erling Haaland because his goalscoring feats this season have restored my grandad's records to the limelight.

“We congratulate him on breaking Alan Shearer's Premier League record, but football supporters who love their history know the name Dixie Dean stands for greatness because he scored 60 League goals in 39 games, a record that is never going to be broken. We do appreciate Haaland for helping to bring his name back into the public eye, and a new generation of fans are learning about his achievements, but we wish it was reported correctly.

Erling Haaland has been in superb form this season (Getty Images)

“As far as we're concerned, Haaland has now closed the gap to 25 goals on my grandfather's record. It's called the Premier League these days since English football was rebranded, but that's all it was – a rebrand. In 1927-28 it was still the top flight. They just called it the First Division.

“I don't like it when people rewrite history or bend records to make it sound as if we only started playing football in 1992.”

Never booked and never sent off, Dean was regarded as one of football's gentlemen – but in an era when strikers were routinely brutalised, he was also one of Merseyside's toughest survivors.

Just 12 months before his astonishing 60-goal harvest, a high-water mark he reached with a hat-trick against Arsenal on the final day of the season, Dean almost died in a motorcycle crash. And when people said he was having a ball, they weren't wrong. Early in his career, at Tranmere Rovers, he lost a testicle after one of his crown jewels was ruptured by a dreadful challenge.

Head boy: Dixie Dean scores for Everton against Bolton in 1931 (Mirrorpix)

“When I watch him play, Haaland will often have two or three defenders around him, and he's so strong he can shrug them off,” said Melanie. “But I have a video of my grandad and although he has half the opposing team around him, he still managed to beat them all.

“Every game now is played on Axminster carpets and players glide across the surface in boots which are lighter than carpet slippers, but 90-odd years ago they played on pitches which turned to bogs in midwinter and they wore hobnail boots. And they didn't fall over at the slightest touch. Doctors said he would be lucky to live after the motorcycle accident, let alone play football again.

“But opposition defenders resorted to crude and violent methods to stop him. He lost a testicle after one defender stamped on him. When the physio arrived on the pitch to treat him with the magic sponge, or probably a magic flannel as it was in those days, he shouted, 'Don't rub 'em – count 'em!'

Blue wonder: Dixie Dean's statue outside Goodison Park (Clive Brunskill)

“Years later, that same defender walked into the Dublin Packet, the pub my grandad ran in Chester for 16 years. Grandad lamped him – I think anyone would have done the same. It was probably the only time he retaliated in his life.”

Haaland and City will come calling at Goodison next weekend, a chance for the modern-day heir to the throne to meet the king's statue.

Everton will be desperate for the points, but Melanie insisted: “In my heart, I truly believe we will escape relegation. Although it was frustrating not to win at Leicester the other night, it was refreshing to see them have a go.

“We're running out of games, but the last time we beat City it was 4-0 so anything is possible.”

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