The Missing Icon

The below article was done by poster scratchnsurf on the GOT forum. Hope you enjoy it.

On the 29th April, 1933, Everton FC contested the FA Cup final against Manchester City, eventually defeating ‘The Sky Blues’ by 3 goals to nil. As it happened, neither City nor Everton wore blue that day. The clash of team colours was dealt with in the gentlemanly fashion of the times: both teams wore their change strips.

City took to the field in red; Everton in white. This was not the only noteworthy detail concerning the teams’ strips that day. For the first time in an FA cup final, both teams wore numbered shirts. Sporadic use of shirt numbers had happened in other matches before this date, and continued on occasions after it. It wasn’t until after the war that the use of the numbers 1 – 11 was ratified by the Football League, the proposal being overseen by incoming League President and Everton visionary, Will Cuff.

Back in April, 1933, the details were slightly different. Everton wore the numbers 1 to 11; City wore 12 to 22. Whatever the reason was that Everton wore the first eleven numbers rather than the second, the effect on the psyche of Evertonians has been long lasting.

“There was nothing like quietening that Kop. When you stuck a goal in there it all went quiet, apart from a bit of choice language aimed in your direction! Scoring there was a delight to me. I just used to turn round to the crowd and bow three times to them” – William Ralph Dean

William Ralph Dean needs no introduction to Evertonians, and it was he who first wore the number 9 in an Everton shirt back in April, 1933. A goal scorer with an unparalleled record, Dean was renowned for his heading ability, his strength and his courage. Being born in Birkenhead was close enough for him to be deemed a local lad, he overcame nearly being killed in a motorbike accident to lead the team to glory and even passed away at Goodison, shortly after the final whistle at a Merseyside Derby. In terms of setting a precedent, that’s a hard act to follow and it’s difficult to see past the view that no-one will better Dean as an Everton number 9. As it happened, the man who did have to follow in Dean’s footsteps received tutelage and approval from the man himself.

Although he never matched Dean’s scoring feats, there are many similarities between Dean and Tommy Lawton. Lawton overcame adversity in the form of flat feet and the need to wear an orthopedic brace to become a fast, skillful and brave striker. Lawton was not a local lad, but the opportunity to play alongside Dean proved too great to resist for the Burnley prodigy, signing for a then record fee for a teenager. For his part, Dean recognized that Lawton would be his replacement and did all that he could to help Lawton’s development. His contemporaries view him as the complete centre forward; a more complete player than Dean. By the time his move to Chelsea was finalised, Lawton had scored 70 goals in 95 appearances, including 38 goals in the Championship winning season of 1938-39. He left the club for Chelsea in 1945, a move which he later admitted regretting. Amazingly, Lawton is yet to appear in the club’s list of Everton Giants.

Whilst Lawton had been part of a successful period at Everton, Dean’s next apprentice to wear the number 9 shirt was an icon to the Goodison faithful during the barren years of the 1950s. Tutored by Dean during his time in the Cheshire Army Cadets, Dave Hickson embodied the characteristics of an Everton centre forward. Much like Dean and Lawton before him, Hickson was a strong centre forward known for his aerial ability and powerful shot. His talents were aligned with a fierce courage and total commitment to the cause. In an FA cup tie against Manchester United, Hickson was forced to leave the field having suffered a gash to the head after throwing himself in amongst the studs. Unperturbed, he returned to score the winner, opening up the cut in the process and eventually finishing the game swathed in blood having ignored the pleas of the referee and his team mates to leave the field. Substitutes didn’t exist in those days. A true gentleman off the pitch, Hickson’s strikes helped lead the Blues out of Division 2. Hickson eventually scored 111 goals in 243 appearances in his two spells with the club. He achieved a rare treble in playing for all three Merseyside clubs and remains on the staff at Goodison, which he refers to as ‘home’, to this day.“I would have broken any bone in my body for any other club but I would have died for Everton” – Dave Hickson

If Dean, Lawton and Hickson helped set the rule for what makes an Everton number 9, then the 1960s saw the ultimate exception to that rule. Everton’s success in the sixties was influenced by an entirely different type of centre forward. More artist than artisan, Alex Young status among Evertonians has moved beyond iconic into legendary. An almost total contrast to previous number 9s, Young was a deep lying forward who seemed to glide across the pitch and past opponents, creating at least as many goals as he scored. It was this period more than any other in which the club’s ‘School of Science’ label was embodied, and Young symbolized this to Evertonians to such an extent that they were prepared to jostle then manager Harry Catterick in the car park at Blackpool FC after a game for which Young was dropped. The ‘Golden Vision’ scored a total of 87 goals in 273 Everton appearances, collecting Championship and FA Cup winning medals along the way.

Replacing Alex Young and making his debut on that day at Blackpool in 1966 was a centre forward in the traditional vein of Everton number 9s. Joe Royle became Everton’s youngest ever first team player that day, a record that was to last over forty years. Like other number nines before him, Royle used his physical presence to great effect. Between 1967 and 1971 he averaged a goal every other game, winning the Championship in 1970 after gaining a runners up medal in the 1968 cup final. Royles eventual replacement, Bob Latchford (signed from Birmingham in 1974), was very much in the same mould. Despite never achieving domestic success with Everton, Latchford was top scorer at the Blues for six successive seasons including being the first player to reach 30 goals in the 1977-78 season. By the time he left the club in 1981, he had become Everton’s leading post war goal scorer, second only to Dean in Everton’s history.Signed from Birmingham, Latchford was a bright spark in a period when Everton failed to achieve domestic honours.

Latchford’s record was surpassed by the man brought in to replace him. Graeme Sharp joined the club in 1981 and his Everton career, encompassing the club’s most successful period, lasted over a decade. By the time he left for Oldham in 1991, he had scored 159 goals on his way to collecting 2 Championship medals, an FA cup winners medal and a European Cup Winners Cup medal. Like many of his predecessors, Sharp’s aerial prowess was an important weapon in his armoury. However, he was more than just a target man and scored goals of all kinds. Anyone doubting his technical ability need only look at his winner against Liverpool at Anfield; for all sorts of reasons the best Everton goal in my lifetime and rightly judged Goal of the Season that year. Sharp’s sheer longevity at Everton meant that he played with a variety of partners, topped the club’s scoring charts in four seasons and is bettered only by Dean as an Everton goal scorer.More than just the Goal of the Season, Sharp’s strike signaled that once again, Everton were a force to be reckoned with.

Following Sharp’s departure, Everton fans were made to wait a few years before the arrival of their next iconic number 9. Like Young and Sharp before him, Duncan Ferguson joined a long list of Scots who have travelled south to Goodison. Everton’s decline since the title winning side of ’87 had been dramatic. By the time Ferguson arrived, initially on loan from Rangers, Everton were floundering at the wrong end of the table. These were dark days to be a blue. Aside from Joe Royle’s short time in charge, Everton were a poor side for much of Ferguson’s time at that club. It is possibly because of this, at least partially, that Ferguson is held in such high regard by Blues. There are certain qualities that we expect of Everton players, regardless of their ability. When you pull on that Blue shirt, you never give up and you’re not intimidated by anyone. Ferguson embodied these qualities, and more than that he demanded them of his team mates. At 6’4, Ferguson was a dominant aerial presence that was unstoppable at times; when he played he was the focal point of our attack and the opposition defence knew they would not be having an easy afternoon. In two spells either side of his heart breaking sale to Newcastle United, Ferguson was transformed from a Rangers man to an Everton legend.Despite not having the number on his back, Ferguson scores a number nine’s goal if ever there was one.

By the time Ferguson returned from Newcastle in 2000, the number 9 shirt had been taken by Kevin Campbell. When Campbell arrived in tandem with Scott Gemmill, Everton were in dire straights; relegation loomed large. Scoring 9 goals in 8 appearances Campbell rapidly won over the faithful at Goodison as Everton escaped the dreaded drop. Campbell was a good all round striker, decent in the air and on the floor who went on to score over 50 goals for the club. He eventually left for West Bromwich Albion in 2005 after 6 years as the club’s number nine. Comparing Campbell to some of the iconic number nines that preceded him is perhaps unfair, given that the teams he played in rarely if ever challenged for honors. He was top scorer in three of his seasons at the club and there is little doubt that he played a major part in saving us from relegation.

Since Campbell’s departure for West Brom, the status attached to the number 9 shirt at Everton has diminished rapidly. James Beattie had all the attributes we have come to expect from our centre forwards, but somehow it never really happened for him. On his day, Louis Saha was as good a striker as we have had at Everton, but despite this he didn’t really fit the bill as a number 9 and seemed to prefer the number 8 shirt. Landon Donovan is a quality player who many Everton fans would love to see here on a permanent basis, but when he wore the shirt there was never any prospect of that happening. Given the status of the shirt throughout Everton’s history, it was wrong to give it to a player who clearly would not be joining the club on a permanent basis. The shirt began life on the back of England’s greatest ever centre forward, was last seen on the back of a player borrowed from the MLS and is now missing; a missing icon of Everton Football Club.

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