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One Of Jock Stein’s Most Astute Signings
Goal machine John ‘Dixie’ Deans would prove to be one of Jock Stein’s most astute signings.

Goal machine John ‘Dixie’ Deans would prove to be one of Jock Stein’s most astute signings.

The Celtic manager caused a sensation in Scottish football when he signed the controversial Motherwell forward in October 1971 for £17.5k in the aftermath of the disastrous defeat to Partick Thistle in the League Cup Final. The robust and gutsy forward had earned himself a reputation as a troublemaker for his on-field antics with the Lanarkshire club and at the time of Stein’s surprise swoop Deans was serving a six week ban.

However under the guidance of Stein the player cleaned-up his act and although he would remain a ferocious competitor his discipline improved beyond recognition. He made a scoring debut for the Hoops at Partick Thistle as the Bhoys cruised to a 5-1 league victory on November 27th 1971. From that moment on, lovable rogue Deans was an idol to the Parkhead support and he repaid their devotion in the best possible way – by scoring goals.

Before going further, to correct various rumours, Dixie Deans was NEVER a Rangers fan. As he stated himself he was a St Mirren daft supporter going to all their matches as a boy, and he'd never been to Ibrox until he played against them for Motherwell.

He made an immediate impact at Parkhead and formed a devastating partnership with Kenny Dalglish throughout his time at Celtic. In his first season he won league and cup medals however his bleakest moment as a Celt was to come in the European Cup semi-final of 1972 when on April 19th he missed his spot-kick as the Bhoys went out 4-5 on penalties to Inter Milan at Parkhead. Ironically, he said that days before he had been practising penalty kicks repeatedly, and never missed one despite taking over a hundred. He sadly has the ignominy to have bee the first player to miss a penalty kick in a shoot-out that sent their team out of European Competition. He deserves to be remembered for far better and he will.

It was an error the Celtic support was only too willing to forgive Deans for, recognising as they did the player’s devastation at his miss. Deans bounced back in typically gutsy and prolific style and in the Scottish Cup final less than a month later he smashed a hat-trick as Celtic destroyed Hibernian 6-1. That afternoon he scored one of the most spectacular goals ever seen at Hampden when he dribbled past John Brownlie on the bye line and lashed home a shot past Jim Herriot in the Hibs goal.

He continued to score goals and he was part of the Celtic team at Easter Road which clinched their 8th successive title, scoring in a 3-0 win in front of an incredible 45,000 crowd with the duo of Dalglish and deans doing the damage on the day and it was their goals in the main that was responsible for the league returning to Parkhead.

The small, squat Deans possessed incredible strength and energy and he continued to terrorise defenders during the mid 70's. On November 17th 1973 he hit six goals in a 8-0 thrashing of Partick Thistle when he ran Jimmy McGrory's record of eight goals in one game very close. On December 22nd he also scored four against Falkirk in the 6-0 thrashing of Falkirk at Parkhead. Sadly, he was injured for the League Cup final that month and his absence was crucial as Celtic sank to a 1-0 defeat, Paul Wilson being his ineffective replacement at number 9. Celtic won another league and cup double and Dixie scored the third goal in the 3-0 Scottish Cup Final against Dundee United in 1974.

Dixie was named in the 40 man provisional Scotland squad for the 1974 World Cup finals in West Germany but did not make the final cut of 22. Scotland had a very good World Cup, becoming then the first team to leave the world cup undefeated without actually winning the trophy. There was a good squad in those days, so it's hard to say whether Dixie would have made a difference if he was there.

Perhaps Dixie's greatest Celtic achievement came in the 8 days between 19th and 26th October 1974. In the first game, in the league at Parkhead, Dixie scored a fine hat trick in a 5-0 win over the fine Hibs team of that period and seven days later he repeated the feat, again against Hibs, this time in the League Cup Final when Celtic persevered by 6-3. He again scored a spectacular effort when he dived full length to divert a wayward Jimmy Johnstone volley high into the net. His form at this time earned him a call up to the Scotland side and he played against East Germany (3-0) and Spain (1-2) in late 1974. Despite these feats Dixie could not steer Celtic towards their 10th successive title and unfortunately missed the Scottish Cup Final victory over Airdrie in May 1975 with injury.

Dixie's last season was in 1975/76 and Celtic were now in transition following Jock Stein's absence after his car accident. Dixie's appearances became less regular although he continued to score vital goals including a last minute clincher against Boavista in the ECWC when he raced clear and coolly placed the ball past the Portuguese keeper.

In May 1976 he moved to Luton Town much to the sadness of the Celtic fans who loved his goals and the effort that Dixie gave in Celtic's green and white. He left the support with some great memories and after scoring 124 goals in 184 appearances and while with Celtic he collected three league championship winners medals, two Scottish Cup winners medals, a League Cup winners medal and a miserly two Scotland caps.

People often point out that Dixie never once scored for Celtic against Rangers. It's a curious point, but however there was poor luck involved. He once struck a great shot which was slightly deflected by Dave Smith past Peter McCloy at Ibrox on January 6th 1973. These days it would clearly be marked as the forward's goal but the history books are mixed over who was the actual scorer, Deans or Smith? We say Deans! In another game, John Greig handled a Dixie Deans' shot on the line for a penalty (from which Celtic scored but it wasn't Deans taking the penalty).

If anyone ever questions his commitment to the club, then they will have to counter that performance against St Johnstone in January 1976. On losing two of his teeth during the match, rather than go off like any sane person would, he spat them out and played on (with marked blood dribbling down his shirt). Don't take it that he was petulant though, he was only ever sent off once for Celtic (and that was a reserve match). He gave his all in every game, playing as well even in the air despite a lack of height.

Dixie was a match-day host at Celtic Park, where he entertains corporate facility guests along with other Celtic legends. He was also involved with business interests in Glasgow, owning "Dixie's" pub in Rutherglen as well as being involved with former Celtic player Tommy Callaghan in the firm Esperanza Property Development, a company that buys, renovates and sells properties throughout Central Scotland.

Dixie Deans is a Celtic great, and one of the most recognisable characters we'll ever likely have.

Posted by voc1967 on Saturday 31 August 2019 - 22:33:22 | Comments (0)  |  printer friendly
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