William Ralph 'Dixie' Dean was one of the greatest footballers to ever play in this country, and he ended up playing a few games for Ashton United at the end of his illustrious career. Having played initially for Tranmere for 2 seasons, 1923-4 and 1924-5, he moved to Everton in the 'old' first division where he made his name. He will always be remembered for the 1926-7 season when he scored 60 league goals in 39 games and 100 goals in total that season. He continued to play for Everton until part way through 1937-8 when he moved to Notts County. He only played 9 games for County before moving across the water to play 11 games for Sligo in Ireland. The start of the 1939-40 season saw Dean turn out for Ashton United and although Ashton lost that game 4-0 to Stalybridge Celtic, he was still as popular as ever with 5600 turning out, and gate receipts of £140 (how Ashton would envy gates of that magnitude now, bringing in monies of approx. £15,000 per game).
Below is the match report along with photo from the Ashton Reporter, Friday September 1st 1939 by 'Ivanoe':
Season's First Shock - Hurst 0, Stalybridge 4
The result of the opening match at Hurst Cross - a clear four goals defeat - was a big disappointment to the home supporters, who were almost unanimous that the points went to the more deserving and better-balanced side.
It was argued that there was only one real difference between the sides, and that was goals. Be that as it may, Hurst had enough of the play and sufficient opportunited that had their forwards been on their best behaviour a home defeat would not have been possible. The Hurst forwards will have to learn, first, to steasy themselves and, secondly, to support "Dixie" Dean. They failedto do either of these things on Saturday. Instead they blazed away at chances and generally the former Everton and International centre-forward, of whom so much was expected, was left to play a lone hand in the middle. On what few occasions he did get the ball, Dean was more oftern than not successfully challenged by Walton. If Swindles and Wilde had supported him better, the result might have been a lot different, but the home inside forwards were incapable of seeing the obvious, while the wingmen, Taylor and Percival, have done much better on many occasions than they did in this match.
But it was not the attck alone that let Hurst down so badly, for last season's defence gained few good marks. Neither Ferguson nor Porter were at their best, and I agreed with some critics that two of the four goals might have been saved. Although Stalybridge Celtic did not master their opponents without a struggle, they gave a sparkling display of football which augers well for the future. Rarely have I seen a team with so many newcomers give a more business-like show than did Celtic on this occasion. They showed spirit and ability in all ranks that must have been a delight to those who made the choice. The man who gained the limelight was S. White, the former Liverpool Central League player, who, at inside right, gave a grand exhibition, and inspired by the cleverness of Slater, he not only scored two goals, but nearly got a third after a brilliant effort in which he beat three opponents and then made contact with the crossbar. Indeed, the whole forward line was good and despite the heat of the afternoon, maintained a fast pace throughout. J. Wolfenden was an efficient and thrustful leader with G. Ruddy and F. Taylor a capable pair on the left. The half-back line was steady both in attack and defence, and in F. Walton, the former Congleton player, they have a centre-half, who came through with flying coloursagainst such a talented player as "Dixie" Dean, who was rarely given more than a few feet in which to operate. Lomas and Heath at full-back were a bit shaky under pressure, but Tyrer was a power in the Celtic goal, bringing off save after save in a manner that brought repeated applause from the crowd.
It was a sight to behold when the teams took the field in the presence of nearly six thousand spectators. Both teams had a warm reception with a special cheer for "Dixie" Dean, who looked very fit. The opening stages gave promise of a keen contest, the first thrill coming when Dean gave Taylor a perfect pass from which the winger missed scoring by inches. Celtic engineered fast-moving attacks, and after Porter had turned the ball over the bar from Ruddy, the home side were lucky not to have a penalty given against them when Ferguson Clearly handled in the area.
After 27 minutes the first goal was scored by S. White, who easily beat Porter from a quick pass by Slater. Hurst struggled hard to get level and might have succeeded when Dean made a fine opening for Swindles who shot straight at Tyrer. Quicker on the ball and finding their men well, Celtic returned to the attack, the crowd cheering a brilliant effort by S. White, who showed perfect ball control in beating three opponents before striking the cross-bar.
Soon after resuming, Percival was clean through for what seemed a certain equaliser, and which might have accrued but for a clever interception on the part of Heath. Hurst forced several corners, but Tyrer showed great anticipation, as he did when Dean put in two well-directed headers. Celtic again took command, and getting well away on the left, Taylor, at the right moment, crossed a centre from which Wolfenden headed a second goal. Two minutes later, F. Taylor made a spectacular solo effort and, after beating several opponents, evaded Porter to plant the ball in the empty goal. Eight minutes had passed whenlater gathered a long pass from Walton, and after Ferguson had failed to clear, White slipped through, and, after working for position, scored a fourth and last goal. Near the end Taylor made another dash for goal, but when only a few yards from the vacnat net, he missed a real chance of completing Celtic's "nap hand".
Hurst: Porter: Abel: Ferguson: Barlow: Ashworth: Hinchliffe: Percival: Swindells: Dean: Wilde: J. Taylor.
Stalybridge: Tyrer: Lomas: Heath: Calvert: Walton:Sharpe: Slater: S. White: Wolfenden: Ruddy: F. Taylor.
'A splendid action picture of "Dixie" Dean jumping to it in the Hurst V Celtic match on Saturday. Tyrer's fist just takes the ball off Dean's famous head'