Soccer/Football Legends Revealed #1

This is the first in a series of examinations of soccer/football-related legends and whether they are true or false.

Let’s begin!

SOCCER/FOOTBALL LEGEND: William Dean’s nickname “Dixie” came from his dark skin.

STATUS: False Enough for a False

William “Dixie” Dean was one of the most prolific goal scorers in English League history, with an astounding 379 goals in 438 English League games from 1923-1939, with the vast majority of them coming for Everton, where Dean spent just shy of 400 games.

If you take a look at Dean, you might notice that his complexion is fairly dark…

It is due to his dark complexion and his hair that people took to calling him “Dixie,” as he looked (according to many English folks at the time, who likely did not know any better) like an African-American from the Southern United States.

It’s a pretty darn racist nickname, and Dean haaaaaated it.

However, while it IS clear that he WAS known as “Dixie” because for the fairly racist reason that he reminded people of Southern American blacks, the interesting thing is that he did not get the name the way you would think. That is, no one looked at him and said, “Hey, let’s call him Dixie, because he looks like a black guy from the American South!”

No, what actually happened was that SOMEone, a fan, an announcer, SOMEone misunderstood his ACTUAL nickname, which he used early in his career while playing for his local team, the Tranmere Rovers. That nickname was “Digsy.”

Gilbert Upton was perhaps the first historian to discover Dean’s original nickname (in his history of the Tranmere Rovers – Dixie Dean of Tranmere Rovers, 1923-1925), but since then, a number of histories have cited past acquaintances of Dean’s who have backed up Upton’s claim (all they frequently differ on WHY the name “Digsy” was chosen exactly – which is fair enough, as we’re talking about people recalling minor details from the 1910s…).

But someone heard the name “Digsy” at one point and clearly thought it was “Dixie,” and, because of the whole, “Hey, he looks like a black guy from the Southern US!” thing, the name stuck.

So not only was it a pretty racist nickname, but it wasn’t even the RIGHT NICKNAME!

Pretty darn funny.

Thanks a lot to Gilbert Upton for being the first to “discover” Dean’s first nickname!

SOCCER/FOOTBALL LEGEND: Stephen Ireland faked a death of a grandmother to get out of his international duties with Team Ireland.

STATUS: True

Stephen Ireland is…how should we say this?….controversial.

The 22-year-old Irish midfielder currently plays for Manchester City in the Premier League (he just scored 13 goals last year!) and also for the Irish National Team.

Well, maybe not for the Irish National Team.

In his first four international matches, Ireland scored three goals. However, in September of 2007, right before an international match against the Czechs, Ireland manager Steve Staunton received a phone call from Ireland’s girlfriend. She informed him that Ireland had to leave right away as his maternal grandmother had died.

After a check-up, Staunton was pretty sure this was a lie designed to get Ireland out of the match with the least opposition, but when he asked Ireland, Ireland said that no, it was the truth.

So he let Ireland leave.

Well, this being the information age and all, the media quickly found out that his maternal grandmother was alive. So Ireland corrected himself, saying it was his PATERNAL grandmother who had died. This, too, was shown to be untrue. So he corrected himself again, saying that one of his grandfathers had divorced his wife and his CURRENT wife had died. This, too, was proved untrue.

Finally, Ireland admitted the “truth” – his girlfriend had had a miscarriage and he wanted the time off to be with her. Some people doubt this, as well, suggesting that if that were the case, he would have been given the time off without having to lie. But who knows?

In any event, Staunton was furious, and Ireland has not been on the Irish National Team since.

However, since he is such a good player (Manchester City recently locked him in to a five-year deal), the team would be okay with him returning to the fold, and while he seems to vacillate between wanting to return and not wanting to return, I’d put at least even money on him returning to the team within the next couple of years. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if he were on the team when the 2010 World Cup began.

SOCCER/FOOTBALL LEGEND: Bobby Charlton and Dennis Viollet switched seats with Tommy Taylor and David Pegg right before the “Munich air disaster”.

STATUS: True

Whenever a famous tragic crash occurs, whether it be a boat sinking or a plane crashing, you’ll begin to hear stories of “Person X was almost on that boat/plane but he/she couldn’t go at the last minute.”

For instance, Waylon Jennings was the only person who gave up a spot on the plane that later crashed, killing Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper. However, over the years, many a story has been told about someone who was meant to be on the flight but who gave up their seat.

Well, in the case of the great Munich Air Disaster of 1958, there really was a case like that.

In 1957, Manchester United became the first English football team to enter into the recently formed European Cup tournament (formed by the Union of European Football Associations), which consisted of the top teams from each country’s football team.

In 1958, Manchester was back in the European Cup tournament, and was one of the top contenders for the title.

They faced Yugoslavia’s team in a home and away match-up. Manchester defeated them in the first game (competed in Manchester) at the end of January, but then had to face them in Yugoslavia on February 5th. That game was a draw, 3-3, but Manchester still managed to advance to the semi-finals.

Manchester had had a hard time getting back home after their last trip to Europe in the earlier rounds of the tournament, so this time around, they chartered an airplane.

Well, the day after their match, they took off from Belgrade in their Airspeed Ambassador plane. It had to land in Munich to re-fuel. The pilots tried two attempts at taking off, but there was a problem with the fuel supply – it was over-accelerating the engines, making it seem like the engines would not work. So each time, they backed off and did not actually take off.

Here’s the plane in Munich before take-off…

After the second try, they actually had the 44 passengers (members of the team, the team’s staff plus reporters and team boosters) get off the plane.

During this time, it also began snowing in Munich, so it appeared as though they just weren’t going to try and just stay in Munich that day and night and try again the next day.

Duncan Edwards even telegraphed to his landlady, telling her they wouldn’t be in that day.

The pilot, though, wouldn’t give up. He wanted to stay relatively on schedule, so he had the passengers re-board. He was going to try something a little different – they had already opened the throttle on the plane slowly (to avoid over-accelerating the engine), but it did not work. However, since the runway at Munich was quite long, if they backed up and used all of the runway, they could open the throttle even slower and they’d have the time to get things going well before they ran out of runway.

So the passengers got back on to the plane just fifteen minutes after getting off.

As you might imagine, this was a pretty frightening situation for the passengers. A number of people tried to move to the back of the plane, figuring it would be safer there. Teammates Tommy Taylor and David Pegg switched with their fellow teammates Bobby Charlton and Dennis Viollet.

Tragically, however, there was a great deal of slush on the runway (unbeknown to the pilots), and as a result, it totally threw off all their acceleration readings (as the slush retarded the acceleration of the plane itself, while having no effect on the engines), and a result, they were not prepared to take off when they reached the end of the runway. The plane ended up skidding off the runway and through a barrier and across a road and into a nearby house (luckily, the woman and her three children in the house somehow managed to make it out alive). The left side of the plane hit into a wooden hut where a fully fueled truck was – the explosion killed 21 people instantly.

Among the people killed instantly were basically everyone at the back of the plane, including Taylor and Pegg.

Charlton and Viollet were knocked unconscious, but they woke up and escaped from the plane.

Here’s Charlton recovering from the crash (and a few weeks later, entertaining some local children)…

They were among the twenty survivors of the accident (three survivors of the crash itself succumbed to their injuries in the days following the crash).

The team lost eight players, including Duncan Edwards, one of the best players of the decade.

The team regrouped, though, through manager Matt Busby (who survived the crash) and ten years later, Manchester United (led by team captain Bobby Charlton) returned and won the European Cup. Here’s Charlton carrying the Cup (Charlton scored twice in the Final).

The win was certainly achieved in memory of their lost friends, especially for Charlton the friends who, but for the sake of happenstance, could have had his seat.

Okay, that’s it for this week!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com

5 Responses to “Soccer/Football Legends Revealed #1”

  1. Oh my god can you imagine how Charlton and Viollet felt,lucky lucky boys. Im off to Norway next month and its always snowing their where the bloody hell shall I sit?

  2. I don’t get it

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