Dixie Dean and four other footballing icons who plied their trade in the League of Ireland

On the 36th anniversary of his death, we look at what led Dean and others to Ireland's domestic league

BY Cian Roche 17:48 Tuesday 1 March 2016, 17:48 1 Mar 2016

Image: Twitter.com/Everton

Today marks the 36th anniversary of the death of Everton legend William "Dixie" Dean.

To celebrate, we've decided to look at his career and the career of other iconic footballers who have graced the League of Ireland.

Dixie Dean - Sligo Rovers

The man, who retains the record for most league goals in a single season in England (60), enjoyed spells at Tranmere Rovers, Everton and Notts County before signing for Irish side, Sligo Rovers.

Dean was a legend at Everton, making 399 appearances for the club and scoring an astonishing 349 goals.

He penned a deal with Sligo Rovers at the age of 32 and in January 1939 was greeted by 2,000 fans at Sligo train station.

The very next day, he scored on his debut in a 3-2 win over Shelbourne at the Showgrounds.

In total, Dean made just seven appearances for the club and managed to score 10 goals, five of which came in a 7-1 victory over Waterford United.

Sligo reached the FAI Cup Final that year and Dean scored in the 1-1 draw with Shelbourne before they would go on to lose the replay.

William Dixie Dean photogrpahed in 1931. Image: Barratts / S&G and Barratts/EMPICS Sport

Bobby Charlton - Waterford United

Bobby Charlton departed his beloved Manchester United in 1973 after 606 appearances for the club.

He moved Preston North End the following year, deciding to continue a glittering career that included winning a World Cup, European Cup and a number domestic titles.

As manager, accompanied by player-coach Nobby Stiles, his time at Deepdale wasn't particularly inspiring. PNE were relegated to the Third Division and Charlton left the club after a fallout with the board of directors.

In 1976, while Pele was making the switch to New York Cosmos, Charlton signed for Waterford United.

Charlton’s debut came at home against St. Patrick’s Athletic on 18 January, where he put in an impressive performance to guide them to a 3-2 victory at a packed Kilcohan Park.

His time in the league came to an end after only three appearances, when a payment scheme of ticket sales agreed between Charlton and the club became untenable and his contract no longer feasible. 

Bobby Charlton playing for Waterford United against St. Pat’s at Kilcornan Park in January 1976. Photograph: Limerick Leader/The Guardian.

George Best - Cork Celtic 

Best known for his magic in the colours of Manchester United, George Best became something of a nomad after his departure from the club.

Time with Stockport County and LA Aztecs was interrupted by only a brief spell with League of Ireland club, Cork Celtic.

Best made his debut for the club on Sunday 28th December where 12,000 spectators turned up to the Flowers Lodge venue to see his unwhelming performance against Drogheda United.

Cork had made a pretty penny off the marquee game, with club secretary Donie Forde stating; "We don’t really know how much money we had made. We simply pushed the money away into the safety of a van before anybody got any ideas about getting their hands on it. It was certainly profitable..."

Best failed to score or impress during his only two other appearances against Bohemians and Shelbourne before departing for sunnier climes Stateside.

George Best pictured in 1976 for then-club, Fulham. Image: PA / PA Wire/Press Association Images

Gordon Banks - St Patrick's Athletic

A car crash in 1972 deprived the iconic goalkeeper of sight in his right eye and looked to spell the end of a glittering career.

It was his move to North American Soccer League (NASL) side Fort Lauterdale Strikers which saw him return to the game he loved.

He went to play as a named superstar and helped the Strikers win the division, conceding 29 goals in 26 games - the best defensive reocrd in teh league.

He was contacted by ex-international team-mate and Pat’s manager at the time, Barry Bridges, to come over for a match with Shamrock Rovers.

Pat's went on to win the game 1-0 and Banks made a terrific save to deny Eamon Dunphy.

Gordon Banks made just one appearance on loan for St Patrick's Athletic. Image: fodboldlegender.dk

Jimmy Johnstone - Shelbourne 

"Jinky" Jimmy Johnstone left Celtic in 1975 after 308 appearances and 82 goals since his debut in 1962.

After spells with San Jose Earthquakes, Sheffield United and Dundee, the Scottish native then signed for Shelbourne.

Finn Harps and Athlone Town both had vyed for his services, but Johnstone made his debut in the League of Ireland on november 20th 1977 in a 2-1 defeat to bitter rivals Bohemians.

Johnstone featured against Thurles Town and Shamrock Rovers, totalling nine appearances for the Dublin club.

Jimmy Johnstone in action for Scotland. Image: Peter Robinson / EMPICS Sport

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