Everton Number Nines

by Steve Johnson

Everton have a rich tradition of famous centre-forwards, many of whom have worn the number nine shirt with pride and success. But when did shirt-numbering begin? And was our own Dixie Dean the first footballer to sport the number nine on his back, as is often claimed?

World-wide, shirt numbers were used in football on-and-off in various countries as far back as the first recorded instance in Australia in 1911. In fact, up until 1928, shirt numbers had not been used at all in English Football League or FA Cup matches.

However, the 1928/29 season began with two teams, Arsenal and Chelsea, wearing numbered shirts Arsenal away at Sheffield Wednesday in their opening day Football League Division One game, and Chelsea at home to Swansea in a Division Two match. Their opponents remained numberless.

The numbers were based on players’ positions on the pitch – number one for the goalkeeper, two for the right back, three for the left back, and so on up to number eleven for the left winger. And of course, number nine for the centre-forward!

The Sheffield Wednesday v Arsenal game kicked-off fifteen minutes before the Chelsea game, and so Arsenal centre-forward Jimmy Brain had the honour of being the first number nine in English football.

It wasn’t Dixie after all!

The Arsenal players all wore numbers on their back, and the Chelsea outfield players did so, too – but their keeper wore the number one on the front of his shirt!

The letter from the FA which led to WR Dean wearing the number nine shirt in the 1933 FA Cup Final.
Dixie Dean receiving the FA Cup from Queen Elizabeth in 1933 (Everton Collection)

The experiment was soon abandoned – in fact shirt-numbering was banned by the Football Association – and it disappeared again until the early 1930s when, famously, the 1933 FA Cup Final saw Everton wear numbers 1-11 and Manchester City numbers 12-22, with Dixie Dean sporting the number nine.

Everton FC Heritage Society’s Brendan Connolly has amongst his amazing collection of memorabilia, this copy of the Football Association’s letter to Everton instructing them to wear shirt numbers in that game:

This use of numbering was an experiment, though the exception rather than the rule and, indeed, the 1934 AGM of the Football League Management Committee rejected the compulsory use of shirt numbers.

However, in July 1939 the Management Committee had a change of heart and decided that teams should wear numbered shirts. Moreover, it was the new League President and legendary Everton administrator, Will Cuff, who was the driving force behind the decision.

Henceforth both sides in league matches were required to wear numbers one to eleven, and that is how the 1939/40 Division One season began – with players from all teams wearing numbers on their backs and, for Everton, Tommy Lawton taking the number nine shirt.

Unfortunately, the 1939/40 season was abandoned after three rounds of games because of the outbreak of World War II and so, to all intents and purposes, the mandatory use of shirt numbers began with the post-war resumption of official fixtures, specifically the 1945/46 FA Cup and the 1946/47 Football League competitions.

Before their compulsory introduction in 1939 – and after the 1933 FA Cup Final – some teams did, intermittently, wear shirt numbers.

So, for instance, Everton wore shirt numbers in their next two games after the 1933 FA Cup Final – a 1-0 home win over Sheffield Utd on 3 May 1933 (the first time the club had ever worn them in a Football League match), and a 4-2 league defeat at Wolves on 6 May 1933, after which the players were required to hand the shirts back to the club. So, it would seem that Dean’s wearing of the number nine shirt for Everton was limited to his famous goal-scoring performance in the 1933 FA Cup Final and in the following two league games where he did not add to his tally for the season.

There is no evidence that Everton ever wore shirt numbers again in an official first-class fixture until their opening match in the 1945/46 FA Cup competition – away at Preston North End on 5 January 1946. It was another famous Everton name, Harry Catterick, who was the next to wear it in that 1946 Preston match.

The 1-11 shirt-numbering system persisted until squad numbers appeared in the early 1990s, following the arrival of the Premier League although, in reality, goalkeepers’ shirts had generally become numberless again in England in the intervening years (an evolution that seemed to contrast with the usual practice overseas).

The FA Premier League began in 1992/93, but squad-numbering was not introduced until the following season, 1993/94 (by which time the competition had – temporarily – been renamed the ‘FA Carling Premiership’). It has been with us ever since, meaning that centre-forwards now often wear a whole host of less-than-memorable numbers. Samuel Eto’o even wore number five for Everton in 2014/15, for instance!

Three of the greatest players to wear the iconic No.9 shirt

The iconic number nine shirt may have lost some of its lustre in romantic terms in recent years, but for most football fans it is still a byword for the centre-forward. At Everton, certainly, it will always be associated primarily with the incomparable Dixie Dean – even if he was not, after all, the first footballer in the world to wear that famous number! That the first three Everton players to wear the number nine were Dean, Lawton and Catterick certainly contributed to the mystique of that number and the pressure on subsequent players to live up to these illustrious predecessors.

Listed below are all of those players who played at centre-forward for Everton in the era prior to shirt-numbering, all of those who wore the number nine shirt before the arrival of squad numbers and all of the players allocated that squad number who have played for us in the Premier League era.


John GoudieAlan MaxwellHarry MakepeaceFrank BradshawFred Forbes
William LewisPatrick GordonThomas CorrinTommy BrowellJack Cock
John KeysJack SouthworthWilliam McLaughlinErnie GaultDavid Bain
Edgar ChadwickAbe HartleyTommy McDermottSammy SimmsFrank Hargreaves
Frank SuggJohn BellFrank OliverJohnny HoustonJimmy Broad
Nick RossAlbert FlewittWalter AbbottTom PageWilliam Ralph Dean
Alf MilwardJohn CameronTommy DillyTommy NuttallJack O’Donnell
Tommy CostleyDavid StorrierRobert WrightBobby ParkerDavid Murray
George DavieLaurie BellThomas JonesBill WrightArt Dominy
James MorrisSam KeeleyFred RouseBilly KirsoppDick Forshaw
Walter BrownJohn ProudfootGeorge CouperJoseph KearslakeTommy White
Fred GearyWilf OldhamBert FreemanJoe PeacockTony Weldon
William OrrThomas CromptonBilly LaceyJohn BlairGeorge Martin
Charlie ParryWilf TomanJames GourleyStan FazackerleyArthur Attwood
Dan DoyleAlex McDonaldHarry MountfordStan DaviesMonty Wilkinson
Rob JamiesonRobert BeveridgeTed MagnerAndy MoffatTommy Johnson
Hope RobertsonAlex ‘Sandy’ YoungTom FleetwoodBobby IrvineJimmy McCambridge
Sammy ThomsonAdam BowmanTommy GracieSam ChedgzoyGeorge ‘Leo’ Stevens
Jack ElliottJohn BrearleyWillie JordanWilf ChadwickPhilip Griffiths
Alex LattaJimmy Settle   


Just one! William Ralph Dean (he’s also included in the list above).

Dixie Dean with Robert Bell


(Not including anyone mentioned above)

Jimmy ‘Nat’ Cunliffe, Norman Higham, Alfred Dickinson, Billy Hartill, Robert ‘Bunny’ Bell and Tommy Lawton. (None of them wore shirt numbers in this period).


Just one – Tommy Lawton.

(Not including anyone mentioned above)

Harry CatterickGeorge KirbyJohn HurstDavid IrvingPaul Wilkinson
Archie LivingstoneDerek MayersJoe RoyleGeorge TelferAdrian Heath
Billy HigginsJimmy GlazzardMike TrebilcockDuncan McKenzieWayne Clarke
Stan BenthamJimmy GauldSandy BrownMark HigginsNeil Adams
Ephraim ‘Jock’ DoddsDerek TempleJimmy HusbandAndy KingIan Marshall
Eddie WainwrightBert LlewellynErnie HuntBilly WrightPat Nevin
Cliff PinchbeckEddie ThomasDavid JohnsonGeoff NultyMike Newell
Cyril LelloPeter HarburnMick LyonsImre VaradiPeter Beardsley
Albert JuliussenAlan ShackletonBernie WrightAsa HartfordTony Cottee
Jimmy McIntoshFrank WignallJohn ConnollyBrian KiddMo Johnston
Oscar HoldKeith WebberRod BelfittGraeme SharpRay Atteveld
Dave HicksonAlex YoungJoe HarperEamonn O’KeefePeter Beagrie
John Willie ParkerBilly BinghamGary JonesAlan BileyStuart Barlow
Gwyn LewisBarrie ReesBob LatchfordMick FergusonPaul Rideout
Ron SaundersJimmy GabrielJim PearsonAndy GrayDavid Unsworth
Jimmy HarrisFred Pickering   


Tony Cottee (also included in the list above)              Duncan Ferguson               Kevin Campbell,                

James Beattie                     Louis Saha                           Landon Donovan                Arouna Koné       

 Sandro Ramirez                  Dominic Calvert-Lewin.


Paul RideoutDavid UnsworthKevin CampbellLandon DonovanSandro Ramirez
Mo JohnstonTony CotteeJames BeattieArouna KonéDominic Calvert-Lewin
Stuart BarlowDuncan FergusonLouis Saha
Dominic Calvert-Lewin (R) and Duncan Ferguson after the Premier League match between Manchester United and Everton at Old Trafford on February 6 2021 (Photo by Tony McArdle)


Steve Johnson of EFCHS, is Everton FC’s leading statistician, and is the author of Everton: The Official Complete Record

His Everton Results website is the most most comrehensive collection of Everton FC data on the internet – do give it a visit!

More about Steve here



Many thanks to Fran Hickey of EFCHS for his help in proofing and editing this article

By Steve Johnson

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