The most surprising statistic of Tranmere’s international players is that not one single player in the club’s history has ever played for England seniors team whilst being on the books at Prenton Park.
However two local boys did make it to the top of the game but after they left Tranmere for First Division teams. Their story starts just before the First World War in 1907 on the streets of Birkenhead.
On the 2nd Janauary on Park Road North just off Lairds Street in the North End of Birkenhead a boy was born whose footballing skills would see him become a great. The son of a Butcher Ellis Rimmer would go on play for Tranmere and one day England.
A few days later another boy was born just round the corner on Laird street who would be Rimmer’s rival but also his friend. William Ralph Dean is still one of the great footballers in World history with records he set over 70 years ago still not been broken.
Not as much is known about Rimmer’s early life in Birkenhead but he first came on the radar as a footballer for his school team Upper Brassey Street. Later in life Dean said that Rimmer was the school’s ‘..star turn.’ As well as being an accomplished footballer he was an excellent pianist as his mother Edith insisted he practise for two hours a day.
Dean’s early life is far better known with countless books telling the story of his life. He grew up above a chip shop on Laird Street and attended the Albert Memorial School (a borstal school) as they had the best team.
The skills of Dean had been noticed from an early age and in 1920 he was asked to play for the Birkenhead Schoolboys team. Dean received a medal from his school during morning assembly for being picked and was allowed to go home to tell his Mum.
When Dean went to meet the rest of the team one face was very familiar as Ellis Rimmer too had been picked from his school team.
Dean’s skills were soon picked up by Rovers chief scout Jack Lee and Dean joined Tranmere reserves. His first goal in a Rovers side was against Whitehead who team included his friend Rimmer. After the game Rimmer signed for Tranmere and joined Dean once again.
In 1924 Dean made his first senior debut for Tranmere Rovers and would go on to score 27 goals in 30 games. Dean was soon snapped up by Everton in 1925.
Rimmer too made his first senior appearance for Rovers in 1924 but he was not picked up by a bigger club until 1928 when Sheffield Wednesday paid for his skills.
The two would have met on many occasions during their First Division careers but never playing for the same team. However when England called upon them they had one last chance to play together.
In 1930 the first World Cup took place in Uruguay with both Dean and Rimmer hoping to represent England at the highest level. However they never got the chance as the FA decided England didn’t need to take part as we already knew we were the best team in the world. England wouldn’t play in a World Cup until the 1950s.
Both Dean and Rimmer did however receive England Caps over the years and in 1931 the two friends from Birkenhead came together to represent England against Spain. Although neither Dean nor Rimmer scored they both had a hand in setting up two of the seven goals England scored that day at Highbury in front of 55,000 England fans.
As the 1930s went on the records for Dean mounted and in 1937 he scored his 353rd goal in 390 games which broke the record for most goals scored by one player. Both teams cheered this accomplishment but the first man over to shake his hand was none other than is old school boy friend Ellis Rimmer who was playing for the opposition that day.
Like all players their times as footballers came to an end and the two friends went their separate ways in life. In 1965 Rimmer died at age of 58 and Dean died in 1980 at the age of 73.
Their story is a rare and almost unique one which his unlikely to be replicated in football ever again. But these friends from Birkenhead left the town as schoolboys and reached the highest levels in Football making them true legends of Birkenhead.