Saturday February 26th 1949 was a red-letter day for long-serving Everton goalkeeper Ted Sagar.
He had just broken the club appearance record and was preparing to play Burnley in a First Division match at Goodison Park.
As the team went through their last-minute rituals, into the changing room walked a legend – a true giant of Everton football.
It was none other than Dixie Dean, the centre forward who scored 60 goals in a season – and whose 433-match record Sagar had just beaten.
Dean, then aged 42, graciously shook Sagar’s hand as the rest of the team beamed with pride. It was a truly uplifting moment captured by the Liverpool Echo photographer of the day.
The visit probably inspired the team too as they went out to beat Burnley 2-1 with both goals scored by outside left Tommy Eglington.
Born in Brodsworth, near Doncaster, in February 1910, Sagar was one of five children. His father Edward, a coal miner, was killed in the First World War when Sagar was six.
Sagar became a miner himself and played his first football for the Thorne Colliery team – usually after finishing his shift.
He played on pitches that were almost denuded of vegetation, with Sagar imagining that the slag heaps nearby were double-decker stands.
This all disappeared when Sagar joined Everton as an apprentice in 1929, making his senior debut a year later. He joined a side that had been relegated to Division Two but bounced back to the First Division in 1931.
The Toffees then won the First Division championship in 1932, finishing on 56 points – two above second-placed Arsenal.
It was a season where the goals flew in from everywhere! Everton scored no less than 116 of them, 84 at Goodison.
Dixie Dean waded in with 45 goals – only 15 short of the 60 he scored in the 1927-8 season – ably supported by Jimmy Stein, Tommy White, Jimmy Dunn and Tommy Johnson.
Alongside Sagar in defence were full backs Warney Cresswell and Ben Williams. The Toffees conceded 64 league goals during the season – a creditable total but no match for Arsenal’s miserly 48.
There was more success for Sagar at the 1933 FA Cup Final at on April 29th when the Toffees took on Manchester City at Wembley.
It was the first final where the players were issued with numbers for identification. Everton were numbered 1-11 while their opponents were numbered 12-22.
Everton were in control for most of the match with Sagar hardly required to make a save. The Toffees won 3-0 with goals from Dean, Stein and James Dunn.
By now, Sagar had established himself as a fearless goalkeeper, even though he weighed in at just under 11 stone and was 5ft 10ins tall.
Slight in stature, he had no problem commanding his penalty area at a time when it was common for goalkeepers to be barged by big centre forwards – sometimes into the net itself!
Sagar was also part of the Everton team that won the First Division title on the eve of war in 1939. The Toffees finished on 59 points, four points ahead of runners-up Wolverhampton Wanderers.
During the war, Sagar served as a driver-mechanic in the Royal Corps of Signals – and played for both Portadown and Glentoran when he was stationed in County Armagh. He also represented the Northern Ireland Regional League.
In 1945, Sagar rejoined Everton and played until 1952. He eventually notched up 499 appearances – a goalkeeping record only exceeded by Neville Southall in 1994.
Sagar was capped four times for England from 1935 to 1936, and earned the rare distinction of being the youngest goalkeeper to concede a penalty when England played Scotland in April 1936. He was 26 years and 57 days.
The match, at Wembley, was drawn 1-1. Tommy Walker slotted home the penalty for Scotland after George Camsell had scored for England.
Sagar ran a pub in Aintree after retiring and died at the age of 76 in October 1986.
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