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Joe Mercer

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Title: Joe Mercer  
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Subject: Malcolm Allison, England national football team manager, Manchester City F.C., Brigadier Gerard (horse), Aston Villa F.C.
Collection: 1914 Births, 1990 Deaths, Aldershot F.C. Wartime Guest Players, Arsenal F.C. Players, Aston Villa F.C. Managers, British Army Personnel of World War II, Chester City F.C. Wartime Guest Players, Coventry City F.C. Managers, Ellesmere Port Town F.C. Players, England International Footballers, England National Football Team Managers, England Wartime International Footballers, English Football Hall of Fame Inductees, English Football Managers, English Footballers, Everton F.C. Players, Manchester City F.C. Managers, Officers of the Order of the British Empire, People from Ellesmere Port, Reading F.C. Wartime Guest Players, Royal Army Physical Training Corps Soldiers, Sheffield United F.C. Managers, Sportspeople from Cheshire, The Football League Players, The Football League Representative Players
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Joe Mercer

Joe Mercer
Personal information
Full name Joseph Mercer
Date of birth 9 August 1914
Place of birth Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, England
Date of death 9 August 1990(1990-08-09) (aged 76)
Place of death England
Playing position Left half
Youth career
Ellesmere Port
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1932–1946 Everton 186 (2)
1946–1955 Arsenal 247 (2)
National team
1938–1939 England 5 (0)
Teams managed
1955–1958 Sheffield United
1958–1964 Aston Villa
1965–1971 Manchester City
1972–1974 Coventry City
1974 England (caretaker)

* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.

† Appearances (goals)

Joseph 'Joe' Mercer, OBE (9 August 1914 – 9 August 1990) was an English football player and manager.


  • Playing career 1
  • Managerial career 2
  • Later life 3
  • Honours 4
    • As a player 4.1
    • As a manager 4.2
    • Hall of Fame 4.3
  • Managerial statistics 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Playing career

Mercer was born in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, the son of a former Nottingham Forest and Tranmere Rovers footballer, also named Joe. Joe Mercer senior died, following health problems resulting from a gas attack during the Great War, while his son was only 12.[1]

Joe Mercer, a left-half, first played for Ellesmere Port Town. He was a powerful tackler and good at anticipating an opponent's moves. He joined Everton in September 1932 at the age of 18 and claimed a regular first team place in the 1935–36 season. Mercer made 186 appearances for Everton, scoring two goals and a winning a League Championship medal in the 1938–39 season. While playing for Everton he gained five England caps between 1938 and 1939.

Like many players of his generation, Mercer lost out on seven seasons of football due to the Second World War. He became a sergeant-major and played in 26 wartime internationals, many of them as captain. The Everton manager Theo Kelly accused Mercer of not trying in an international against Scotland, but in reality Mercer had sustained a severe cartilage injury. Even after consulting an orthopaedic specialist, the Everton management refused to believe him and Mercer had to pay for the surgery himself. During the war Mercer guested for Chester City, making his debut in a 4–1 win over Halifax Town in September 1942.[2]

Mercer moved in late 1946 for £9,000 (2010: £291,000) to Arsenal, commuting from Liverpool; Theo Kelly brought Mercer's boots to the transfer negotiations to prevent Mercer having a reason to go back to say goodbye to the other players at Everton.[3] He made his Arsenal debut against Bolton Wanderers on 30 November 1946 and soon after joining Arsenal, Mercer became club captain. As captain, he led Arsenal through their period of success in the late 1940s and early 1950s, helping to haul his side from the lower end of the table to win a League Championship title in 1947–48.

Mercer went on to win an FA Cup winner's medal in 1950 and was voted FWA Footballer of the Year the same year. He led Arsenal to Cup final in 1952, which they lost 1–0 to Newcastle United, but the following year bounced back to win his third League title with Arsenal winning the 1952–53 League Championship on goal average. Mercer initially decided to retire in May 1953, but soon recanted and returned to Arsenal for the 1953–54 season. However, he broke his leg in two places after a collision with team-mate Joe Wade in a match against Liverpool on 10 April 1954, and finally called time on his footballing career the year after. Mercer played 275 times for Arsenal in all, scoring two goals.

Managerial career

After his playing career ended Mercer spent a little over a year working as a journalist and a grocer. His wife's family had encouraged him to become involved in grocery during his time at Everton and, while still Arsenal's captain, he ran his grocery business from 105–107 Brighton Street, Wallasey.[4]

On 18 August 1955, he returned to football, becoming manager of Sheffield United two days before their first game of the season against Newcastle United. Mercer was appointed to replace manager Reg Freeman who had died during the close season. As a manager he began inauspiciously and his first season ended in relegation.

The rest of his time as manager was spent in the Second Division and in December 1958, wanting to move to another club, he resigned and moved to Aston Villa who were bottom of the First Division. Although he led them to the FA Cup semi-finals he was relegated to Division Two for a second time. He moulded a talented young side at Villa and his team became known as the 'Mercer Minors'. He led Villa to victory in the inaugural League Cup in 1961 but suffered a stroke in 1964, and was then sacked by the Aston Villa board upon his recovery.[5]

Despite this his health improved and he went on to enjoy great success as a manager with Manchester City between 1965 and 1971. In his first season at Maine Road, the club won the 1966 Second Division title to regain top-flight status. Two seasons later Mercer led Manchester City to the 1967-68 First Division championship, and went on to win the FA Cup (1969), League Cup (1970), and European Cup Winners' Cup (1970).

In 1970–71 Mercer had a dispute with his assistant Malcolm Allison, after the two men became embroiled in Manchester City's takeover battle. Mercer supported the existing Board, led by the respected Albert Alexander, while Allison supported the rival group led by Peter Swales after being promised that he would be manager in his own right.[6]

The takeover succeeded, and Mercer was shocked to discover that his car parking space and office were removed. This led to Mercer's departure to become manager of Coventry City, whom he managed from 1972 to 1974. During the same time Mercer was also caretaker manager of the England national football team for a brief period in 1974 after Sir Alf Ramsey's resignation. He was in charge for seven matches, during which time England won the 1974 British Home Championship title (shared with Scotland); in total Mercer was in charge for seven games — winning three, drawing three and losing one. The FA was so impressed by these performances that questions arose about the possibility of Mercer taking the job on a longer-term basis, with his Coventry City protege Gordon Milne. Mercer, too, seemed open to persuasion but the FA was working on another plan, putting out feelers to the most successful English club manager available, Leeds United's Don Revie.[7]

Later life

After quitting as Coventry City boss, he served as a director of the club from 1975 to his retirement in 1981. He was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for services to football in 1976. He suffered with Alzheimer's disease in later life and died, sitting in his favourite armchair, on his 76th birthday in 1990.[8] He was survived by his widow Norah, who remained a keen football follower, and attended Manchester City matches to support City for many years.[9] She died in March 2013 and her funeral was attended by 120-plus mourners, including City legends Mike Summerbee, Tony Book, Colin Bell and Joe Corrigan as well as Sir Bobby Charlton.[10]

He is commemorated by his old club Manchester City with the road Joe Mercer Way at the City of Manchester Stadium being named after him. On the road there are two mosaics by renowned Manchester artist Mark Kennedy of Mercer; one shows his smiling face lifting the League Championship trophy; the other is a version of a famous photograph showing the back of him as he looks out over the Maine Road pitch towards the Kippax Stand.[11] His contribution to City was commemorated in the Kippax tribute still sung at the Etihad Stadium to the tune of Auld Lang Syne: "The Stretford End cried out aloud: 'It's the end of you Sky Blues.' Joe Mercer came. We played the game. We went to Rotherham United, we won 1–0 and we were back into Division One. We've won the League, we've won the Cup, we've been to Europe too. And when we win the League again we'll sing this song to you: City, City, City."[12]

At Maine Road a corporate suite, the Joe Mercer Suite, was officially opened by his widow Norah in 1993. A similar facility named after him exists at Goodison. In 1993 Mercer's official biography, Football With A Smile, was written by Gary James. This book sold out within six months and was revised and re-published early in 2010.[13]


As a player



As a manager

Aston Villa

Manchester City


Hall of Fame

Managerial statistics

Team Nat From To Record
G W D L Win %
Sheffield United August 1955 December 1958 156 64 35 57 41.0
Aston Villa December 1958 July 1964 282 120 63 99 42.6
Manchester City July 1965 June 1971 292 124 82 86 42.5
Coventry City June 1972 May 1974 90 29 22 39 32.2
England 1974 1974 7 3 3 1 42.9

See also


  1. ^ Gary James (1993). Football With A Smile: The Authorised Biography of Joe Mercer, OBE. p. 16.  
  2. ^ Chas Sumner (1997). On the Borderline: The Official History of Chester City 1885–1997. p. 59.  
  3. ^ Corbett, James (2003); p104 Everton:School of Science publ by MacMillan ISBN 0-330-42006-2
  4. ^ Gary James (1993). Football With A Smile: The Authorised Biography of Joe Mercer, OBE. p. 65.  
  5. ^ Clayton, David (2002). Everything under the blue moon: the complete book of Manchester City FC – and more!. Edinburgh: Mainstream publishing.  
  6. ^ Gary James (1993). Football With A Smile: The Authorised Biography of Joe Mercer, OBE. pp. 247–266.  
  7. ^ "The forgotten story of … England under Joe Mercer". The Guardian (London). 
  8. ^ Gary James (1993). Football With A Smile: The Authorised Biography of Joe Mercer, OBE. p. 290.  
  9. ^ "Widow of Manchester City legend Joe Mercer tells the M.E.N. of her delight that the Blues have finally repeated her husband’s title glory". Manchester Evening News. 17 May 2012. Retrieved 2012-05-17. 
  10. ^ "Legends pay respects to Joe’s ‘shining light’". Manchester Evening News. 26 March 2013. Retrieved 28 March 2014. 
  11. ^ Gary James (2008). Manchester – A Football History. pp. 461–462.  
  12. ^ "The forgotten story of … England under Joe Mercer". The Guardian (London). 
  13. ^ "JOE MERCER, OBE – FOOTBALL WITH A SMILE". James Ward. Retrieved 26 November 2009. 
  14. ^ "Latest news – Hall of Fame 2009". National Football Museum. Retrieved 8 July 2009. 
  • Harris, Jeff & Hogg, Tony (ed.) (1995). Arsenal Who's Who. Independent UK Sports.  

External links

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