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Joe Mercer, OBE

  Mick Lyons

Hall of Fame Index

Kevin Ratcliffe   

In September 1932 a tall, thin, dark-haired teenager joined Everton from Ellesmere Port, the club in the town where he was born.  Despite his youth, Joe Mercer was clearly one to watch, and went on to establish his name as one of the first to be written on the England team-sheet during his time at Everton.  Nevertheless it must have been daunting for an 18-year-old joining a club which had just won the League Title, and suddenly being pitched amongst the big-name stars like Ted Sagar, Cliff Britton and Bill Dean.

Five months after signing, Mercer made his debut his only appearance that season at Leeds United, and only played eight games in the next campaign, but already his tactical awareness and all-round ability were marking him out as a future international.

Mercer claimed a first-team spot on a regular basis during the 1935-36 season, partnering Cliff Britton in the wing-half position, and scored his only League goal for Everton.  He was anything but prolific, that goal representing half his total for the club in 184 appearances, but in a team with the likes of Dean and Lawton it hardly mattered.  The wing-half's role was primarily a defensive one in any case, and by now Mercer was developing into one of the best.  He was an integral part of the landmark 1938-39 side which won the Championship, and a long run in the England side looked likely.  Cruelly, the war interrupted his international career, terminally as it turned out – although he was capped 26 times unofficially during the wartime years.

Sergeant Major Mercer returned to Goodison in 1945, eager to continue where he had left off six years earlier, but somehow things were never the same again.  He became unhappy with his situation, and Arsenal stepped in to sign him in December 1946.  As if to prove he was not a spent force, he captained the Gunners to the Championship in 1948 and the FA Cup two years later – beating Liverpool 2-0 in the Final, ironically while still living on Merseyside and training at Anfield!  He won a third Championship medal in 1952-53 at the age of 38, but a year afterwards his playing days were over following a double fracture of a leg.

So he turned to management, initially with Sheffield United, then more successfully at Aston Villa.  After retiring once, he and Malcolm Allison took over at ailing Manchester City in 1965 and restored the pride to Maine Road.  Twelve years later he even took temporary charge of the England side, between the resignation of Don Revie and the appointment of Ron Greenwood.  Later he became a director of Coventry City, but resigned in 1981.  Seven years later, on his 76th birthday, Joe Mercer died, and another great pre-war Everton player was gone.

9/8/14 Ellesmere Port
Lge apps 170, total 184
Lge gls 1, total 2
Caps 5 (England)

This page Richard Pike & Marko Poutiainen 1999.

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