Everton Football Club is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of the Club’s former manager, Gordon Lee, at the age of 87.
Gordon was in charge at Goodison Park from 1977 to 1981, succeeding Billy Bingham and preceding Howard Kendall.
He led Everton out at Wembley ahead of the 1977 League Cup final and also steered the Blues to two FA Cup semi-finals and two top-four finishes in the First Division.
Gordon Lee was born in the Staffordshire town of Cannock on 13 July 1934 and began his playing career at Hednesford Town before joining Aston Villa in 1955.
He was with Villa when they reached the 1957 FA Cup final, but he didn’t feature in their 2-1 win against Manchester United at Wembley.
He did, however, appear in both legs of the 1961 League Cup final when Villa defeated Rotherham United to claim the inaugural trophy and was again involved in the 1963 final, which was lost to Birmingham City.
In 1966, Gordon left Villa Park to see out his playing days at Shrewsbury Town.
But it was to be in the dugout where he really made his mark.
Gordon was a bright, forward-thinking coach and in the summer of 1968, he replaced the legendary Stanley Matthews and within two years he had orchestrated a promotion from the Fourth Division up into the third tier.
In January 1974 he was invited to take over at Blackburn Rovers and he led them to the Third Division title in his first full season.
Top-flight clubs were beginning to take notice of Gordon and after his promotion campaign at Ewood Park he was prised away by First Division Newcastle United.
Newcastle reached the 1976 League Cup final, where they were beaten by Manchester City, and Gordon famously sold Toon hero Malcolm Macdonald to Arsenal shortly after.
In January 1977, Everton came calling.
The Blues were already in the League Cup semi-final when Gordon arrived and they duly reached the final where it needed three games before Aston Villa won the second replay 3-2 at Old Trafford.
Everton also reached the FA Cup semi-final and were infamously denied a famous victory over Liverpool by a decision from referee Clive Thomas that is still inexplicable to this day. Liverpool won the replay 3-0.
The Blues reached the last four again in 1980 but were surprise losers to Second Division West Ham, with the father of our current manager netting the decisive goal.
Lee signed players like George Wood, Dave Thomas, Brian Kidd, Colin Todd, John Bailey, Asa Hartford, John Gidman, Graeme Sharp and Alan Irvine for Everton and also gave debuts to Kevin Ratcliffe, Kevin Richardson and Steve McMahon.
The team finished third in the table in 1977/78 and fourth the following season, but that was as good as it got for Gordon.
After a poor finish to the 1980/81 campaign he was relieved of his duties and Everton turned to former player Howard Kendall as his replacement.
Gordon wasn’t finished with football management though and had later spells at Preston North End, KYR Reykjavik in Iceland and Leicester City in a caretaker capacity, stepping in after David Pleat was sacked and overseeing an escape from relegation.
Gordon remained in contact with Everton Football Club via the Former Players’ Foundation and he was a regular and most welcome attendee at the annual Christmas Lunch, relishing the opportunity to meet up with some of his players.
He settled into retirement in Lytham St Annes and enjoyed playing golf and walking.
Gordon Lee passed away peacefully in his sleep on 8 March 2022 and his son Gary said: “Everton have been wonderful to him and our family – please pass on our thanks for being a huge part of his journey.”
Graeme Sharp, who Gordon brought to Everton from Dumbarton in 1980, said: “I will always be grateful to Gordon Lee for bringing me to Everton Football Club. He showed faith in me and gave me my debut as a young footballer. Gordon was a massive part of my development and I always enjoyed meeting up with him later in life. I am deeply saddened by his loss and extend my sympathy to his family.”
And Kevin Ratcliffe, given his Everton bow by Gordon at Manchester United in March 1980, added: “Gordon loved to give young players an opportunity and I will forever be grateful that he gave me mine at Everton.
"He was ahead of his time with some of his coaching methods and with a bit more luck would have brought honours to the Club. He left his mark on Everton and his passing is a very sad one.”