Club Connector: Joe Mercer
We profile the former Everton half-back and Man City manager.
Remembered as a player on Merseyside and a manager in Manchester, the late Joe Mercer brought success to Goodison Park and Maine Road during his time associated with both clubs.
As the subject of this week’s Club Connector, evertonfc.com revisits the career enjoyed by one of English football’s most decorated and respected professionals…
September 1932 to November 1946
MANCHESTER CITY (MANAGER)
July 1965 to June 1971
Joe Mercer was scouted from hometown club Ellesmere Port in 1932 at the age of 18 but didn’t feature in Everton’s FA Cup success the following year. He made only a handful of appearances during his first couple of seasons at Goodison Park, but after sampling regular football at the back end of the 1934/35 campaign, he soon established himself as a dependable half-back.
The latter part of that decade saw Everton record several mid-table finishes but Mercer was then a constant figure as the Blues rose from their period of relative obscurity to win the Division One title in1938/39.
During his time with Everton, tough-tackling Mercer earned England recognition. He made his debut in the Three Lions’ 7-0 win over Northern Ireland in November 1938 and went on to earn four more caps.
Like many great players of his generation, Mercer’s career was put on hold for six years because of the Second World War. Once the conflict had finished, he joined Arsenal in 1946 – the only other club he represented during his distinguished career.
At Highbury, he again enjoyed success. The Gunners twice won the Division One crown, in 1948 and 1953, bookending an FA Cup success in 1950.
GREATEST BLUES MOMENT
Undoubtedly, Mercer’s biggest achievement with Everton was helping the Club become champions of England in 1938/39. The Blues regained their mantle after a six-year wait, with Mercer missing just one of the 42 league fixtures.
Everton’s form on the road that year was patchy but Goodison became a fortress. Seventeen of the 21 matches ended in home victories as the Toffees - inspired by Tommy Lawton’s 35-goal haul – finished four points above Wolverhampton Wanderers to secure the silverware.
FOR THE OTHER SIDE
While playing for Arsenal, Mercer broke both his legs against Liverpool in April 1954, which eventually led to his retirement from playing.
He took up his first managerial job with Sheffield United in August 1955 and moved to Aston Villa in December 1958. Within three seasons Mercer had revived the fortunes of the struggling Midlands Club, helping Villa to climb back into the top-flight and lift the League Cup.
Mercer suffered a stroke in 1964 and this led to his departure from Villa Park, but he was soon back in management with Manchester City in 1965. And it was the start of a trophy-laden period at Maine Road.
Similarly to his time at Aston Villa, Mercer helped City regain their Division One status in his first season in charge. Two years later they were crowned English champions and, in 1968/69, FA Cup winners.
The Maine Road trophy cabinet continued to swell. Mercer won the League Cup for the second time in his managerial career in 1969/70 – a season which also saw City lift the European Cup Winners’ Cup.
A takeover at Manchester City led to Mercer’s departure in the summer of 1971, with his assistant Malcolm Allison taking up the reins.
LATER LIFE AND LEGACY IN FOOTBALL
The final years of Mercer’s career in football were spent in the dugout at Highfield Road, where he managed Coventry City.
He also served as caretaker manager of England in 1974 following Sir Alf Ramsey’s resignation, presiding over seven international matches. He was considered a candidate for the job on a full-time basis but the FA eventually plumped for Leeds United's Don Revie.
This was Mercer’s last major role in football and his service to the game was recognised in 1976, when he was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire.
Mercer passed away on his 76th birthday in 1990 after suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease – but his contributions to Everton and Manchester City assured him a place in the annuls of both clubs.
Both Goodison Park and the Etihad Stadium feature the Joe Mercer Suites, which house supporters enjoying corporate hospitality on home matchdays.
In 2009, Mercer was inducted into English Football’s Hall of Fame, where he joined Everton greats Dixie Dean, Tommy Lawton, Neville Southall, Gary Lineker, Alan Ball and Peter Beardsley.