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

He was born in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire and at first played for Ellesmere Port F.C. Mercer played at left-half. He was a powerful tackler and good at anticipating an opponent's moves. He joined Everton in September 1932 at the age of 18. He 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. During this time he gained five England caps.

Unfortunately, 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 but nevertheless played in 26 wartime internationals. The Everton manager Theo Kelly accused Mercer of not trying in an international against Scotland. 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 (after 14 years with the club). Understandably upset, Mercer moved in 1946 for £9,000 to Arsenal, although he commuted 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.

At Arsenal, Mercer quickly became captain, and won an FA Cup winner's medal in 1950 and League Championship medals in 1947-48 and 1952-53. Mercer initially decided to retire in May 1953, but recanted and returned to Arsenal for 1953-54. However, he was forced to retire for good that season, after breaking his leg in two places in a match against Liverpool. Mercer played 275 times for Arsenal in all, and was voted FWA Footballer of the Year in 1950.

As a manager Mercer began inauspiciously as his first season at Sheffield United ended in relegation, but he moulded a talented young side at Aston Villa from 1958 and his team became known as the 'Mercer Minors'. He led Villa to victory in the inaugural League Cup in 1961. However, he was sacked from Villa in 1964 on grounds of ill health.

Despite this his health improved and he went on to enjoy great success as a manager with Manchester City. During his time there he won the First Division (1968), FA Cup (1969), League Cup (1970), and European Cup Winners' Cup (1970).

Mercer was manager of the English national football team for a brief period in 1974 after Sir Alf Ramsey's resignation. He was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1976.

Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year
England national football team manager


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