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Joe Mercer

English footballer who also excelled as a manager, becoming in the process one of the most popular figures in British football since the war.

Born in Ellesmere Port in 1914, Mercer made his debut for Everton in 1931 and first appeared for England in 1938.  A year later he played a key role in Everton's League Championship victory.  Mercer was the master of interception and distribution; a shrewd tactician he had the ability to inspire confidence in those around him.  The Second World War curtailed his international career but not before he had gained the captaincy.  

After the war Mercer moved to Arsenal and enjoyed a rival in reputation after switching from wing-half to the defence.  He captained Arsenal to the League Championship in 1948 and 1953 and the FA Cup in 1950: that year he was voted Footballer of the Year.

A broken leg brought his career to an end in 1954 and he moved into management at Sheffield United the following year.  He took over at Aston Villa in 1958  where he moulded a talented young side that was dubbed  the 'Mercer Minors'.  Having led them to victory in the League Cup in 1960, he suffered a stroke and lost his position in 1964. 

A year later Mercer returned to football as manager of Manchester City, and steered them through one of their great eras, winning the League Championship in 1968, the FA Cup in 1969 and the double of the League Cup and the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1970.  By 1972 Mercer found himself in dispute with his assistant Malcolm Allison who wished to have more influence.  He left City and shortly afterwards was appointed manager of Coventry where he remained in charge until 1975.  Mercer also stood in as temporary replacement for Alf Ramsay as manager of England in 1974.   He retired from management a year later and served as a director of Coventry until his retirement in 1981.

Joe was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for services to football in 1976. He died on his 76th birthday in 1990.  Joe is still remembered with great affection for his humour and his refusal to get too wound up about football.  In 2003, the main pedestrian walkway to Manchester City's new Stadium was named Joe Mercer Way in his honour.