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John Carey was one of the outstanding defenders of his time. His innovative defensive play and clean tackling gained him the admiration of his fellow-players. Throughout a highly successful career Carey captained United to the F.A. Cup in 1948 and the League Championship in 1952, and had the distinction of playing for both the Republic and Northern Ireland in a distinguished international career.
John Carey was in Dublin, the son of John Carey, van driver, and his wife, Sarah. He left Ireland at the age of seventeen when he was transferred by his Dublin club, St James's Gate, to Manchester United for a sum of £200. In his first full season at Old Trafford, in 1937–8, he played at inside forward and was part of the successful team that won promotion to the first division that year. In the same season he won his first international cap for the Irish team.
Carey played for Manchester United during the first three seasons of the Second World War, in regional football leagues, but his career was interrupted in 1943 when he took the decision to join the British army. He served in the Queen's Royal Hussars and took part in the campaigns in the Middle East and Italy.
Between the 1946/7 and 1950/51 seasons, Manchester United finished runners-up in the league four times. The title was finally clinched in the 1951/2 season. In 1948 Carey also won an FA Cup winners medal in the 4-2 victory over Blackpool in a classic final. The following year he was elected footballer of the year, and in 1950 sportsman of the year.
In 1953 Carey finally retired as a player. He went on to manage second-division Blackburn Rovers, gaining them promotion to the first division in 1958. Carey was then appointed manager of Everton where he rebuilt a poor team and directed them to fifth place in the league by the close of the 1961 season. He was famously sacked by Everton chairman, John Moores, in the back of a London taxi en route for the Football League annual meeting.
Carey then moved to Leyton Orient, leading the London team to the first division for the first time in their history in his first season there. He subsequently managed Nottingham Forest before a second, less successful, spell at Blackburn Rovers.