Joe Mercer

A true great, on the pitch and in the dug-out

Player Biography
Full name: Joseph Mercer
Date of birth: August 9, 1914
Date of death: August 9, 1990
Clubs played for: Everton, Arsenal
Clubs managed: Sheffield United, Aston Villa, Manchester City, Coventry
Joe Mercer holds up the cup
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Joe Mercer holds up the cup Joe Mercer with FA Cup Joe Mercer holds the FA Cup Joe Mercer Joe Mercer Sir Matt Busby with Joe Mercer and Ken Dodd Joe Mercer, Malcolm Allison and Tony Book, 1968 Managers face to face Manchester City 2-1 Gornik Zabrze Joe Mercer with the cup Joe Mercer Manchester City 2-1 Gornik Zabrze, European Cup Winners' Cup final Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison, 1971 George Graham and Joe Mercer
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Club Career

A strong left-half, Joe Mercer starred for Everton in the mid to late 1930s, winning five England caps, before his career was interrupted by World War II. He joined Arsenal after the war, playing almost 250 League games in nine years before retiring in 1955.

Club Stats

Years Clubs App Goals
1932-46 Everton 170 1
1946-55 Arsenal 247 2

International Career

Mercer played five times for England between 1938 and 1939, and also appeared in 26 wartime internationals, many of them as captain.

International Career Stats

Years Clubs App Goals
1938-39 England 5 0

Managerial Career

On retiring as a player, Mercer worked for a while as a journalist and a grocer before returning to football as Sheffield United manager in 1955. He resigned three years later to take charge of Aston Villa where, following relegation to Division Two, he re-built the side. They won the Second Division title in 1960, and a year later claimed the inaugural League Cup, before health problems led to his dismissal.

It was a decision the Villa board would come to regret as, following his recovery, he went on to manage Manchester City, winning the League title, FA Cup and Cup-Winners' Cup with the Maine Road club. Following a takeover at the club, however, he was relieved of his duties. He then managed Coventry for two years and also had a spell, in 1974, as caretaker-manager of England.

Key Games

Arsenal 2-0 Liverpool (FA Cup final, April 29, 1950)

Joe Mercer lifted the trophy at Wembley as Arsenal claimed the FA Cup for the third time in their history, and the first time for 14 years, with a masterclass against Liverpool. Reg Lewis scored both goals in a 2-0 win.

Arsenal 3-2 Burnley (First Division, May 1, 1953)

With Arsenal needing to win their final game of the season to clinch the League title, Mercer returned from a foot injury that had kept him sidelined for five weeks. And he duly inspired his team-mates to a 3-2 victory, with goals from Alex Forbes, Doug Lishman and Jimmy Logie to steal the title from Preston on goal average.

Scotland 1-2 England (International friendly, April 15, 1939)

Mercer was one of England's heroes as goals from Albert Beasley and Tommy Lawton earned them their first win at Hampden Park for 12 years in front of a reported crowd of 150,000 fans. Most of whom were not best pleased...!


Club Competition Year
Everton First Division Championship 1938-39
Arsenal First Division Championship 1948-49, 1952-53
FA Cup 1950
Football Writers' Footballer of the Year 1950
Aston Villa (as manager) League Cup 1961
Second Division Championship 1959-60
Manchester City (as manager) First Division Championship 1967-68
FA Cup 1969
League Cup 1970
European Cup-Winners' Cup 1970
Second Division Championship 1965-66

Did You Know...?

The main pedestrian walkway to Manchester City's Eastlands Stadium is named 'Joe Mercer Way' in his honour, following his success at the club in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Mercer stood in as caretaker England manager in 1974 after Alf Ramsey's sacking. He was in charge for seven games - in a four week period! - winning three, drawing one and losing three.

When Mercer was discussing his transfer from Everton to Arsenal in 1946, Everton manager Theo Kelly took the player's boots to the negotiations so he would have no reason to return to the club - not even to say goodbye to his former team-mates!

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From the back pages

Scotland 1-2 England Published: April 17, 1939

International friendly match report

Arsenal v Liverpool Published: April 29, 1950

FA Cup final preview

Arsenal 2-0 Liverpool Published: May 1, 1950

FA Cup final match report

Arsenal v Burnley Published: May 1, 1953

Title decider match preview

Arsenal 3-2 Burnley Published: May 3, 1953

Title decider match report

Joe's Career Ends As His Wife Fears Published: April 12, 1954

Joe Mercer retires through injury

Rotherham 0-1 Manchester City Published: May 5, 1966

Second Division match report

Newcastle 3-4 Manchester City Published: May 13, 1968

First Division match report

Gornik Zabrze 1-2 Manchester City Published: April 30, 1970

European Cup-Winners’ Cup final match report

  • Arsenal 3-2 Manchester United

    FA Cup final, May 12, 1979

  • Arsenal 1-2 Manchester United

    FA Cup semi-final replay, April 14, 1999

  • Arsenal 1-0 Tottenham

    FA Cup semi-final, April 4, 1993

  • Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 Arsenal

    FA Cup Semi-Final, April 14, 1991

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