Ellesmere Port, Cheshire born centre half Joe Mercer played junior football for Burnell’s Ironworks in 1908 and for Ellesmere Port in 1909 before joining First Division Nottingham Forest in 1910, making his Football League debut against Tottenham Hotspur that December. He played 14 times as Forest were relegated in his debut season and then established himself as their regular pivot between 1911 and the end of peacetime football in 1915 due to the onset of The First World War. By then he had scored 6 goals in 157 appearances for Forest.
On 16th December 1914, four months into the War, Mercer enlisted the 17th (Service) Battalion of the Duke of Cambridge’s Own (Middlesex Regiment), the so called Footballer’s Battalion, and was posted to the front on 17th October 1915. At the front, he was promoted to sergeant and sustained wounds in the head, leg and shoulder. He was captured by the Germans in Oppy on 28th April 1917 and was held in camps at Douai, Bad Langensalza, Giessen and Meschede. He returned home in January 1919. In the post-war years, Mercer attempted to resume his football career, initially playing with Ellesmere Port and then making 18 appearances for Tranmere Rovers, scoring once, in their inaugural Football League season in 1921-22, but he was forced to retire before dying in 1927 of health problems caused by gas inhalation in the trenches a decade earlier.
He was the father of Everton and Arsenal footballer and football manager Joe Mercer.