A major figure in the history of football in Leeds, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire born left back Dick Ray began his football career with Audley in 1892 and played for Macclesfield in 1893, with whom he won the Cheshire Senior Cup before joining Second Division Burslem Port Vale in 1894, making his Football League debut against Walsall Town Swifts in September 1894. He was a regular performer for the club, however he failed to turn up for one match after misreading a train timetable, and was fined five shillings for his trouble. In total he played 29 of the club’s 30 Second Division games in the 1894-95 season, and scored his first goal in the Football League on 2nd February, in a 2-1 defeat to Manchester City at the Athletic Ground. He also played in their FA Cup exit at the hands of non league Stourbridge. He departed in the summer of 1895 and spent part of the 1895-96 season with Crewe Alexandra, but didn’t make a first team appearance. He instead returned to Macclesfield, picking up a second Cheshire Senior Cup winners medal.
He then joined Second Division Manchester City in the summer of 1896 and featured regularly over the next 3 seasons, culminating in City winning the Second Division Championship in 1898-99, Ray scoring once in 25 appearances during the campaign. However he played only 9 times in the top flight, and after a spell back at Macclesfield in 1900 he joined Southern League Coventry City in 1902 having scored 3 times in 89 appearances for The Citizens.
He returned to the Football League in 1903 with Stockport County, playing 36 times in a single season before joining Chesterfield Town in 1904, where he made 34 appearances for The Spireites. He then joined Leeds City following his Chesterfield manager Gilbert Gillies to Elland Road in time for the club’s first season in League football, playing in their inaugural League match at Bradford City. Ray skippered the side before leaving when the board declined not to renew Gillies’ contract in March 1908, when he joined non league Huddersfield Town, with whom he finished his playing career after having made 44 appearances for Leeds City.
Ray retired from playing in 1912 and then served in the Royal Army Service Corps during World War One. He was invited to become a member of the original committee that was elected to manage the new Leeds United following Leeds City’s expulsion from the Football League in October 1919. He was appointed the club’s first manager in the 1919-20 Midland League season, before Arthur Fairclough was appointed as his successor. Ray worked as Fairclough’s assistant, before leaving Elland Road in June 1923. In August 1923 he was appointed as Doncaster Rovers’ manager, and led “Donny” to ninth in the Third Division (North) in the club’s first season back in the Football League. Rovers struggled to finish 18th in 1924-25, just three places and six points above the re-election zone. He then took them to tenth and eighth place finishes in 1925-26 and 1926-27 seasons. At Belle Vue he notably signed four members of the Keetley family: Tom, Harry, Joe and Frank.
When Arthur Fairclough resigned following Leeds United’s relegation into the Second Division at the end of 1926-27, the Leeds board recalled Ray as manager in July 1927. Described as “an outspoken character”, he developed Bert Sproston, Billy Furness, Eric Stephenson, Arthur Hydes, Tom Cochrane, George Milburn and Jim Milburn into key players for the club. He also signed Charlie Keetley in July 1927, who would go on to become the club’s most prolific goalscorer. He installed an all-England international half-back line of Willis Edwards, Ernest Hart and Wilf Copping.
Ray led Leeds United to promotion in 1927-28 with a runners up finish, just two points behind Champions Manchester City. Leeds finished 13th in the First Division in 1928-29, before rising to fifth place in 1929-30. The Peacocks then suffered relegation in 1930-31 but he succeeded in taking the club to immediate promotion in 1931-32, as they finished in second position, just two points behind champions Wolverhampton Wanderers. He then took them to eighth spot in 1932-33 and ninth place in 1933-34. Yet with Wilf Copping sold to Arsenal, Leeds fell to 18th place in 1934-35 and Ray resigned in March 1935, with Leeds struggling against relegation.
After Ray left Elland Road, he took over from Jack Peart as Bradford City manager in April 1935. The Bantams finished 12th in the Second Division in 1935-36. However, he left his post at Valley Parade in February 1938, with the club having suffered relegation in 1936-37. He later worked as chief scout at Millwall.
The Football League appointed Ray as the first manager of a Football League representative team, for a 2-2 draw with the Scottish League at Ibrox in February 1934. He was presented with a gold medal to mark the honour.