Broadcast live on this day (25 March) in 1970 was the This is Your Life TV episode with Joe Mercer as the subject. Here are the details plus a special recording which supporters of all the clubs Joe was involved with could be interested in.
This Is Your Life was viewed at the time as significant recognition for a lifetime’s achievement. Only major stars and personalities were featured in those days, and the main idea would be that the subject of the programme would be surprised by the sudden appearance of presenter Eamonn Andrews and his ‘Big Red Book’. The subject would then be whisked away to a studio or other location where a variety of figures from the person’s life would be brought out to tell anecdotes and the like. The main part of the show would be broadcast live.
Back in 1970 young Manchester City supporter John Stapleton was working on the series and he suggested they feature Joe Mercer as the topic of one show. John, who has gone on to be a prominent broadcaster with a well-regarded TV career was interviewed by me a few years back and we discussed the programme and John’s part in the idea of featuring Joe: ‘I did it purely for the benefit of me and my dad. Eamon Andrews, the presenter, had of course a great interest in sport and I put the idea to him and the rest of the production team. Together with Norah, Joe’s wife who in recent years I often sat with at games sharing her boiled sweets, we concocted a situation where Joe and Malcolm were in a London hotel before a trip to watch a European game in 1970. Malcolm disappeared – deliberately as part of the show though Joe didn’t know this – and Joe was called to reception urgently. Eamon leaped out to do the big “This Is Your Life” reveal and Joe had no idea whatsoever. It was a great day for us all and Joe was thoroughly deserving of it as well.’
Joe was staying at a Hilton Hotel in London. As John described, He had been due to fly with Malcolm Allison to the continent to watch ECWC semi-final opponents Schalke but he had received a message to say the game was off. It was all a ruse of course. That night television viewers watched as Eamonn Andrews surprised Joe at the hotel reception desk: ‘Joe Mercer, former England playing star, now manager of Cup winning Manchester City, tonight. This Is Your Life!’
At the start of the show the City team appeared. This had been an extremely busy time for the Blues. Over a 18 day period City had played two League games, the League Cup final, the second leg of the ECWC quarter-final with Coimbra and found time to work with television to honour their manager. This live show occurred on Wednesday 25 March and City were to face Derby in the League on 27th and Manchester United on 28th, plus they had to play the first leg of the ECWC semi-final with Schalke on 1st. It was incredible that a team would be involved in this at such a busy time but that’s the way it was.
As Joe explains in the show Malcolm Allison was nowhere to be seen. He had been staying with Joe at the hotel and the City manager commented: ‘I’m a great sleeper you see, and subconsciously I heard Malcolm getting up and I thought, oh, he’s going to the bathroom. I thought, well, he hasn’t come back, so he must be having a bath, and then I went back to sleep. I woke about ten and Malcolm had gone, but occasionally this happens – Malcolm disappears!’
Andrews explained that Allison had left early to watch the match which was still on. Joe was flabbergasted: ‘He’s left all his clothes! I’ve had to pack his bag as well!’
During the course of the show, Andrews informed Joe that Alf Ramsey had named the squad he was to take to the 1970 World Cup: ‘I know you haven’t had a chance to hear the news, but I’m going to tell it to you now, that two of your boys have been named by Alf for the World Cup – Francis Lee and Colin Bell. And two more in the twelve reserves – Mike Summerbee and Alan Oakes. Congratulations lads, and to the whole of the Manchester City.’
Joe was overjoyed.
Subscribers to this website are now in for a special treat as an audio of the entire episode has been preserved and can now be listened to here:
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You can listen to this special recording of Joe Mercer, Eamon Andrews, Dixie Dean, Malcolm Allison, Stan Cullis, Stanley Matthews etc. by subscribing. It costs £3 per month (cancel anytime) to access everything posted since 1 Oct 2022 or there’s an annual option (below).
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You can listen to this special recording of Joe Mercer, Eamon Andrews, Dixie Dean, Malcolm Allison, Stan Cullis, Stanley Matthews etc. by subscribing. It costs £20 per year (cancel anytime) to access everything posted since the site began in December 2020, that includes history talks, videos, a couple of my books, hundreds of articles etc.
Joe appeared on several other This Is Your Life shows including in November 1988 when Tom Finney was the subject and in 1980 when Emlyn Hughes was. He also appeared on two for Matt Busby, one in 1958 and one in 1971 (which opened at Maine Road).
The Programme details for the Joe Mercer episode are:
- Edition No: 274
- Subject No: 276
- Broadcast live: Wed 25 Mar 1970
- Broadcast time: 7.00-7.30pm
- Venue: Euston Road Studios
- Series: 10
- Edition: 18
- Director: Margery Baker
- Producer: Robert Tyrrell
- City supporter and broadcaster John Stapleton worked on the show
The guests were:
- Norah – wife
- members of Manchester City FC team
- Francis Lee
- Colin Bell
- Mike Summerbee
- Alan Oakes
- Alan Percival
- David – son
- Joan – daughter-in-law
- Arthur – brother
- Stan Cullis
- Billy Dixie Dean
- Jim Morris
- Charles Palmer
- Matt Busby
- Frank Soo
- Walley Barnes
- Maurice Edelston
- Bernard Joy
- Roy White
- George Hardwick
- Raich Carter
- Neil Franklin
- Stanley Matthews
- Malcolm Allison
- Susan – granddaughter
- Albert Dyson – father-in-law
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