David William Mercer was born in the Parr suburb of St Helens in Lancashire and in his late teens he worked as a coal miner while playing Lanacshire Combination football for St Helens Town. In February 1913 he transferred to Liverpool County Combination side Skelmersdale United where he scored a flurry of goals and attracted attention from Hull City’s extensive north west scouting network.
Joining the Tigers in January 1914, Dave was introduced to the City first team for the last two fixtures of the season in April 1914. He evidently impressed because the 21 year old outside right was an ever present throughout the 1914/15 season, scoring his first senior goal on Christmas Day 1914 against Wolves and following up in the New Year with further goals against Blackpool, Fulham and Grimsby – City won all four matches that Mercer scored in.
This ever present run continued into the wartime leagues after the Football League was suspended in the 1915 close season. He didn’t miss a game for the four seasons that City competed in the wartime Midland Section and scored 48 times in 142 starts, though these games do not feature in his senior playing record below. He scored a hattrick against Bradford City in October 1917 and repeated the feat in December 1917 against Lincoln City and February 1918 against Gainsborough Trinity – during the 1917/18 season Dave scored 26 times in 34 starts. In January 1919 he struck six goals against Sheffield United only for the match to be abandoned as darkness fell – it was a feat that left a lasting impression on the Blades.
When senior football resumed in August 1919 Mercer’s consistency continued, he missed only match all season in April 1920 and was City’s second top goalscorer with 17 strikes, just one behind top scoring centre forward Sammy Stevens. After starting the first eight matches of the 1920/21 season Mercer dropped out of the City first eleven for the first time in over seven years as a knee injury sustained on a FA XI tour in South Africa required convalescence. This absence also saw speculation of a transfer starting to build, in December 1920 that speculation bore fruit and Mercer was sold to Division 1 side Sheffield United for a British record transfer fee of £4,500.
Mercer was immediately introduced to the Blades first team and over the next seven seasons he was a regular presence in the United first team as the club gradually revived from relegation battlers to top six combatants. Dave’s goal tally in the top flight was more modest – his best came in 1925/26 season when he struck eight league goals – but the Bramalla Lane side good good value for their transfer fee outlay. In the 1922/23 season Sheffield United reached the FA Cup semi final, Mercer starting the March 1923 against Bolton at Old Trafford that the Blades lost 0-1. Two years later in 1924/25 United went one better and won the FA Cup Final against Cardiff City at Wembley Stadium, yielding Mercer his one career medal. When he ended his association with Sheffield United at the end of the 1927/28 season Mercer had made 241 senior appearances and scored 22 goals.
In October 1928 Mercer moved to Midland League side Shirebrook. In June 1929 Dave returned to the Football League scene when he signed for Division Three South side Torquay United. He made 29 appearances for Torquay in what became his final senior season, a short spell at Dartmouth United in 1930 drawing his playing days to a close. After football he became a groundsman at a Torquay golf club, his son Arthur David Mercer playing professional football for Torquay United in the late 1940s. David died in Torquay in June 1950.
In 1920 Mercer toured South Africa with an English FA XI and in 1922 he was selected for a Football League XI. In October 1922 he was handed his first England cap when selected to start against Ireland at The Hawthorns. He won a second England cap in March 1923 against Belgium, a 6-1 victory played at Arsenal’s Highbury ground in which Mercer scored the fourth goal in the 59th minute.
Date/Place of Birth: 20 March 1893, St Helens
Hull City First Game: 18 April 1914, Fulham A (Division Two), 21 years, 29 days old
Hull City Final Game: 4 December 1920, Nottingham Forest H (Division Two), 27 years, 259 days old
St Helens Town (1911-1913), Skelmersdale United (1913-1914), Hull City (1914-1920), Sheffield United (1920-1928), Shirebrook (1928-1929), Torquay United (1929-1930), Dartmouth United (1930)
Hull City Record
Career: 97 apps, 26 goalsDave Mercer