SIXTY this week, Mervyn Day was a reassuring figure between the posts for Leeds United for much of the troubled 1980s.
The Chelmsford-born goalkeeper may have experienced some of the leaner years of United’s history during his time at the club, but his final act in 1989-90 was a considerable one – helping the club over the line to back into the top-flight.
Day became the youngest keeper to play in an FA Cup final when West Ham beat Fulham in 1975, at 19 – and he was named as the young player of the year in 1974-75.
Most expected his career to kick on for both the Hammers and ultimately England, but injuries and indifferent form dictated otherwise and he joined Leyton Orient in 1979.
His form got back on track and he joined Aston Villa in 1983, but he fell behind Nigel Spink in the pecking order and Leeds beckoned when Eddie Gray lured him to Elland Road in early 1985 in a £30,000 move.
Day went on to make 227 league appearances and rarely missed a game up to the end of 1989-90 – with Howard Wilkinson then offering him a post as goalkeeping coach for United’s first season back in the big time, having lined up a £1m move for John Lukic from Arsenal.
Day’s finest hour came in 1989-90 when was he was named as player of the year to go alongside a Second Division championship medal – some feat when you consider the competition throughout the United dressing room in that famous season.
He was also a constant during the nearly season of 1986-87 when Leeds were within one win of a Wembley appearance in the FA Cup final and were, more crushingly, forced to be the bridesmaids after losing their play-off encounter with Charlton Athletic on the cruellest of Spring nights in Birmingham.
After helping Leeds achieve that holy grail of promotion three years later, Day took up Wilkinson’s coaching offer with Lukic soon establishing himself as the Whites’ number one, with Day providing back-up, alongside his coaching duties.
Day was subsequently enticed to Carlisle United by Mick Wadsworth in 1993.
Day was handed the Carlisle post after the exit of Wadsworth and led the Brunton Park outfit to Division Three promotion and Auto-Windscreens Shield glory in 1997, only to soon leave after falling out with chairman Michael Knighton.
Day moved to Charlton and was a vital cog of Alan Curbishley’s backroom during some golden times at the Valley and also accompanied Curbishley to their old club West Ham, his tenure lasting from December 2006 to September 2008 – with a move back to Leeds beckoning as chief scout in 2010.
He served under Simon Grayson, who used to clean his boots during his days as a young apprentice at Elland Road.
On joining, Day said: “My seven or eight years here were happy years, very happy. I got to know the city and the club inside out.
“There’s something particularly satisfying about going back to a club where you’ve played before and done well in the past. I felt the same when I joined the coaching staff at West Ham.”
Day stayed in the role until March, 2012 and in November of that year, he was appointed as the new scouting and talent identification manager at Brighton.