An interview with the former striker ranging from playing alongside Derek Spence to turning out in goal in a game against Doncaster
Keith Mercer was a guest of honour for the game against Bury on the last day of the 2016/17 season, and was welcomed back, alongside his strike-partner at Blues Derek Spence, before the game in front of the home supporters.
Here is his interview with Blues which appeared in the matchday programme that day.
You joined in 1980 and spent three years at the club scoring 36 times. Overall, how did you find your time at Roots Hall?
KM: How can I explain it. I came from Division Two when I was with Watford to Southend who needed a goalscorer to go with Derek [Spence] to get them out of the relegation troubles.
We ended up unfortunately getting relegated that year. I think it was the last match of the season and we played Hull away needing a result and we got beat. From being in the Second Division, I went to the Fourth Division in a matter of months.
My whole life was turned upside down. I couldn’t believe that I had gone from Division Two to Division Four.
But the following year we came back as Champions, so you forgot all the heartache and the crying and thinking ‘oh what have I done?’, to being on top of the world, which was brilliant.
Dave Smith, who brought you to the Club from Watford, saw you as the missing piece to the jigsaw. You and Derek Spence formed a formidable partnership up front.
KM: Absolutely. We roomed together, we were inseparable really. It was a shame it all came to an end when Derek moved on and I think Dave got sacked, because we did well when we got promoted.
We came close to getting promoted to Division Two because we went on a really good run in the Third Division, but unfortunately it all fell apart at the end. But they were happy days at Southend.
Unfortunately Dave Smith got sacked, the Rubin brothers took over for some reason and when my contract came up they offered me less favourable terms, so I left on a free.
Ten goals alongside Derek Spence in that '81 championship winning side in which club records tumbled, do you feel like you showed your worth?
KM: Oh absolutely. Because of my upbringing at Watford, it didn’t matter who scored the goals.
I would’ve thought I made a lot of Derek’s goals because I wasn’t a selfish player. It didn’t matter to me who scored the goals as long as we won. If Derek was in a better position than me then I would give him the ball.
It was a good team performance with Southend because we had a good strong back four, and the midfield scored quite a few goals as well so it was a pleasure to play with all the lads down there and it was good fun.
Was the relationship between you and Derek a match-made it heaven?
KM: Yeah. If you speak to Derek, out of his career playing with so many different people, he feels I was the best striker to play with. Whether he said that because I was in ear-shot or not, but I think he meant it really.
And in a game against Doncaster you even played in goal. Just explain that one.
KM: The Football Association changed the rule on goalkeepers that if they committed a professional foul, they weren’t just booked, they were sent off.
John Keeley came out and fouled somebody and we were winning 1-0 at the time, but he went off and I took the goalkeeper shirt because I used to train in goal to give the goalkeepers a rest.
So I went in and direct from the free kick they scored. I had Steve Yates on the goal line, five in the wall and it went straight above Steve Yates’ head, so the first touch I got was picking out of the net.