Gordon’s distinguished playing career, as a wing half, started at Preston North End (managed by his father Jimmy) in 1956, when, with Tom Finney in the side, they were riding high in the top flight. In September 1960, he signed for Bill Shankly’s Second Division Liverpool. At Anfield he was a key player in the sides which won the Second Division title in 1962, and the League title in 1964 and 1966.
He missed Liverpool’s 1965 FA Cup win due to injury, but he played in the European Cup Winners' Cup final in 1966. Alf Ramsey selected him for England on 14 occasions in 1963 and 1964.
After playing 279 games for Liverpool, Gordon spent two-and-a-half seasons at Second Division Blackpool, before taking on the player-manager role in January 1970 at non-league Wigan Athletic, where he won the Northern Premier League title in 1970/1.
That season his side also defeated Manchester City in the FA Cup. Whilst at Wigan, Gordon managed the England Under-18 side, winning the UEFA Youth Tournament in Barcelona in 1971. These successes gave him the chance to manage in the old First Division. He became Coventry City’s manager in June 1972 with Joe Mercer and then Jimmy Hill as his Director of Football.
He led the Sky Blues to their highest ever First Division position, seventh, in 1978.
After nine years, Gordon ‘moved upstairs’ to become executive manager at Highfield Road and 12 months later took over at Leicester City, then in the Second Division. Ending his first season at Filbert Street with an unbeaten 15-match run, his City side finished third and were automatically promoted back to the top flight.
A key factor in this success was Gordon’s decision to select young striker Alan Smith, whose partnership with Steve Lynex and Gary Lineker produced 48 league goals that season. Back in the top flight, Gordon’s team only managed two points out of the first 10 games, but the signing of Bob Hazell steadied the ship and the Club finished 15th, with Lineker, Smith and Lynex scoring another 49 league goals between them.
The following season (1984/85) saw another 49 league goals from the striking trio and another 15th position. In the 1985 close season Lineker, by then an England international, went to Everton and Gordon signed Motherwell’s Ali Mauchlen and Gary McAllister, two very successful signings for Leicester City.
In June 1986, Gordon, who felt he had taken the Club as far as he could, was persuaded by club secretary Alan Bennett to see his contract out, and stay for another year as director of football, with Bryan Hamilton coming in as team manager.
Gordon left Leicester in May 1987. He went on to have a very successful career as manager of Beşiktaş (winning three successive titles), Bursaspor and Trabzonspor in Turkey, and at Nagoya Grampus Eight in Japan. He later became CEO of the League Managers’ Association and director of football at Newcastle United and at Beşiktaş.
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