Obituary: Dave Sexton
Few football managers find themselves seeking new employers following a run of seven straight victories, but that was the fate that befell David Sexton, who passed away on Sunday, aged 82.
Sexton succeeded Tommy Docherty as Manchester United’s manager in the summer of 1977 after previously being in charge at Leyton Orient, Chelsea and Queens Park Rangers. His reign at Stamford Bridge yielded two trophies – the 1970 FA Cup (after beating Leeds United in a replayed final at Old Trafford) and the European Cup Winners’ Cup a year later.
He then went agonisingly close to taking Queens Park Rangers to the Football League championship in season 1975/76 when his team were pushed into runners-up spot just one point behind champions Liverpool.
A deep-thinking football man and consummate tactician, Sexton could be described as an ‘eat, drink and sleep football’ manager and he looked the perfect candidate for the Old Trafford hot seat. However, his four-year tenure failed to bring the success craved by the club and the fans, as he marginally missed out on winning some major silverware. He guided United to the FA Cup final in 1979, only for Arsenal to win it dramatically 3-2, and then, just as happened at QPR, his team finished runners-up to Liverpool in the title race, in 1979/80.
Although many United fans were of the opinion that Sexton’s team lacked flair and that little touch of attacking flamboyance which had come to be expected from any selection wearing the famous red shirts, they were nevertheless shocked when he was dismissed at the close of the 1980/81 season following seven successive wins. It was an impressive haul of points to conclude the season with, but it was felt that the team’s performances and ability to excite the supporters was falling short of the desired standard.
Succeeded by Ron Atkinson at Old Trafford, Sexton later managed Coventry City and also led the England Under-21 side to success in the European Championships of 1982 and 1983. He was also appointed as the first Technical Director at the FA National School.
A native of Islington, North London, Sexton spent all of his playing career in the capital and the south, giving service to Luton Town, West Ham United, Leyton Orient, Brighton & Hove Albion. He appeared in a total of more than 180 league and cup games, scoring almost 70 goals.
David Sexton was hugely respected in football and his passing will be mourned by all those who knew him. Everyone at Manchester United offers their sincere condolences at this very sad time.