Ernie was a clerk in the Derbyshire County Council education offices at Matlock at the time of his joining the Spireites as an amateur, in April 1967, from the local Tube Works side. He made his debut at Bradford (Park Avenue) on October 26th, 1968, and signed professional forms a few days later, going on to make seventeen appearances that season as well as leading the attack in the team that won the Northern Intermediate League Cup. He scored his maiden League goal in his last appearance that term, against Brentford, giving rise to an often repeated error in Ernie's career record that ignores that goal.
He was pretty raw at that stage of his career. Here is ex-manager Jim McGuigan's affectionate assessment of the young Ernie: "A big, willing bloke, a charming fellow who had raw potential. His balance was nil, therefore his ball control was nil. He knew where the goal lay but he couldn't often hit it. So I had to work like hell on his balance and ball control because without it, you can't play professional football." The long hours put in at that stage of Ernie's career paid off. McGuigan's faith was rewarded the following season when Ernie developed a great understanding with Kevin Randall and netted twenty League goals to help the Spireites to the Fourth Division championship.
Although he had his critics among supporters in his first spell, his sale was met with outrage, particularly when manager Joe Shaw introduced Steve Cammack, his replacement, in a manner that seemed dismissive of Ernie's efforts. An unhappy year at London Road was followed by times of triumph at Field Mill: reunited with Kevin Randall, he helped the Stags to promotion to Division Two for the only time in their history, in 1977. A back injury denied him much opportunity to play in the higher sphere, though, and Arthur Cox brought him home in January, 1979 when, ironically, he took the place of Cammack.
Upon returning to Saltergate, he broke the club record for goals scored in a Chesterfield career, enjoying two good seasons as the team came close to promotion. Ernie rejected the offer of a new contract in June 1981 (he and the club disagreed over a £5 pay rise) and elected for a move to Port Vale, who went up from Division Four in his second term; Ernie was at Lincoln by the time that season ended, but he got to celebrate his second Fourth Division promotion at Belle Vue in '84.
John Duncan brought him to Saltergate for a third time, and the club won the Fourth Division championship in his first season back. Ernie's goals helped the club consolidate, and his sale to Stockport (with Phil Brown) in December '86 for a joint fee of £10,000 was met with great surprise. Ernie's efforts at Edgeley Park helped the Hatters to climb away from the bottom of Division Four in the first season of automatic relegation to the Conference. After spells at Scarborough (in their first League season) and Rochdale, Ernie retired from full-time football.
Ernie went into partnership with the Derbyshire and England
cricketer Geoff Miller in 1979, opening sports shops in Chesterfield and
After leaving the full-time game he continued to play a good standard
of non-League football, eventually taking over from Gary Brooke as manager at
Gainsborough Trinity, of the Unibond League. In June 1998 he moved up the non-League
management ladder, becoming Manager at Leek Town, of the Vauxhall Conference.
He was dismissed as Leek were relegated to the Unibond League in 1999, and
returned to Gainsborough in November of that year. He moved to Kettering as
assistant to Peter Morris, but the pair lost their jobs in February 2001. Ernie
subsequently managed Matlock Town to their most successful spell in years but
was tempted in the summer of 2004 to join Conference North side Hucknall Town.
In just three months Ernie's rate of progress was insufficient for an ambitious
Hucknall side and he was sacked, taking up the reins at Belper Town in January
2005. More recently Ernie has coached youngsters on Chsterfield's community
scheme and served as a scout, while working as a driver for GKN.
Respected throughout the game, Ernie is held in reverence by the huge majority of Spireites for his endearing straightforwardness and his honesty, dedication and application to the club, as much as for a Chesterfield career that saw 469 League appearances produce 162 goals. And none of those were penalties: Ernie took just one of those, in his testimonial against Sheffield United in 1986, and missed it!
For Chesterfield: 466+3 Football League appearances, 162* goals
Overall league career: 705+11 appearances, 245 goals.