Ernie Cooksey was a CTFC and Oldham Athletic legend, who passed away four years ago aged only 28. This Saturday will be the first ever meeting of the two clubs. CTFC have produced a fitting tribute to him in the matchday programme, but we, as fans, also want to give our own salute to the memory of one of our own.
As the scoreboard ticks around to 28 minutes, we hope all at the Broadfield Stadium will join together, stand if you can, and deliver a minute of applause and celebration for a man who meant a great deal to supporters of both clubs. One Ernie Cooksey. Never forgotten.
Below, two tributes from fans of CTFC and Oldham Athletic. The first, from Ant Weller- a long standing Crawley Town Supporter. The second from an unnamed OAFC fan who posted his words on CTFC.Net this afternoon.
“It’s easy to read enough about Ernie and his battle with cancer that sadly took him from us far too young. But it can never quite tell the full story of what sort of bloke Ernie was and why Crawley fans hold him in such esteem. He played for us for just one season – and that was delayed by his coaching spell in the States. And he scored only one goal (from memory and I can’t remember who it was against).
So why does he hold such a dear place in so many of our hearts? I mean, plenty of players come and go for CTFC; especially in those years when a one or two season stay was the norm and legendary status was only placed on those who were either from the Town, or hung around longer than one season.
Ernie was different. He loved his football. It came across every time he crossed the white line that he was going to give you everything he could. And he’d never ever complain. He knew he was lucky to play football, even more so get paid for it (although his wages at Crawley weren’t that high).
As a spectator you just applauded his energy as he bombed up and down the field for a full 90 minutes. He may have only scored one goal but I lost count of the number of times he hit the woodwork, especially leaping salmon like from a corner. If Crawley reports were in the national papers you knew Ernie would always get a high mark – for effort alone.
But Ernie was a legend off the field too. He would stop to chat for as long as you liked. After every game. And to any fan. He really appreciated what it meant to be a Crawley fan. Following the club in those days was never ever going to be about glory. It was always about the joy of football.
I was with the players when we were on a pre-season tour in Derbyshire just as he went to Oldham. It was a trial for Ernie and he wanted to impress. It was all he wanted- to become a professional footballer. But even in those days he hopped on a train to come and see the Crawley players at the hotel. I picked him up from the station. He apologised for being still in Oldham training kit but he’d run from the station to catch the train because he wanted to see the lads. Of course once we got to the hotel all the lads gave him some good natured banter about his “flashy training kit”.
When he died, I went to his funeral. CTFC were then in a bit of a mess. But players and managers from a bygone era came together to salute Ernie. And amidst all the arguing that was engulfing the club at that time, people who had been in open dispute with each other – and really hostile to one another – came together to pay respect to Ernie.
Ernie Cooksey was a good footballer. But, more importantly, he was a great human being. RIP Ernie. We’ll never forget”.
“Ernie came to us on trial in the summer of 2003, when we were in a dire financial situation, had next to no players, and morale was at an all time low. As a roofer, he was up some ladders when Bob Dowie rang him and told him to get to Oldham. He slid down the ladders, threw his tools down and went home for his stuff. He took his last £200 out of the bank and went for the train. As he got into a taxi to make his way to Latics, the taxi driver told him that the club were in deep trouble and he’d be better off turning back home. He was really worried about it then, but thought “Well, I’m here now, let’s just see”.
The first look most of us got of Ernie was in a typically well-attended friendly at Rochdale. We knew we had a lad called Ernie Cooksey on trial, and we knew it was the balding feller, because who else could have a name like that? Within minutes he was our new hero, tearing around the field, desperate to take his chance of being a football league player. “Olé” greeted his every touch, as he played this pre-season game as if it was a cup final. The chant of “Ernie For England!” quickly came into being, and even the Rochdale fans joined in. A well-deserved standing ovation greeted his substitution.
Later in the game, one of our players committed a bad foul, and the referee, as is sometimes the way in pre-season, allowed us to sub him off instead of sending him off. The problem was we had already exhausted our options from the bench! So back came Ernie, to yet another huge cheer!!
Even though he only appeared for the club 41 times, the mark he left on the fans was massive. His knack for a good goal, a towering leap defying his size, and most of all his unwavering work rate made him a Latics hero in what was a dark time for the club.
I found this anecdote: “Ernie was sub in a game where we were losing by a goal or two. I don’t recall who we were playing but the opposition had started to take the ball into the corner and as this is something I detest even when we do it, I started to feel a tad frustrated. Enter Ernie. Within seconds of his introduction the ball was again being shielded in the corner, this time right underneath me in the corner of the Main Stand and the RRE. Ernie raced 20 yards or so and clattered through about 5 players (3 of theirs and 2 of ours) and sent the lot flying. It was an absolute joy to behold and told me that he was just as frustrated as I was, but he was in a position to do something about it. Ernie stood up, looked at the ref, shrugged and held his arms out, the picture of innocence, while myself and those around me cheered him. Somehow he only got booked. “Ernie for England”!
28 minutes. Don’t forget.