Ernie Moss was a born and bred Chesterfield gentleman who went on to become a Chesterfield FC legend. He's played for and managed many football teams during his 39 year footballing career, but he was best known for scoring 192 Spireite goals, which is still an unbeaten club record for his home town club. However, Ernie's natural born skill of the game came at a price, as in 2014 he was diagnosed with a rare form of frontotemporal dementia which his family believe came from years of heading the heavy old school leather footballs. Since his diagnosis there have been many charity football games and events held to help raise awareness and funds to find a cure to this horrible disease.
As a photographer (but more so as a CFC fan), I first became involved with the Moss family back in 2016 photographing his “Once Upon a Smile” charity football game at our ground and to be honest, it has been an honour and an absolute pleasure to have photographed him.
So, who was Ernie Moss?
First and foremost he was a proud family man. In addition to that he was a phenomenal footballer with skill and integrity. But If you are from Chesterfield, then you will already have known that. If you haven't though, then let me introduce you to him.
Ernie (or Ernest Moss, to give him his full name) was born on 19th October 1949 in Hollingwood, Chesterfield. From an early age Ernie showed a raw talent with a ball, so much so at age 17 he was signed by Chesterfield Football Club from his local tube works team. Ernie's position was always up front as a striker where he started the first of his seventeen CFC games that season against Bradford in October 1968. In his debut year Ernie helped the Spireites go on to win the Northern League Cup, so he clearly made an immediate impact to his home town team. This was the first of three spells at Chesterfield over his long career spanning three decades. His first chapter at the club was the longest, lasting 7 years from 1968 until 1975. Ernie played 271 games and scored an impressive 95 goals, many with his head. But we will come back to this later.
During his time at Saltergate, Chesterfield's home ground, Ernie married his wife Jenny in 1971. They went on to have two daughters Nikki and Sarah.
After a few season's away from Chesterfield playing for Peterborough Town and Mansfield Town Ernie returned to Saltergate in 1979. Ernie's goals helped Chesterfield secure the 1981 Anglo-Scottish Cup and nearly got Chesterfield promoted too that season. Sadly though, due to a pay dispute Ernie rejected an offer of a new contract and decided to leave the club and play his football for Port Vale in the June of 1981.
Fast forward five years (after playing for Lincoln City and Doncaster Rovers) Chesterfield's manager John Duncan brought him back to Saltergate for a third and final time. Here Chesterfield went on to win the 1984/85 Fourth Division. Ernie's goals, many of which were headers, helped the club achieve promotion but being a prolific header of the ball would unfortunately come back to haunt him and his family.
After this however, it turned out to be Ernie's final chapter for Chesterfield as, he would later be sold to Stockport County, where he played one season there before moving onto Scarborough FC. Ernie's last goals were scored while he was out on loan at Rochdale where he netted in his final two goals. After this, Ernie decided to retire from full-time football.
An interesting light-hearted fact to mention here is, of all his 240+ career goals, Ernie Moss never scored from the penalty spot. Getting back to his Chesterfield days for a moment, during his testimonial game against Sheffield United in 1986, he took his first and only penalty but unfortunately he missed.
In total, Ernie made 539 appearances for the Spireites and scored a club record 192 goals
during his three separate spells at the club.
Ernie's next step was into the world of football management where he had a fifteen year career (both as assistant and first team manager) with clubs such as; Boston United and Matlock Town. During his time in the dugout Ernie did win some silverware. The Northern Premier League Challenge Cup and the Peter Swales Shield both won in 1997 for Gainsborough Trinity and the Derbyshire Senior Cup with Matlock Town in 2004. Ernie ended his managerial days though at Belper Town FC in 2007.
Throughout his footballing days Ernie was also a successful business man, as co-owner of the sports shop Moss and Miller. His business partner was the cricketer Geoff Miller. Together they ran two shops located in Chesterfield and Matlock. Over the years Ernie slowed down his pace in life and sadly in 2014 Ernie and his family got the dreadful news of his dementia diagnosis.
Ernie was always a regular at his beloved Chesterfield FC at their home games, even after his retirement. He would attend with his family and together with the club, they held football games in his honor for the dementia charities to raise funds.
The following years in 2015 and 2016 Chesterfield Football Club declared their home game against Ernie's former club Port Vale FC, as “Ernie Moss Days”. All funds raised were donated to his dementia charities.
Other acknowledgments for his football accolades came, including Chesterfield Borough Council naming a road next to the Chesterfield stadium after him in 2017, named “Ernie Moss Way”
Ernie attended his final home Spireite game on his 70th birthday in 2019. I met up with him and his family for a few photos prior to the game in the club bar. It was breathtaking to hear the fans all cheering for him on the 70th minute of the game! Shortly after this, due to his dementia, his family made the heartbreaking decision to move Ernie into a full time nursing home to better meet his care needs. It was here where he sadly passed away.
Its a shame that the sport Ernie loved and was so good at, has robbed him of his later years with his family. There is one thing though that cannot be taken away from him and that is his fantastic footballing legacy. Ernie is still well loved by all who have met and worked with him. The fans still talk about him and that's what will live forever, that and photographs of him scoring those amazing goals. In the reception of Chesterfield Football Club there is a mosaic of his bittersweet goal of Ernie heading the ball in the net. That will stand proud for many a year to showcase Chesterfield's highest ever goalscorer, you can be sure of that!
Words & Images: Michael South