the npl

Gladiators mourn loss of former player & manager Ernie Oliver

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Matlock Town mourn the loss of former player and manager Ernie Oliver who has sadly passed away at the age of 73.

Born in Sheffield, he lived in the steel city for all of his life and first came to Matlock during the 1967/68 season when he made a handful of appearances at left back following his release by Sheffield United. He then went on to play for Scarborough.

He was already part of the management team when he took sole control of first team affairs in September 1985, replacing Mick Wadsworth who had been offered a lucrative position with the Football Association. Ernie’s first game in charge was a 4-2 home victory against Worksop Town.

The Gladiators finished in 21st spot come the end of the season and had to seek re-election, there being no First Division of the NPL to be relegated to at that time.

Ernie put together a great attacking side during the following season and the Gladiators finished in seventh spot with fans encouraged that with the likes of Ian Helliwell, Ian Smith, John Sheppard and Colin Kersley in an exciting attack, the Gladiators would mount a serious challenge for the title in 1987/88.

Unfortunately those hopes were not fulfilled and Dave Pugh took over as manager in October 1987.

Ernie’s son Lee was also part of the Gladiators squad during this time.

Overall at Matlock Ernie had a win percentage rate of 33.63 in 113 matches, winning 33, drawing 28 and losing 47.

A polite and studious man who lived and breathed football, Ernie was also manager at Buxton and a talent scout at both Sheffield United and Doncaster Rovers and had a good eye for spotting up and coming talent. He has been a frequent visitor to Causeway Lane over the years,

Matlock’s Chief Executive Keith Brown as Secretary of the club in the 1980’s knew Ernie well.

“Ernie always worked so hard to develop Matlock Town in difficult time but he brought in and developed some very good players for us. Times were difficult but I recall the final match of 1985/86 we were at home to a Southport side doing very well and we won 2-1 even though we were down in 21st place. Fortunately we were re-elected to the league and had a very good season in 1986/87.”

Mr Brown also remembers the progress of tall striker Ian Helliwell under Ernie’s guidance. Helliwell went on to join Football League side York City for a significant fee which was then a record for the Gladiators.

“Ian was playing for us and did so well that he was selected for the Multipart League (NPL) against the Football Association in October 1986 at Southport. Ernie was a big fan of Ian and was instrumental in Ian reaching the Football League. While Ernie left the club in 1987 he still had a great affection for Matlock Town and would often suggest players who he believed would do a good job for us. He has remained a dear friend of the club. We’re all shocked to hear of his passing and our thoughts and prayers are extended to his family and friends.”

A minute’s applause in Ernie’s memory will be held prior to tomorrow’s home fixture with Ashton United.

Ian Richardson