It was very sad to hear of the passing of Ernie Hannigan last night.
Those who knew Ernie know that he was a rare breed. Meeting him one would never know his achievements because he had a humility that is so rare in people today.
His football career was one to envy, yet never did he brag or boast. He played with some big clubs and many a player now a household name.
Football can be a cruel sport where many a friendship proves to be shallow, yet Ernie had many golden friendships, as former team mate George Adams said on Saturday night at the tribute evening for Ernie, ” who gets invited to the Champion’s League final in Russia by the coach of Manchester United as well as the after party by the manager, Sir Alex Ferguson.” Ernie did.
To show how humble he was when Sir Alex called the hospital a few weeks ago to talk to Ernie, he thought it was a joke, and not really the former Manchester United supremo.
I cannot remember seeing Ernie play but know that I must have growing up. Yet his team mate Ernie Hunt told me how good he was. I never saw him light up the wing for WA as I had not moved to Australia when he played, but many who did still talk about his performances. Some who moved to Australia on the back of football still comment on how he was a class above.
Yet Ernie was a team man. He was not one to crave the limelight. He loved company and he loved talking football. He was a man so full of energy who could light up a room the minute he entered it. He was great company.
Saturday night many dug deep for Ernie’s family at an event organised by close friends from the Celtic club. More importantly the brotherhood of football shared stories of a man they loved.
Many a player touches us with skill we dream of on the pitch but few have the ability to touch so many lives off of it. Ernie truly was a special man on and off the pitch, a man I was honoured to call a friend.
At times like this it is hard to find words to do the man justice but maybe the poet Rudyard Kipling summed Ernie up best when wrote in his poem “If:”
“If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;”
“If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,”
Ernie was that man, loved by all. He will be missed. Rest in Peace Ernie.