We pay tribute to Gills legend Ernie Morgan, who sadly passed away this weekEveryone at Gillingham Football Club was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of a true Gills Great, record-breaking goal scorer Ernie Morgan, who passed away on Thursday aged 86.
Born in Royston, South Yorkshire, Ernie worked as a coalminer from the age of 14 but made a big impression playing for the Royston Colliery Football team who he helped win the Sheffield Senior Cup in 1948/49.
Morgan’s performances for the colliery side earned him professional recognition but he surprisingly turned down the opportunity of contracts with Barnsley and West Brom to sign a part-time deal with Lincoln City.
In an interview for the Gills programme in 2009, Ernie told us how the move came about and how tough his early days at Lincoln were, saying “"A chap in the village, who was a scout for Lincoln, asked me to go there for a trial, I went and that's how I came to play at Lincoln, but I was only a part-time player, I worked down the pit as well."
"It was awful, on the night shift once, I came out of the pit; you had a check to put on the check board to say that you'd come out, that was 6 o'clock in the morning. The chap in the office there told me I had to call in at the police station as there was a phone call for me; it was from Lincoln to say I was playing football that afternoon!
"I had to get to Lincoln; in that time it was catching a bus from Royston, where I lived, to Barnsley, a bus from Barnsley to Sheffield, a bus from Sheffield to the station at Sheffield and a train from there to Lincoln."
He spent three seasons at Sincil Bank, largely as a reserve team player and had only made three League appearances when Gillingham came calling in 1953. The move was a great success for all concerned as Morgan made an instant impact at Priestfield, scoring 21 times in his first season as a professional for Archie Clark's side.
He went ten better the following year, setting a new club record by netting 31 Football League goals in a single campaign. A record that remains unbeaten to this day, equalled only by another Priestfield legend and close friend of Ernie’s, Brian Yeo.
Ernie told us "I don't think anybody will ever beat that; it would have been a lot more if I'd have played with the balls that they play with today. You couldn't side-foot a ball from 30 yards in them days, you were lucky to land a penalty if it was heavy, never mind bloody scoring from that distance!”
"It's a lot easier to play football with the balls that they play with, the balls we had were like bloody cannon balls; it's a doddle for them. That's one regret of mine, not being able to play with the balls that they have today, that's the one thing I'd have loved to have done, I'd have got 50 a season.”
Sadly Ernie’s playing days came to a premature end in 1957 as a cruciate ligament injury forced the striker to hang up his boots at the age of 30, leaving Priestfield with an impressive record of 73 goals from just 155 appearances.
He later moved into management, enjoying great success with Chatham Town, Dartford, Maidstone United and Tonbridge Angels, winning the Southern League, the Kent Senior Cup, Floodlight Cup and Shield.
In his four seasons with the Gills Ernie Morgan made an impact on the club unlikely to ever be forgotten by those who saw him grace the Priestfield pitch. The thoughts of everyone at Gillingham FC are with Ernie’s family and friends at this sad time.
We will be holding a minute's applause to celebrate Ernie's life before kick-off in tomorrow's Sky Bet League 1 match with MK Dons and we are honoured to have eight members of the great man's family as our guests at the game, so please help us pay tribute to the passing of a true Gills Legend