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Ernie Steele

Sat Jul 30, 2016 6:35 pm

Supporting Ossett Town and occasionally watching Ossett Albion, there were certain names that kept cropping up in conversations, especially amongst the older supporters of both clubs. One name was Ernie Steele. I still don't know anything really about his time in Ossett, but here's some background notes on his career before and after Ossett.

Ernest Steele was born in Leigh, Lancashire in 1911. A talented sportsman, he ran for Middleton Harriers and won the East Lancashire cross country title. He was a highly rated batsman, playing for Middleton Cricket Club alongside future Yorkshire & England star, Hedley Verity. Ernie himself played in Lancashire's 2nd eleven and later played as a pro with Farsley in the Bradford League and Whitehaven.

As a footballer, Ernie was a winger, occasionally an inside forward and he played for Middleton, Hurst (Ashton United) and Mossley before turning pro with Division 3 North Rochdale in 1931. He made his first team debut in a 2-2 draw with Accrington Stanley, his first goal in a 4-3 win over Carlisle United. He played in most games, but after Rochdale were knocked out of the FA Cup by Scunthorpe United from the Midland League, Ernie rarely played. Rochdale finished bottom of the table and had to seek re-election, Ernie left after playing 20 games and scoring 3 goals.

Re: Ernie Steele

Sat Jul 30, 2016 6:46 pm

Ernie moved down the road to join Division 2 Oldham Athletic. His debut was in a 5-2 win over Lincoln City. He played 14 games in all and his only goal was in a 1-5 defeat by Tottenham Hotspur. Oldham finished 16th and Ernie left for Torquay United.

Torquay were in Division 3 South and Ernie made his debut in a 0-0 draw with Aldershot, early in the 1933-34 season, Torquay lost 2-10 at Luton Town. Playing in the same team as Ernie was a former Doncaster and Manchester United defender called Leslie Lievesley; Don Welsh, who later played for Charlton Athletic and England and managed Liverpool; and forward George Stabb, grandfather of Chris Stabb, who played for Ossett Town in our early days in the NPL. Ernie played 28 games that season, scoring 7 goals. Torquay finished 20th, but they did reach the final of the Division 3 South Cup, losing in the final to Exeter City 0-1 at Plymouth.

In October 1934, after playing 10 games for Torquay, Ernie and George Stabb were both transferred to Notts County in Division 2. His debut was a 1-1 draw with Fulham and his first goal was in a 2-7 defeat at Norwich City. In those days, the Football League played on Christmas Day and in 1934, Notts County lost 1-2 at Manchester United, Ernie scoring the Notts County goal. The following day, Notts County beat Manchester United at Meadow Lane 1-0, George Stabb scoring. Ernie played 31 games and scored for 7 goals. Notts County were relegated to Division 3 South. George Stabb transferred to Port Vale and Ernie played 28 games for Notts County in the 1935-36 season, scoring 1 goal. Notts County finished 9th.

Re: Ernie Steele

Sat Jul 30, 2016 7:01 pm

After leaving Notts County in 1936, Ernie joined Southern League Bath City. In December 1936, he returned to the Football League with Division 3 South Millwall. He made his debut on Christmas Day in a 4-2 win over Aldershot, former Leeds and Huddersfield striker Dave Mangnall scoring a hat trick. Ernie scored his first goal in the return match at Aldershot, in a 2-1 win for Millwall. That season, Millwall embarked on a run in the FA Cup which went all the way to semi finals, losing to Sunderland 1-2 at Huddersfield. Ernie didn't play in any of the FA Cup games, though he played in all the league games, presumably he was cup tied from his time at Bath earlier in the season. Ernie played 22 games in all, scoring 5 goals. Millwall finished 8th.

Millwall had reached the final of the Division 3 South Cup in 1936-37, but the final v Watford was held over to the 1937-38 season. Ernie played in both games against Watford, which both ended in draws and the trophy was shared between both clubs. Ernie played 20 games, scoring 5 goals, including a hat trick v Newport County, but in November he was replaced by former Huddersfield winger Syd Rawlings and he never played for Millwall again. Millwall ended the season as Division 3 South champions.

In the summer of 1938, Ernie transferred to Crystal Palace in Division 3 South. His debut was 0-0 draw with Walsall and amongst his team was old Torquay colleague Leslie Lievesley. Ernie played 33 games scoring 9 goals as Palace finished runners up to champions Newport County.

The 1939-40 season started with a 5-4 win at Mansfield Town, Ernie among the scorers. Palace then lost at Reading 0-3 and by the time they played Bristol Rovers on September 2nd, German forces were already in Poland. Palace beat Bristol Rovers 3-0 and the next day Britain and France declared war on Germany. All football was suspended for 3 weeks then the regional war leagues started up. The Bristol Rovers match was Ernie's last game for Palace, later in the season he made 3 appearances for Rochdale then played twice for Carlisle United. Ernie joined the Royal Army Service Corps (now the Royal Logistics Corps).

Re: Ernie Steele

Sat Jul 30, 2016 7:17 pm

During 1941-42 and 1942-43 he played mainly with Stockport County, playing 37 games in all. One of his team mates at Edgley Park was the young Harry Catterick, later a successful manager at Sheffield Wednesday and Everton. Ernie also played 4 games for Chesterfield in 1941-42 and then he played 5 games for Leicester City in 1942-43, where he played alongside Stoke City and England striker Fred Steele. One game they both played was a 9-0 win over West Bromwich Albion.

Information about the war leagues can be sketchy, and I suspect in some cases Ernie Steele's details have occasionally been mixed up with Fred Steele's details. Throw in John Steele at Barnsley and Bradford Park Avenue boss David Steele who still played the occasional game, football researchers can end up tearing out what little hair they have left.

Some books say Ernie played for Sheffield United, I have found no evidence for that; but no one has mentioned the E Steele who played 2 games for Everton in 1943-44, was that Ernie? Also Ernie appears to have played 1 game for Swansea Town in 1944-45.

Apparently Ernie first came to Ossett during the war, presumably based at Gedham Mills at the bottom of Kingsway which had been turned into Army barracks. Also apparently based in Ossett during the war was the Middlesex and England cricketer Godfrey Evans and the Everton and England keeper Ted Sagar. I have also heard a lot of soldiers from Ireland and Scotland were based in Ossett.

In 1945-46, Ernie was based in Yeovil. One day, a former Millwall colleague, Bill Bower, playing for Colchester United in the Southern League, contacted Ernie and asked him if could play for Colchester in a match at Bath City. Colchester relied heavily on their local army garrison for players and they were not always available for the long distance away matches. The week before, in a match at Worcester City, Colchester had to borrow some of Worcester's reserve players. Ernie turned up at Bath, alas for Colchester they lost 0-8, their second 0-8 in Somerset having lost by that score at Yeovil earlier in the season. Colchester used 81 players in all, including future Tottenham & England striker Len Duquemin, Derek Hawksworth who played for Sheffield United and Huddersfield and Frank Dudley, who played for Leeds.

Re: Ernie Steele

Sat Jul 30, 2016 7:27 pm

Ernie also played for Barry Town in the Southern League and later returned north, playing for Hurst, Hyde United, Mossley, Wellington Town and played in the 1946-47 and 1947-48 seasons with Northwich Victoria. From there he joined Ossett Town. In 1948, we won the West Riding Senior Cup, beating Salts. I don't know whether Ernie was at the club by then or whether he joined the following season. I have heard it said he was also the manager, but again that needs to be confirmed.

When he left Ossett I don't know, but he joined Barnsley FC as trainer and groundsman in 1954 and stayed there until 1967. He had also been playing cricket for Ossett and he joined Barnsley cricket club as a player and groundsman at their ground on Sh*w L*n* (I don't want to upset any passing Frickley fans). At Barnsley cricket club, Ernie played alongside the young Dicky Bird before he joined Yorkshire, later Geoffrey Boycott played at Barnsley before his move to Yorkshire. Also in the Barnsley side was the emu loving Michael Parkinson, prior to his career in journalism and TV. Parky wrote a number of books, with anecdotes about his time at Barnsley Cricket Club and I recall Ernie getting mentioned once or twice.

Re: Ernie Steele

Sat Jul 30, 2016 7:41 pm

In 1967, Ernie left Barnsley and took up a job at Blundell's School in Tiverton, Devon as a groundsman and coaching the cricket team. Amongst his players were Vic Marks (Somerset & England bowler) and Hugh Morris (Glamorgan & England batsman). He stayed there until the 1980's when he retired.

In football, he managed local side Tiverton Town in the Devon & Exeter League, just before they joined the Western League in 1973. His son, Hedley Steele, signed for Exeter City in 1974 from Tiverton and later played for Dorchester Town, Weymouth and Gloucester City before returning to Tiverton, where he played into his 40's.

Ernie died on April 16th, 1997. He was watching Tiverton Town playing a top of the table clash with old rivals Taunton Town when he collapsed and died during the match.

Ernie's old Middleton colleague, Hedley Verity was killed while serving with the Green Howards in Italy in 1943.

Leslie Lievesley, his team mate at Torquay and Crystal Palace, served in the Army as a PTI, he served in Italy and after the war joined Torino as a coach. In April 1949, Torino were flying home after a friendly in Portugal with Benfica, the aircraft they were on crashed into the Basilica of Superga on a hill overlooking Turin. All 31 men on board died.

Re: Ernie Steele

Sat Jul 30, 2016 7:59 pm


The Football League match by match series compiled by Tony Brown which covers all Football League games played between 1888 and 1970.

Rochdale who's who by Steve Phillips

Oldham Athletic by Garth Dykes

Notts County by Garth Dykes

Torquay United by Leigh Edwards

Millwall by Richard Lindsay and Eddie Tarrant

Crystal Palace by Ian King

Colchester United by Jeff Whitehead and Kevin Drury

Northwich Victoria by K R Edwards

Manchester United by Iain McCartney

Soccer at War by Jack Rollin

websites on Barnsley cricket club, Tiverton Town, Bath City and Wikipedia pages for Dicky Bird, Geoff Boycott, Michael Parkinson and Torino FC.

plus all the crap I have in my files and on my shelves.

Re: Ernie Steele

Sun Jul 31, 2016 7:23 pm

just done some digging around, apparently the 3rd Depot Battalion Royal Signals were based in Ossett during the war, they were based at Westfield Mill up Wesley Street and new recruits were sent there to do their basic training before moving elsewhere to do their signals training. They used to do the PT training on the Church Street playing fields. According to the account I read, Westfield Mill is roughly where Millfields is, off Wesley Street. Presumably other accommodation was used, hence Gedham Mills that I have heard locally.

I have read an account from a man from Salford who was sent to Ossett to do his basic training, sent to Dewsbury to do his driver training then was posted to Singapore where he was captured by the Japanese.

more when I find it.
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