Monday, 25 April 2011
358 Ernie Cooksey
Position : Midfield
Played : 2004-05 to 2006-07
Appearances : 87
Goals : 8
Ernie was signed on a free from Oldham in mid-September making his debut away at Mansfield. He started out as a trainee at Colchester in the mid-90s then moved around the non-league scene playing for Heybridge Swifts, Bishop Stortford, Chesham United, Bromley and Crawley Town. His break into professional football in 2003 came about because his manager at Chesham Bob Dowie was the brother of Oldham's Ian and recommended a number of past and present Chesham players when the Latics were short of cash. Ernie gave up a better paid job fitting false ceilings to sign for Latics. He played 37 games and scored 4 goals for them but new manager Brian Talbot didn't rate him and let him sign for us.
This isn't a post I was looking forward to writing as he wasn't my favourite player so if you're looking for another hagiography you're going to be disappointed. However this was partly due to Parkin playing him out of position a lot of the time and I fully understand now why his form declined so much in his second season.
Ernie like Jimmy Graham before him had a prematurely aged appearance but a teenager's appetite for the game. He was a snappy tackler, surprisingly good in the air and at his best could get forward and score great goals from the edge of the box. However because he was left-footed Parkin thought he could stick him out wide (as with Michael Oliver before him) and his first few games were in that position. Ernie had no ability to beat a man so if he couldn't head it on he'd invariably turn around and pass it back to the full back. When he finally got a chance in the middle he was much better and for about a year he formed a very effective partnership with Gary Jones which could mix it with anyone in the division. Famously Shrewsbury had to substitute their own hard man Jamie Tolley for fear his frustration in playing against them would get the better of him.
In 2006 Ernie started receiving treatment for melanoma apparently contracted when he spent a summer coaching kids in Florida in 2002. The club kept a tight lid on the news but the effects were noticeable on the pitch with a sharp decline in Ernie's performances mirroring the general slump of the team. To make matters worse the arrival of John Doolan led Parkin to stick him out wide again.
For better or worse Parkin gave him another contract in the summer but his form only deteriorated further. Keith Hill offloaded him at the first opportunity which gave his comment about Ernie when we got promoted an uncomfortably false note.
Ernie went to Boston and played 16 games for them to the end of the season when they were relegated. He then signed for Gray's Athletic (actually a move up given Boston's punitive double relegation) and played 19 games before publicly breaking the news of his condition. He was able to attend some benefit matches before his death in July 2008, a few weeks before the birth of his daughter.