ERNIE Hannigan, one of the legendary figures of WA football as a player and coach and a wonderfully exuberant character, died on May 21.
He was aged 72 and had been ill for some time.
Ernie received a standing ovation when he was inducted into the Football Hall of Fame WA in the Hall of Merit for Players category at the 2012 induction ceremony. He was clearly touched by the reception.
In 2004 he had been included in the Century of Champions as one of the Top 100 players to have represented WA at State team level.
When he was inducted into the Hall of Fame just over two years ago he received a letter of congratulations from former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferugson.
The pair had been friends since their early playing days in Glasgow when Fergie was a young player with Queens Park (and later St Johnstone and Rangers) and Ernie was an aspiring member of the Celtic development squad with the feeder club St Roch’s, although he never got a chance to wear the first-team colours of the Hoops and instead was signed by Queen of the South.
In his 2012 message, Ferguson said: “I can go back all those years when we were young scallywags running around the streets of Glasgow and always valued your friendship then, as I do now.
“The great constant factor in all the time I’ve known you is your enthusiasm and love for football. That has never wavered and to me is special.”
When Ferguson heard that Ernie was unwell, he recently made contact with him from the UK.
Ernie was a passionate Celtic fan and a member of the Celtic Supporters Club in Perth. The club held a Tribute Night to Ernie on Saturday, May 16. Over 200 turned up, but unfortunately Ernie was too ill to attend.
A dashing right winger of tremendous promise, he was only 16 when Queen of the South manager George Farm swooped to sign the youngster from St Roch’s.
He quickly made a name for himself with the Doonhamers and was given the chance to shine at a higher level when Preston North End, who were then in the old English Second Division (now the Championship), came calling for his signature in the 1964-65 season.
Preston had lost 3-2 to West Ham a few months earlier in the English Cup Final at Wembley and manager Jimmy Milne, a Scot like Ernie, was re-building his team.
The enthusiastic Hannigan spent three and a half happy years in Lancashire before Coventry City produced a cheque for 55,000 pounds – no mean amount in those days – to entice Preston to part with their wide man.
Ernie admitted that he never really settled at the Sky Blues, where his love of taking on a defender didn’t fit in with manager Noel Cantwell’s more restrained safety-first tactics. But he still managed to play nearly 50 games before moving on to briefly join Torquay United in 1969.
He went back to Scotland the following year to sign for Morton and then came the chance in 1971 to link up with US glamour team New York Cosmos. At the time the Cosmos team included Pele, Franz Beckenbauer, Giorgio Chinaglia, Johan Neeskens and Carlos Alberto Torres.
But he was soon on the road again, returning to Queen of the South for a short spell and having some time with Raith Rovers before deciding to head Down Under. Initially he went to Sydney, but didn’t fancy life there and ended up in Perth in late 1973 with Stirling City and then took up the offer to become player-coach with Morley Windmills.
Ernie led Windmills to victory in the 1975 D’Orsogna Cup final, beating Kwinana 3-1. He was carried off shoulder-high by his team-mates after a superb performance that earned him the D’Orsogna Medal as the best player.
He was just pipped that year for the Rothman’s Medal for the season’s fairest and best, ironically finishing runner-up to David Jones, who had been in the beaten Kwinana final team.
Ernie moved to Stirling Macedonia as player-coach in 1979 and, in 1982, he finished his playing career with one season at Spearwood Dalmatinac. Later on, he returned briefly as a coach with Inglewood.
He played 12 times for the WA State team, making his debut against Aberdeen at Perry Lakes Stadium in 1974. He was then a key player in WA’s stunning victory in the Marah Halim Cup tournament in Malaysia in 1975, scoring one of the goals in the 2-0 final victory over South Korea. Said State team coach Alan Vest: “Ernie was a great player. He was a typical winger and always played well for the State team. It’s very sad to hear of his passing.”
WA football historian Richard Kreider has written a tribute to Ernie on his Facebook page and said: “Glasgow-born Ernie was one of the best outside rights, a tormenting dribbler and accurate crosser that WA football fans had the pleasure of watching. He was one of the great characters of football and will be sorely missed.”
To view the video of Ernie Hannigan at the Football Hall of Fame function 2012 talking of his relationship with Sir Alex Ferguson click here
PIC ONE: Ernie receives his Hall of Fame award from John Castrilli, the Minister for Local Government. PIC TWO: Ernie proudly shows off the letter of congratulations from Sir Alex Ferguson PIC THREE: Ernie is carried off with the D’Orsogna Cup by his Morley team-mates. PIC FOUR: Ernie (left) after finishing runner-up to Rothmans Gold Medal winner David Jones. PIC FIVE: The Tribute Night poster. PIC SIX: Ernie with Sir Alex Ferguson