‘He’s still my hero’ - Ernie Moss’ daughter on life with the legend

Ernie Moss

Ernie Moss

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To Chesterfield fans, Ernie Moss will forever be a goalscoring legend but to Nikki Trueman he will forever be her dad, her hero.

History will be kind to the man who plundered 162 league goals for the Spireites, a club record.

Chesterfield vs Port Vale - Ernie moss on the pitch with family members - Pic By James Williamson

Chesterfield vs Port Vale - Ernie moss on the pitch with family members - Pic By James Williamson

He won the Fourth Division title with Chesterfield, twice, and the Third Division title with Mansfield Town.

Moss helped Port Vale to promotion in the 1982/83 season and repeated the feat with Doncaster Rovers a year later.

After his playing career was over, he spent 15 years managing non-league clubs.

But the past decade has not been so kind.

A change in his personality and a loss of desire to watch the game to which he dedicated his life convinced his family – wife Jenny and daughters Nikki and Sarah – that something other than age had caught up with him.

Nikki explained: “His whole demeanour changed, he was a bit grumpy and he wasn’t himself at all.

“He kept falling ill and when we took him to the doctors they were saying it was his age, or maybe depression, and then they suspected he had had a mini stroke.

“But we knew that wasn’t the case.

“He stopped watching football, so we knew there was something drastically wrong. Our whole lives had revolved around it, watching Football Italia, Match of the Day.

“He had some brain scans and they showed shadows on the front of his brain, again they said it might have been a mini stroke.

“We kept taking him back and they kept asking him how he was, but still to this day he doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with him.

“We were eventually listened to and he was diagnosed with early onset dementia. It took about 10 years in total, from start to finish.”

The former striker has Pick’s Disease, a rare neurodegenerative illness that has had a profound effect on the 66-year-old.

“Physically he looks no different, he’s put on a little weight because the illness has given him a sweet tooth,” said Nikki.

“He’s lost all his empathy, social skills and the power of speech.

“He can say certain words but he doesn’t know the words for things.

“It’s bizarre, he doesn’t forget us, it’s not like Alzheimer’s. He can pick the phone up and say Nik, but the only word he can say after that is superb.

“When we took him to the match last week at Gainsborough, I had music on from our youth, like Meatloaf, and he sang along with the words. “How can he do that but he can’t speak?

“He can’t feed himself, he has to have lists of what to do. And if my mum isn’t around then my sister Sarah and I have to go round.

“The worst thing for me is the loss of speech and his sense of humour. He was always sarcastic and micky taking, like a footballer.

“He’s happy, but we can’t have that banter with him anymore.”

The Chesterfield legend’s illness came to be public knowledge in 2014, when he was invited to open the club’s memorial garden.

Nikki, concerned that he would struggle to give interviews to the press, contacted a friend at Peak FM and ended up going on the radio to talk about the situation.

That was the birth of Team Ernie, a concerted effort to raise funds and awareness.

She said: “We want to raise money, but we want to raise awareness too, so people don’t give up when doctors say it’s one thing but you know deep down in your heart of hearts something else is going on.

“If you’re told no, ask for a second opinion.

“We want to raise awareness of the help that’s available, you have to fight for information.”

The latest fundraising idea is a match at the Proact Stadium on Sunday 22nd May, when a team of legends will take on a side filled with TV personalities.

Another former Spireites star, Phil Walker, is organising the event and the likes of Jack Lester, Steve Ogrizovic and Tony Lormor will be turning out.

Nikki sees the day as a chance to generate funds for worthy causes, and celebrate her father’s long and storied relationship with Chesterfield FC.

“We want to celebrate my dad’s career, and although he doesn’t understand, I want to do him proud.

“This match is for Dementia UK, the Alzheimer’s Society and Ashgate Hospice, and some of the money will go to the Once Upon a Smile charity.

“The response has been overwhelming. Phil has organised 13 matches, his son Jamie played for my dad and when he was diagnosed with cancer he started doing these matches. He says this is the biggest he’s ever been involved in, from the response of fans and on social media.

“The messages that people have been sending, memories of my dad, it has brought me to tears and it leaves me speechless.

“As a family it makes us so proud.”

Tickets for the game are available from the Proact and can be purchased on the day of the event, which starts at 12noon, with a 3pm kick-off for the main match.

It is hoped Moss himself will be fit and well enough to make a cameo appearance during the game, and his family will be well represented at the Proact – but that’s nothing new.

Over the years they have been regular fixtures.

“We spent all my childhood at Saltergate and then moved to the Proact,” said Nikki.

“He played in one of Jamie’s matches about five years ago, that was the last time he played.

“We take him to every gome game, either my husband Stew or my sister Sarah or I.

“I got married there as well.

“Everyone knows us, knows dad and the situation, we feel safe, he feels comfortable. We’re Spireites, we love going.”

Many Spireites will have grown up idolising Moss, and 22nd May will be an encounter with nostalgia.

For Nikki, it’s another opportunity to express her gratitude and love for an ever present source of support.

“I just think he’s my dad, my hero.

“He’s always been my rock, always been there for me no matter what.

“He still gives me a big cuddle.

“He’s still my hero.”