Blidworth-born, Ernest Coleman, took less than 25 years to rise from his day of birth, in January 1908, to the top of British football’s First Division, with that of London club, Arsenal, in the 1930s.
A goal-scorer of the highest order, there is one club that probably regretted, for many years, not signing Coleman as a youth, Nottingham Forest, they apparently not seeing anything in the then, junior footballer, to bring him into the club.
Coleman’s footballing endeavours though, they would begin in nearby Hucknall, honing his craft as a centre-forward, first with the Hucknall Church Boys Brigade, then, in the mid-twenties, with Hucknall Church Boys, going on to net an impressive 68 goals in one season, his side winning the Red Triangle Football League championship.
At this early stage of his career Coleman would also be seen to play a handful of games for the Nottinghamshire Schoolboys, prior to his rejection by Forest, being snapped up, gratefully, by Halifax Town, then of the Third Division North, in 1927.
Perhaps surprisingly, of those clubs in which he did appear for throughout his professional career,, would only be for a handful of years each, that net-bulging prowess he’d been perfecting seeing him rise through the leagues quite quickly.
At his first club however, Coleman would be seen to make just fifteen appearances, netting five times, in the two years there (1927-29), but produced enough to gain the attention of, making a £1,250 move to Second Division side, Grimsby Town.
Those goals, they continued to flow, very much so in fact; at one point during his spell with the Mariners, Coleman would be seen to score some eighteen goals in eleven successive games (the Jamie Vardy of his day), during what was the 1930-31 season.
Appearing for Grimsby, between 1929 and 1932, Coleman would be part of the side which gained promotion to the First Division (1929), before going on to become the clubs’ top scorer in consecutive seasons, 1931 and 1932.
A particular highlight for Coleman would be his four-goal haul in Grimsby’s 8-2 trouncing of Leicester City, but, as was previously the case at Halifax prior, that scoring ability was gaining attention, and, of one particular manager, Herbert Chapman, of the then defending champions, Arsenal.
His time at the Arsenal was too be a short-lived one, but successful all the same, going on to make as much a lasting impression on the Highbury faithful as they did him.
Arsenal sources claim that Coleman’s nickname of ‘Tim; was derived from the earlier presence of another Coleman in the Gunners’ long, and illustrious history, that of John George Coleman; also nicknamed Tim, the ‘other’ Coleman would appear for the then Woolwich Arsenal between 1902 and 1908, before going on to play for Nottingham Forest, at the end of his playing career, in 1914-15.
During this Coleman’s time with Nottingham he would be seen to score fourteen goals in thirty-seven games, prior to the outbreak of the First World War, he would retire at that time.
Ernie Coleman though, his joining the Arsenal in the thirties would come for the princely sum of £7,500, and was signed as being the intended replacement for Jack Lambert, for Coleman’s part, he succeeded.
At the end of this first ‘season,’ Arsenal would finish as runners-up in the league, going on to retain the First Division title in 1933, also lifting the FA Charity Shield that same year, courtesy of a 3-0 defeat of Everton.
During his time with Arsenal, Coleman would score twenty-goals in forty-five games, before falling out of favour after the club signed Ted Drake, in 1934.
As for the victory in the Charity Shield match, between Arsenal and Everton, in 1933, there would be the presence of several, Nottinghamshire connections; Everton legend, Dixie Dean, would play for Notts County in 1938-39, whilst Coleman’s Arsenal teammate, Welshman Charlie Jones, he’d go on to make over a century of appearance for Nottingham Forest in the twenties, before going on to manage Notts County in the thirties.
Then there’s Mr Chapman himself, one of the Arsenal greats, he would be seen to have had brief spells with both Worksop Town, and Notts County, in the early 1900s.
Coleman though, upon leaving Arsenal, would see his next stop being in the north-east, with Middlesbrough, they paying around £4,000 for his services, going on to net a further twenty-one goals in eighty-five games for the Teessiders, prior to his making what was the final move of his professional, footballing career, and to Norwich City.
Whilst at Norwich, Coleman would earn the captain’s armband for the 1938-39 season and, with a further twenty-five goals, in sixty-three games, the Blidworth striker would continue with the net-bulging prowess that had served his so well throughout his time in the professional game.
His last game in the professional game, for Norwich City, a 1-0 win over Nottingham Forest, the club who had rejected him all those years before.
The outbreak of the Second World War brought a crashing halt to many of Britain, and the world as a whole, day-to-day activities, football being one of those that was stifled, for a time at least.
After the war ended, Coleman, like many others, were to be on the look-out for work, the world trying to get back on its feet; this would be when the Blidworth-born, ex-pro footballer, would find his way back home, making his way to the colliery town of Linby, and with his arrival, bringing about the re-birth of football there.
His arrival, to work in their local colliery, would ultimately lead into what would be Linby’s most successful era as a football club, Coleman bringing several with him, to work the mines, and to play football – it worked, rather well in fact.
One factor out of Coleman rebirthing Linby, and the colours in which the new side would be wearing when they re-took the playing fields, was that the red & white strip used at that time, It was Coleman’s tribute to the time he spent with Arsenal.
From there, Coleman would twice be seen to take over the managerial reigns at Notts County, and, in doing so, helped save the club from relegation from the Football League itself.
After some five decades in the beautiful game though, the 1920, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, it was soon time for Ernie Coleman to ride off into the sunset of retirement, not that he’d get much time to enjoy that.
In January 1984, shortly after what was his 76th birthday, Ernest Coleman would pass away in his Nottingham home, he’d have done so safe in the knowledge that his name is not only etched into footballing history, but continues, to this very day, to be both remembered, and talked about, across the country.
*Article provided by Peter Mann (Senior Correspondent).
*Main image @VintageFootballers Ernie Coleman in his days at Norwich City.