In these dark times, we have received further sad news with the passing of another of our former players – Ernie Phythian,
A striker who joined us a part of the swap deal that took Wyn Davies to Bolton Wanderers in March 1962 – with Ernie and £20,000 headed to the Racecourse in exchange for the future Wales International striker.
Reports at the time valued Ernie at £10,000 – so quite substantial figures for all concerned – and the new arrival was to go on and enjoy a fruitful spell with the Robins.
Born in Farnworth, Lancashire in July 1942, Ernie was related to ex-Bolton player Jimmy Seddon (375 apps) and Football League referee Ken Seddon. He attended school in Bolton and captained Farnworth Schoolboys, along with playing for Lancashire Schoolboys, before signing amateur forms with Bolton Wanderers as a 15-year-old, while working as an apprentice toolmaker.
He was also an accomplished cricketer, playing twice for Lancashire in minor games and representing England at Schoolboy level.
The choice to go with football was completed on his 17th birthday when he signed professional forms at Burnden Park, being capped seven times by England at Youth level.
He made his Football League debut in early 1960, still 17, when playing at Hillsborough against Sheffield Wednesday, as the visitors ended the game with only nine players on the pitch.
In total, he played 10 times for the Trotters before switching to Wrexham and being on hand as we looked to close out the season to finish in third place and win promotion from Division Four.
The transfer was concluded just days after Davies had grabbed a hat-trick in our record league victory – a 10-1 success over Hartlepools United – and Ernie went onto score four goals in 16 games as we stepped up a level and reached the Welsh Cup Final (although lost in three games to Rhyl).
He was a regular in the side for the next three years, only missing the odd game and racked up 161 appearances, netting an impressive 48 goals in the process.
Described as “a small stocky number nine who always had to be watched because of his quickness, worrying play and whole heartiness.”
He picked up another Welsh Cup runners-up medal in 1965, after Cardiff City beat us in three games, and also played in goal during an FA Cup tie at Altrincham due to an injury to the custodian on the day – we earned a 0-0 draw and won the replay.
That summer Hartlepool swooped to sign Ernie in a £3,500 deal and went on to play over 125 times for the Poolies, until heading for a new life in South Africa.
He joined Johannesburg club Southern Suburbs for £4,000 in June 1968 and went on to remain in Africa, working for a time as car salesman.
His daughter Jane Wish penned the following tribute to her father:
Ernest Rixon Phythian – 16 July 1942 to 3 August 2020
My Dad, my hero. I don’t know how to even begin to say how heartbroken I am that you are no longer here. You were, and always will be, “The Legend”. A brilliant sportsman who excelled in any sport you tried. As a youngster you had to choose between professional cricket or soccer and soccer it was. You played for England youth and represented your country numerous times and then went on to play with the pros. Wrexham, Hartlepools and Bolton Wanderers. Then the decision to come to South Africa in 1968 for a short-term contract with Southern Suburbs and later Lusitano. South Africa became your home for the next 52 years.
Even in your senior years, you were brilliant at any sport – shooting your age – a gross 72 and getting a hole in one. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to be known as Ernie’s daughter. Wherever we went you knew someone and would always be chatting and making people happy. I have so enjoyed our special times together – watching Clare at athletics, helping me at the dog shows with Bobby and Benji, our breakfasts at Wimpy and Mugg n Bean, our McDonalds Double Chilli Cheeseburgers and Oreo McSlurry’s (as you called them) after a tough round of golf and our visits to Times Square and Montecasino.
I will miss our Wednesday and Sunday golf games with the “Old Farts”. I know it’s been so tough for you the past couple of months with your heart growing weaker and weaker. Maureen, Princess, Nurse Prim and Francinah – thank you for caring for Dad and trying to keep him comfortable. Dad - I know you have been welcomed with open arms by all those who have loved you and that you will be sitting there watching over us with a lap full of our dogs getting lots of kisses. Rest in Peace Dad – I love you ….
Everyone involved with Wrexham AFC would like to send their sincere condolences to Ernie's family and friends at this sad time.