A FORMER non-league football manager was thanked by Harry Redknapp, and an entire crowd of fans, at a special event recently.

Ernie Calder, who had spells as manager of Thornbury Town, Wotton Rovers and Sharpness AFC, played a critical roll in the career of one of the Premier League’s best midfielders.

Michael Carrick, who won five Premier League at Manchester United, owes his career, in part, to Ernie.

Carrick’s dad, Vince, used to worked for Ernie at Rolls Royce. Ernie had to give him the day off work to take his son to a trial at West Ham, then managed by Redknapp.

Ernie, a West Ham fan himself, got the chance to meet him at an Evening with Harry Redknapp event in Bristol.

After being told the story Harry signed Ernie’s West Ham book writing “Thanks for Michael Carrick.”

Ernie, who lives in Thornbury’s Grace Care Centre, described Harry as “A fantastic fella”.

“It was a good night, the atmosphere was fantastic.

"It was out of this world. I didn’t expect him to hold an audience for so long.”

He was taken to the event by Emma Cave who works at the home as an activities coordinator. Emma, whose son plays for Thornbury Town FC, bought tickets after learning of Ernie’s love of football and connection to the club.

“One of his players was in fact my sons Grandad,” said Emma.

“Sadly he is no longer with us however I managed to get some contacts and a couple of the players from back then have been in to visit Ernie.”

Emma has also taken Ernie to watch Thornbury Town Football Club.

“It’s been really nice it’s brought lots of memories back,” said Ernie.

His room is decorated with football posters and memorabilia, and he loves reminiscing about old matches.

Ernie’s managerial days might now be behind him but there is a sense he would fit in well in today’s game.

Reminiscing about a previous manager he came up against Ernie said: “He was a long ball merchant. That’s not football.

“You’ve got to keep it at your feet.”

He once told a struggling striker: "You'll play my way or not at all."

He promptly went out and scored a hat-trick in the second half.

Ernie also believes in giving young players a chance.

“When it’s a group of players who have grown up together they try harder. They all know each other and are really together,” he said.

Much like his hero Redknapp, Ernie is nothing if not honest.

Speaking about local rivals Tytherington Rocks, Ernie said: “I could’ve played for them with one leg,” before admitting that these days “They haven’t got a bad team at all.”

Unlike Redknapp thought, Ernie was used to dealing with people juggling football with work as opposed to pampered professionals.

He had most trouble from teachers, apparently as they aren't used to being told what to do!

"Teachers and me don't get on," he joked.

Ernie was no less abrupt when dealing with members of his own family.

His advice for his son when playing for the school team? “Pass the ball to someone who can do something with it.”

Anyone who played under Ernie is invited to come and see him at the Grace Care Centre.