I was very sad to learn that Ernie Walker, the former Secretary of the Scottish Football Association had died.

Ernie was a football visionary who was in charge of Scottish football during its golden era when it expected to, and did, qualify for FIFA World Cup Finals on a regular basis.

My memories of Ernie are particularly personal.

I played in the Scottish Amateur team which was runner up in the UEFA Amateur Championships in Palma, Majorca in 1967 and Ernie was the SFA Assistant Secretary who accompanied us on that trip.

After moving on from playing professional football I became a Scottish Grade One Referee. I was also Depute Head Teacher at Lesmahagow High School and one day in January 1988 I received a call from Ernie asking me to come to the offices in Park Gardens, Glasgow to have a chat with him. After a discussion lasting almost two hours he asked me to take give up a teaching career of almost 20 years and take on the role as the SFA’s first Referee Training Officer.

After discussing the situation with my wife, Catherine, I decided to accept and have been involved full time in football ever since.

As I said earlier, my memories of Ernie are very personal.

I remember him doing regular visits round the SFA Offices to check up on how things were going. Ernie was a busy man, much in demand by FIFA and UEFA as well as his role as the top man in Scottish football so if you had issues you wanted to discuss you had to be ready for his arrival.

I also remember him at the International FA Board where his views were highly valued by FIFA Presidents and General Secretaries. Ernie had presence and he had class!

He was also the man who, along with Paddy Barclay of the Times, prepared the text for the change to the Offside Law in 1990 – a forward level with the second last defender was no longer offside – a major change to the Laws of the Game in favour of the attacking team.

I also remember the media calling him the ‘Ayatollah’ because of his strong views on how football should be run – but never to his face!

He was a highly skilled administrator but above all he was a football person who had a complete understanding of the game.

In the last two years Scottish football has lost three major administrators in Ernie, Davis Will and Jim Farry.

How much could they have contributed to Scottish football in today’s atmosphere of confrontation and tribalism?

A lot, because they provided the leadership we lack today.

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