Date Posted: 18/09/2017
Everyone at Guernsey Football Club was devastated to learn of the sad passing of super star lion keeper Ernie Backlund-Leale on Sunday 17th September, following his brave battle with Leukaemia.
Ernie, 12, was an inspiration to us all in the way he set about making the most of his time he had left with his devoted family, completing his “bucket list” and more.
Top of that list was getting his dog Darwin, a faithful friend to Ernie, protecting him to the end. Amongst other things he made sausages, chocolate and sushi, enjoyed a very personal and up-close encounter with orangutans at Jersey Zoo, rode in a monster truck, competed in the hill-climb, was given personal tours of the police station and the Royal Court (including the Bailiff’s Chambers), was the guest of honour at a surprise Christmas party, and enjoyed journeys on the Flying Christine marine ambulance, lifeboat, the Channel Islands Air Search plane, and a helicopter. He also made a guest appearance on stage with Abba tribute band Bjorn Again when they performed at Castle Cornet.
Given Ernie’s bond with 'his lion' Roary, the club was delighted to officially appoint him as Roary’s keeper last season. Ernie was a familiar face at Footes Lane, giving his support to the team and trying his very best to keep our mascot out of trouble. Roary regularly visited Ernie, including a very special surprise visit to Southampton General Hospital in February 2016, accompanied by some of the players and directors. Mischief was also made at an afternoon tea at the OGH where Ernie was one of four inspirational youngsters to receive the Community Star of the Year Award and Roary famously (and very much to the amusement of Ernie) broke a chair. Chair-breaking became a common theme as a couple of weeks ago, during Ernie’s final trip to The Lane, Roary managed to break the wheelchair he had acquired to make his keeper and best friend feel a bit better!
Guernsey FC was pleased to be able to help Ernie achieve his dream of playing in a real band. ‘Ernie & The Ormers’ was created in honour of Ernie’s best friend and nurse Sandie for her retirement party and was made up of Ernie on drums, backed up by Matt and Sam and managed by Green Lions defender Simon Geall and assisted by Ernie’s awesome brother Joe. The first gig was such a success that they performed several times throughout the summer to a fantastic response. Their gigs included the GFC end-of-season dinner, to the crowd at Footes Lane after a match, in the live lounge at Island FM, at Sandie’s daughter’s wedding reception, and even very recently in the main band tent at the West Show.
Throughout his illness, Ernie continued to display an infectious smile and a wicked sense of humour, bringing joy to all who had the pleasure of meeting him.
GFC Director Sara Mallett said: "Whilst we are all incredibly sad, we should remember how brave Ernie was and, no matter what, he found a smile. Ernie would want everyone to remember him with a chuckle about the many fabulous adventures he enjoyed."
Guernsey FC's thoughts and love are with his family at this time.
Rest in peace, Ernie.