Family of former Doncaster Rovers star abused by online trolls after dementia linked to football

Ernie Moss during his time at Doncaster Rovers.
Ernie Moss during his time at Doncaster Rovers.

The eldest daughter of former Doncaster Rovers legend and dementia sufferer Ernie Moss has told of her horror at being attacked on social media by heartless trolls.

The nasty and cruel Twitter messages came after new research by UK scientists suggested there may be a link between repeatedly heading a football and long-term brain damage.

Ernie still enjoys watching Chesterfield.

Ernie still enjoys watching Chesterfield.

Inspirational and humble Ernie, 67, who scored 15 goals in 44 appearances for Rovers between 1983-84, was officially diagnosed with frontal lobe dementia five years ago.

The Moss family have been campaigning for years along with the family of former footballer Jeff Astle - who died at the age of 59 having lived with dementia - for football authorities to do more to offer support. A coroner ruled Mr Astle’s condition was caused by heading a football.

Ernie, Chesterfield's all time leading goalscorer, helped Rovers earn promotion from Division Four under Billy Bremner during the 83-84 season but enjoyed several spells at the Derbyshire club where he is classed as a legend.

Ernie’s eldest daughter, Nikki Trueman, 42, said: “I had quite a few horrible tweets from trolls saying that I was doing it for money and compensation and stuff.

“It absolutely floored me. I was in bits. I was sobbing my heart out because no amount of money would make any difference to my dad. All we want is dad back and we can’t have that.

“Compensation means nothing. I just want to know dad is cared for without my mum having to sell her home.”

The small study by University College London and Cardiff University, published on Wednesday, looked at the brains of six former footballers who were renowned for heading the ball.

All six of the players later developed dementia in their 60s.

In four cases, the researchers found signs of brain injury called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) - which has previously been linked to dementia.

However, the study stops short of concluding a definite link.

Mum-of-three Nikki said: “I know it is only a small study but anything is good - but I think it should have been done by the Football Association. They have now apparently said they are going to do more research so let’s hope that they do actually follow that commitment.

“There is so much money in football now it is though that has taken over.

“My dad would have played football for nothing. If we had known about this before he would have still done it because football was his life but also football is going to kill him.

“Nobody has been in touch with us from the Football Association since it has been in the press. It is like they are not bothered. I think they are burying their head in the sand.”

In response, The FA’s head of medicine, Dr Charlotte Cowie, said the FA takes the concerns around concussion and head injuries ‘extremely seriously’.

She said: “The FA is determined to support this research and is also committed to ensuring that any research process is independent, robust and thorough, so that when the results emerge, everyone in the game can be confident in its findings.

“To this end, we have recently agreed with the PFA to jointly fund the research project as we believe that a collaborative approach will strengthen the credibility and resource available to the project.”

Ernie can’t speak, bath himself or make food. He still goes to watch Chesterfield play and is an expert at completing Soduku puzzles.

He is looked after round-the-clock by his wife Jenny, 66, his other daughter Sarah, 39, Nikki and her husband Stu, 39.

His family say he is a ‘happy’ and ‘humble’ man who still takes time out to pose for photographs with supporters and sign autographs.

Nikki added: “The only time he leaves the house is to go to watch Chesterfield at home. The other day he was on the drive ready to go but he had read the date wrong and they were playing away.

“The club and fans have been amazing.

“He is our hero. He has always been very, very humble. It would be nice to get some support from higher up along the way.”