Birmingham born right back Ernie “Mush” Callaghan played for Walmer Athletic in 1927, Hinckley United in 1928 and Atherstone Town in 1929 before signing for First Division Aston Villa in September 1930, making his debut in a third round FA Cup tie against Bradford City in January 1933. His Football League debut came the next month against Portsmouth at Villa Park, Callaghan featuring 5 times in his debut season. He remained a fringe player at Villa making 13 appearances during their relegation season in 1935-36, but broke into the team on a regular basis from February 1937, missing only two games the following season as Aston Villa won the Second Division Championship.
Callaghan was also a member of the legendary Aston Villa team that refused to perform a Nazi salute on their famous 1938 tour of Germany. He was also an ever present in the final season before the Second World War, as Villa consolidated their top flight status, finishing in 12th place.
During the Second World War he was also a constable in Birmingham City Police. On the night of 28 July 1942, he and Police Sergeant Harold Wood attended the factory of Gabriel’s Ltd on Coleshill Street in Birmingham which had been bombed. They helped rescue trapped workers and with a civilian James Hughes the three men received gallantry awards. For his part Ernie Callaghan received The British Empire Medal.
Callaghan returned to peacetime football with Villa after the conflict, playing 4 FA Cup ties in the 1946 tournament, and he made a further 11 appearances in 1946-47 to take his total of appearances to 145 both sides of the War. Until it was overtaken by Brad Friedel, he previously held the Aston Villa club record for the oldest first team player, being 39 years 86 days old when he played against Grimsby Town in his last game in April 1947, when he was 39 years and 257 days.
After his retirement Callaghan became the groundskeeper for Aston Villa and lived in a house on site.