Obituary: Norman Christie, physiotherapist, footballer and manager

Norman Christie, physiotherapist, footballer and manager. Born: 1 September, 1925, in Kilmuir, Ross-shire. Died: 6 October, 2010, in Forfar, aged 85.

Norman Christie was a man who brought enthusiasm and dedication to everything he did, whether it was in his role as a father, his day job as a physiotherapist or as a football player or manager.

Born in the parish of Kilmuir in Ross-shire, he spent part of his early years in Glen Isla and was educated for a time at Kirriemuir High School.

After a spell in the Air Training Corps as a teenager, he enlisted in the RAF during the final stages of the Second World War, serving as a wireless operator with Bomber Command.

Following his demob, Christie trained as a physio and later as a chiropodist and it was while undergoing his physiotherapy training in Glasgow that he met his wife Irene, whom he married in 1951.

All of his professional life was spent at Stracathro Hospital near Brechin, where he became an important part of a team engaged in the treatment of geriatrics and stroke victims. While others had been inclined to write off such patients, this team succeeded in getting positive results in a significant number of cases, much of that due to Christie's enthusiasm, positive thinking and dedication.

His zest and enthusiasm also spilled over into the social side of hospital life and he was the driving force behind Stracathro's summer fete and sports day, acting as both organiser and MC and always entering into the spirit of the occasion.

After the war he also became a professional footballer, playing for Third Lanark, Stirling Albion, Ayr United and Brechin City, before ending his career at Montrose.

Freed by Montrose FC at the end of season 1958-59, he was appointed manager at Links Park just weeks later following the resignation of the club's first ever manager, George Hill.

It was an inspired appointment, for the new manager was one of the game's thinkers who would later take Montrose forward and, in an era when kick and rush was the norm in the lower division, introduce a tactical dimension to their game. His experience as a physiotherapist led him to believe that fitness needed to be related to football and that muscular injuries often stemmed from players not being up to the game's individual physical stresses and strains. As a result, he introduced his own style of training regimes with much more emphasis on stretching and body movement rather than just stamina.In those days, B division generally included some of the top names in Scottish football with Clyde, Falkirk, Dundee United, St Johnstone and Hamilton among those who had a spell there but, with Christie at the helm, the Gable Endies, normally one of the basement clubs in the league, quickly became one of the more successful sides.

Always a fair man, Christie was both a strict disciplinarian and a shrewd tactician; he introduced a 4-2-4 formation, which he later told a meeting of the local Rotary Club came naturally to the side thanks to the skills of Kilgannon and Sandeman in midfield.

Under his guidance, Montrose were no longer the whipping boys of B Division, although they never quite managed to clear that final hurdle and gain promotion to the top flight.

In August 1968, Christie suddenly resigned, saying that he felt he was "saturated" after almost ten seasons in charge.

During that time, however, he had brought credibility to Montrose FC and his legacy would later be taken forward by managers such as Alex Stuart and Ian Stewart.

Following his resignation, the Montrose Standard reported: "He had a phenomenal run of successes in his early years as manager, bringing the team within an ace of promotion to the consternation of several sports journalists and many local fans."

Part of that quote may stem from a jibe by one west of Scotland journalist who once wrote that the club recently relegated from the top division could beat the Gable Endies, then top of B division, with their bootlaces tied together. In fact, Christie's men proved to be more than a match for their supposedly superior opponents.

After quitting Links Park, Christie had a spell on the coaching staff at Dundee United and he was also responsible for the fitness training of the referees in the area for a time.

Behind his love of sport, Christie was dedicated to his family, although they recall spending part of their summer holidays during their early years in a caravan at Montrose so that Dad could be there for the club's pre-season training.

Like most successful players and managers, Christie was a winner, although he was never down after a bad result, preferring to say simply that "we lost, but we could have won".

Another example of his competitiveness is that son Paul remembers that, as a boy, he was occasionally allowed to take part in some pre-season sessions and that his father, although appreciating that the youngster couldn't manage all of the exercises, always pushed him to his limits.

He was always a keen golfer, and retirement allowed him more time on the course. He became a member of Edzell Golf Club, although the final years of his life were blighted by his struggle with Alzheimer's. Christie is survived by his wife Irene, children Janice and Paul and five grandchildren.

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