Time Tunnel - Norman Christie
Younger fans may not have heard of Norman Christie but to fans of a certain age, like me, Norman will forever be remembered as the man who took the Montrose Football team ‘by the hand’ and led them to respectability as Manager from 1959 to 1968. His predecessor and the very first Team Manager as such was George Hill who took charge not long after Montrose were re-elected into the SFL in 1955. It was very much an uphill task for George as he had little time to prepare for the step up in class and results during his tenure may indicate a ‘could do better’ report but one has to recall that the club as a whole did well just to stay afloat at that time.
Norman Christie took over in 1959 after Montrose had finished bottom of the league the previous season winning only 6 of their 36 games and only 1 of their last 19 games. Prior to becoming Manager Norman played for Montrose in the 1957/8 and 1958/9 seasons and my records indicate his first game for us at Links Park was the New Year game against Stenhousemuir on 2nd January 1958. He played left half (No.6) for us – which to modern day positions would be left side of midfield. In his playing career however he started off at Third Lanark and scored his only senior goal for them in 30 appearances. He moved on to Ayr United then Stirling Albion and Brechin making 3, 32 and 60 appearances respectively before finishing his playing career at Montrose for whom he made 46 appearances. The only club he managed was Montrose.
Coming back to my earlier comment that he brought Montrose FC ‘back to respectability’ that was not a slight on predecessor George Hill, far from it. Norman Christie like most other new managers came with new ideas and was a strict disciplinarian. His other qualities were that he knew the club having been there as a senior player and he was a physiotherapist outside of football working at a hospital near Brechin. He attended a series of courses on football coaching and allied to that he added his knowledge of physiotherapy. Both those aspects he brought into play at Links Park by changing the way the players trained and prepared for games so that emphasis was not entirely on running and ball work but by positional and tactical awareness and in terms of fitness by stretching exercises and body tuning. All new stuff in the football world at a time when physiotherapy in football was unheard of and when a player went down injured a trainer ran on with a sponge and a container of cold water – just what you need on a freezing cold day, eh?
The result of the changes was that Montrose were no longer a soft touch and steadily became a force in the old Second Division (second tier). Although they never gained promotion to the top tier they were at one time only a whisker away and I well recall a newspaper headline at the time saying that Montrose would not be welcome in the First Division as they were from the SFL’s smallest town. Some of the players he brought to the club would have graced the First Division, players such as The Kemp brothers Jimmy and Bobby, Frank Sandeman, Willie Nicoll, Gordon Wallace and Jimmy Kilgannon. If memory serves me correctly I think a very young Bobby Livingstone arrived at Links Park during Norman’s time as Manager.
Following Norman’s death in October 2010, age 85, Forbes Inglis in his tribute said of his appointment as Manager ‘It was an inspired appointment for the new Manager was one of the games thinkers’. Very true and very precise, Norman did a fine job in our early days back in the SFL both as a player then as Manager for a decade. He made a great impression on me as a mere fan on the terraces and I well remember him sometimes in a hat and a long coat, arms folded on the touchline, thinking, just thinking ahead. A great man.
Steve Doyle (Sassmo)