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I lived the dream of a professional footballer – this is the reality

I lived the dream of a professional footballer – this is the reality

LIKE most young boys Malcolm Christie dreamt of becoming a professional footballer. But at 19 years old, Christie was playing amateur football and working at Somerfield Supermarket, thinking the dream had passed him by.

“I was a huge Manchester United fan and decided to stop playing football so I could watch United play Old Trafford, but thankfully my dad talked me out of it and convinced me to play for another season to see what happened,”

says Christie, who has just released his autobiography The Reality of the Dream.

Just a few months later, Christie was signed by non-league Nuneaton Borough where 14 goals in 21 games caught the attention of several Premier League scouts. Trials at Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City followed before Derby County signed Christie for a bargain £55,000 – and that’s when the Stamford-born striker’s life changed forever.

“I remember my first day of training for Derby. I turned up in a tracksuit carrying my toiletries in an Umbro washbag, while my teammates looked like they were dressed for dinner, and packed their gear into Louis Vuitton or Prada bags,” recalls Christie. “The training itself was a change to what I was used to, and I was a bit awestruck when I found myself playing up front with Paolo Wanchope during a practise match. I’d had Paolo’s poster stuck on my bedroom wall!”

The young striker scored two goals for the Rams on his full debut, the first of many important goals he scored for County. He is most fondly remembered by Derby fans for his winning goal against Manchester United in 2001, a goal that secured County’s Premier League survival.

After winning several caps for England Under 21s, Christie, and his Derby teammate Chris Riggott signed for Steve McClaren’s ambitious Middlesbrough. Despite a promising start, the stress of his move to the North East began to take its toll on Christie.

“There was one game, against Everton, where I suffered from double vision. It was horrible. The ball came over to me, but I could see two of them and didn’t know which one to go after. I was substituted at half time and sent to specialists to get checked out. I went to the opticians, I saw a doctor, I had brain scans, but no one could find anything wrong with me. No one even thought it might be stress. I mean, why would they? I was a Premier League footballer, what could I possibly have to be stressed about?”

Christie managed to “muddle through” and his performances led to calls for his inclusion in the England squad. But then an innocuous training collision with Riggott led to Christie breaking his leg. His career was effectively over at just 24 years of age.

“I should have been playing again within a few months, but I don’t think my injury was treated properly,” reflects Christie. “I was in full leg plaster for months and when I returned to training, I felt pain every time I ran. I think certain people thought I was making a meal out of it, but eventually I went for another scan, and it turned out that my leg hadn’t healed. I was literally playing football with a broken leg, so no wonder it hurt so much!”

Christie’s injury hell coincided with the most successful period of Middlesbrough’s history. They won the League Cup in 2004 and reached the UEFA Cup Final in 2006, but Christie, who had joined Boro to win trophies, was forced to watch on from the side lines.

“It was a nightmare time for me. Yes, I wanted the club to do well for the fans and my teammates, but I also felt totally isolated. I spent hour after hour in the gym, while the rest of the lads were enjoying the banter and buzz that come with winning games.”

After several unsuccessful comebacks, and a short spell with Leeds United, Christie retired from football in 2009. By then he had fallen out of love with game and worked in the motor industry.

“When I retired, I experienced some very dark days. I didn’t want to talk about football, I didn’t want to watch football. I wanted nothing to do with it. It was only when Zak and Flynn, my two sons, began to play football that I started to get my passion for the game back.”

 With the support of his wife, Emma, and third son, Leo, Christie has rekindled his love of football. He has recently gained his coaching badges and set up his own academy Christie Coaching.

“I want my story to give an insight into what it is really like to be a professional footballer, an injured footballer, and worse – a retired footballer.”

The Reality of the Dream, published by Morgan Lawrence Publishing Services, is available to order now online at www.morganlawrence.co.uk and at all major book retailers.

The Reality of the Dream is supported by Front Line Recruitment, Chevin Homes, and The Boathouse Upton.


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