Club historian David Bull remembers the former Saints goalkeeper, John Christie, who has died aged 84.
Fraserburgh-born John Christie was keeping goal for Ayr United when National Service brought him to Hampshire and to the attention of Southampton's manager, Sid Cann.
He was promptly signed in January 1951 and soon given his Saints debut. But early the following season, Cann acquired the Republic of Ireland’s Fred Kiernan and thereby set up a two-man competition for the Saints’ goalkeeping jersey that lasted, through relegation to Division III(S) and two changes of manager. Then, in the summer of 1956, Ted Bates released Kiernan and transfer-listed Christie.
John was wary of Bates, who only ever watched matches from the dug-out, at an angle from which ’keepers should not, in John’s estimation, be judged. Yet he came off the list to play all bar the last two games of the following season, whereupon he briefly had a new competitor in Brian Stevens. It was Tony Godfrey, however, to whom he eventually gave way. By the time he left for Walsall, in the summer of 1959, John had established a post-war record – despite all those games ‘lost’ to Kiernan – of 217 appearances in Southampton’s goal, an achievement since overtaken by four ’keepers, latterly Kelvin Davis.
He immediately won Fourth, and then Third, Division promotion medals with Walsall and so had a season back in Division II, prior to a non-league flurry that began at Burton, where Peter Taylor was serving a managerial apprenticeship. Returning to Southampton in 1964, John had a 27-year stint as a rep in the janitorial business, while assisting his former team-mate, Pat Parker, who was managing Cowes. Then came a pre-retirement interlude, as a site-supervisor at a Winchester school.
John will surely be remembered by Saints fans of the 1950s for his agility on his line and for his bravery coming off it. Terry Paine rated John’s ‘continental’ style and selected him, as sub to Campbell Forsyth, when he picked an ‘All-Time’ side, in his biography, from among his team-mates. The admiration is mutual: John would affectionately recall staying on, after training, to practise his angles with the teenage Paine.
Until sarcoidosis of the lungs restricted his activities in March 2013, John was a regular at the Saints’ home games. He could be constantly found, of a match-day, reminiscing on the St Mary’s forecourt with the club historians and could be guaranteed to grin from ear to ear whenever I introduced him as the ’keeper who had saved a spot-kick from Fulham’s Charlie Mitten, the ‘Penalty King’, on Boxing Day 1952.
JOHN ALEXANDER CHRISTIE
26 Sep 1929 – 9 Mar 2014