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Andy Christie believes in setting a good example and being visible as a leader. Claire Tolley agrees.
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Andy Christie believes in setting a good example and being visible as a leader. Claire Tolley agrees.


When Andy Christie takes a seat in the office at the StoneX Stadium and looks at the laptop screen, it’s already 8:35 PM on Saturday. The first thing that is noticed is that he is not as big as expected, standing at just over 6 feet 2 inches and weighing 16 stone. It’s not surprising to see him looking tired, considering he plays for both Saracens and Scotland as a flanker.

In the past seven days, he has traveled to Edinburgh for a pre-Six Nations training camp, returned home, played exceptionally well for Saracens in their 40-22 victory over Exeter, conducted numerous interviews, and is currently drinking a less-than-appetizing beige recovery beverage before leaving for Alicante early tomorrow morning.

The top priority for Gregor Townsend is to add another four caps to his record. He will be announcing the team for the Wales game on Thursday, after missing out on the World Cup due to a broken arm.

Despite tough competition, Christie has positioned himself well. Following his third man-of-the-match performance in eight games, former Scotland player Jim Hamilton praised him on social media and suggested he may have secured a spot in the starting lineup. Both Christie and his country are eager to move on from their disappointing World Cup experience. Due to a serious injury, the 24-year-old had to withdraw from Scotland’s training squad for the 2023 World Cup, but he has since undergone three surgeries and a bone graft from his hip to his arm. Unfortunately, Scotland was unable to advance from their pool, facing strong opponents in South Africa and Ireland. However, it is now time to focus on the future.

Christie reflects on a challenging time in his career, stating that it was perhaps the lowest point. Despite the tough few months, he now sees it as a valuable experience and believes he has handled it well. He admits to doing some introspection and receiving guidance from Calum Clark, a former Northampton player and current performance psychologist. He acknowledges that life doesn’t always go as planned but hopes for more chances to represent his country.

“The atmosphere during last week’s camp was fantastic. Our group truly enjoys being together and I was thrilled to be back. The training sessions were of an extremely high caliber and I believe many were impressed, especially since it was only the first week. It was fast-paced and precise, which only heightened the excitement within the group.”

An awkward question was asked about whether Jamie Ritchie’s replacement as captain could benefit him. The response included surprise, amusement, and praise for Ritchie’s skills as a player and leader. It was also pointed out that fellow back-rower Rory Darge is a co-captain. The other co-captain is Finn Russell, meaning that Christie is led by two top fly-halves in both club and country. How does Russell’s leadership measure up to that of Owen Farrell?

From my observations, it is clear that Finn and ‘Faz’ have distinct playing styles. However, in my time working with them, I have seen that even when they are not serving as captains, they are exceptional leaders in their own ways. They lead by setting a good example and are dedicated and diligent players who often stay on the training field the longest. They also spend a significant amount of time analyzing and studying the game, providing valuable feedback. It is refreshing to see that they have different approaches to their leadership style.

Christie at Scotland’s pre-Six Nations training campView image in fullscreen

Listening back to the recording to transcribe the interview on Monday morning, a voice pipes up across the kitchen table eager to delay some last-minute homework after catching one of the names … “Is that your interview with the Messi of rugby?” “No, it’s not Finn Russell,” I say. “We’re just talking about him.” “Ronaldo?”

I explain that the situation is not as straightforward as it seems, while internally blaming Netflix. We proceed to watch some videos featuring Christie. The discussion about who he would be if he were a footballer continues for some time until we agree on Rodri (instead of Declan Rice, the preferred choice of a nine-year-old Arsenal fan). However, even with this decision, it doesn’t quite feel like the perfect match for a dominating and intelligent wing-forward.

While Christie continues to discuss a different style of leadership in the recording, I lean back in my seat and ask, “What was the homework again?” She responds, “We have to write about Saint Martin de Porres from Peru. He is considered the patron saint of barbers, innkeepers, mixed-race individuals, and racial harmony, in honor of Racial Justice Sunday.”

Please join me in hearing this segment. Christie, whose father, Patrick, is from Nigeria, has been a supporter of Show Racism the Red Card for about a year now. “It all begins with setting a good example,” he explains. “It begins with being visible. To me, the more I am able to play and at a higher level, the more children and people can watch me on TV playing for Saracens and Scotland and see a person of color out there, succeeding.”

Last year, on a podcast featuring Shaka Hislop and Luther Burrell, the honorary president of the organisation and former English athlete, respectively, Burrell shared his personal experiences with racism. It was evident that Christie feels a sense of responsibility to represent and support the cause, stating, “I don’t want to wait until someone is racist towards me or others before getting involved.” As a proud patron of the charity, he wants to give back and serve as a role model for others. He also values the opportunity to use his platform to spread a crucial message.

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One of the campaigns he supports is Blood from a StoneX, organized by Saracens and StoneX to bring attention to the rare Ro blood type that is prevalent among individuals of African and Caribbean descent. This blood type is essential in the fight against sickle cell disease. For the season, Row R of the stadium has been renamed to Ro in order to encourage more donors to come forward. Christie expresses his pride in the club’s efforts, saying, “It’s something unique that I haven’t seen discussed before. Even as I walked up the stairs to the box today and saw row Ro in the stand, I felt proud of the work that has been put into it.”

Christie grew up in a village outside Bristol, the middle of three brothers – all of whom have played rugby to a high level – and qualifies for Scotland via his mother Victoria’s family. His grandmother, Margaret, hails from Glasgow while his grandfather, Kenneth is “like my favourite person on the planet”.

“He brought me to my initial trials in Scotland, even for those held outside of Scotland. He would drive me from Bristol Grammar School to attend those camps, then drive me back, and stay in a hotel while I participated.”

After a game, I usually call my mother and grandparents while riding in the car on the way home. My grandmother takes notes on what the commentators say so she can share it with me when we talk on the phone. She often mentions how they described me as strong and she also sends me articles from the newspaper that she thinks I will find interesting. My family is amazing and they motivate me greatly.

The video of his family’s responses to his surprise Scotland debut in February 2022 gained widespread attention, after he stepped in for Hamish Watson who was unable to play due to Covid. He admits to rewatching the video when he needs a pick-me-up.

Regarding the first appearance, he expresses his enjoyment: “I thoroughly enjoyed the entire day. I made sure to take in everything, even removing my headphones on the bus to listen to the fans. The highlight, which I often mention, was singing the anthem. If I could capture and sell that feeling, I would be incredibly wealthy.”

As I gazed outside, I caught sight of my family. In that instant, a wave of emotion overwhelmed me. I felt immense gratitude, but I also reminisced about all the times my grandad had brought me to Sheffield and Scotland. I thought about my family standing in the rain, cheering me on as a young child. My life flashed before me and it was truly the most proud moment of my life.

Source: theguardian.com