“I’ve remained a follower of some of the clubs I played for, particularly Aston Villa. I’m glad I got the chance to play there, as it was my dad’s club too and a part of our family. It was great to go back to him and tell him that Villa wanted to sign me.”
Indeed, Chris has legendary status at Villa, having captained the side to victory in the 1976/77 League Cup, scoring an incredible for 40-yard left-footed strike which helped take the game to extra time. It is remember as one of the club’s all-time greatest goals.
“My proudest moments,” Chris continues, “were playing for Northern Ireland. I won over 50 caps and scored three goals, which was a great way to honour my dad.”
Chris was never afraid to get stuck into the game and mainly played in defense. “I was quite good at heading the ball, and I had a good jump,” he recalls. “It could get a bit rough – I broke my nose a few times, but it’s all part of being a centre-back. I think I headed too many balls and that’s what has affected my memory!”
Chris is now living at Speedwell Court, our dementia-friendly care home in Southampton. “My daughter lives nearby and recommended it to me. She will often come to see me, and I’m also in regular contact with my brother, who lives in America and is a keen footballer like me.
“I’m very happy here and well looked after. I still try to keep active, and I feel healthy for it. I regularly play golf and might occasionally kick a ball around to show the young lads how to do it. The staff have drawn me up a sports schedule for TV as well so I don’t miss any important matches! I try to watch as much football as I can now, because it was such a big part of my life. So I’m watching a fair bit of the Euros and it’s good to see England doing well.”
After Chris’ playing career he began coaching at Grimsby Town before managing Southampton and Walsall, and he spent two years as Assistant Manager for the Northern Ireland national side.
“I always wanted to pass on what I knew,” he says, “and staying involved in football was important for keeping up my fitness and health. Football was my life, my reasons to live, so I was never going to give it up entirely when I retired from playing.”
Speedwell Court’s Senior Activities Coordinator, Jennifer Varney, said, “When Chris joined he immediately offered to help lead our weekly exercise group for the residents, and it as become more and more popular ever since.”
“It’s important to do it right,” adds Chris, “and teaching is something I’ve always really enjoyed. I also have a general interest in the way the human body works, so I try to improve my knowledge through reading as well.”