Cyrus Christie will go into the Republic of Ireland’s crunch World Cup qualifiers with Moldova and Wales convinced his late uncle will be watching over him.
Boxer Errol Christie died in June after losing his battle against cancer, but had earlier instilled a spirit in his nephew which is driving him on as he makes his way on the international stage.
The middleweight sparred with Thomas Hearns, fought Michael Watson, joined Muhammad Ali for a publicity shoot having made it into the Guinness Book of Records for winning 10 amateur titles, and he remains an inspiration to his family.
Full-back Christie said: “What he achieved over his career and what he did in his life in the boxing game was brilliant. Obviously he meant a lot to me and my family. When we played Austria, I went into the game knowing that he only had a couple of hours left to live, and as I came off the pitch, I had the phone call to say that he had died, so it was a tough time in the summer leading up to that.
“I had a few days off while we were over there to go back and see him and to put him into the hospice, but he meant a lot to us and I’m sure he is up there guiding us all and looking over us.
“He always told us what he needed to do to make it in life and try to do something better for ourselves, and he continued that work outside of his boxing. He is a role model to a lot of people. He is a big miss to our family.”
Christie posted a picture of himself celebrating his goal in Middlesbrough’s 1-1 Sky Bet Championship draw at Fulham last month by pointing to the heavens on his Instagram account accompanied by the message, “That one’s for you, Uncle Errol”.
On Friday evening, he will be hoping the messages his uncle instilled in him will come to the fore once again and he and his Ireland team-mates attempt to keep their World Cup dream alive. Victory over Moldova would send them to Cardiff on Monday knowing a repeat could secure a play-off berth – anything less may prove costly.
Martin O’Neill’s men have found themselves in similar positions in the past. They beat Germany 1-0 in Dublin two years ago to revive their Euro 2016 hopes, and came out on the right end of the same scoreline to see off Italy and clinch a place in the last 16 at the finals – and Christie believes those memories could prove key.
The former Derby defender said: “Straight away after the Serbia game [last month], it was mentioned that we have gone into big games and we have pulled it off – you look at Germany, you look at the Italy game.
“We have been in these situations before and we can can thrive in these kind of situations. We have got two games now and it kind of is do or die.”
Source: By PA Sport Staff