The man who convinced him not to hang up his boots may be long gone but Broxburn Athletic defender Chris Townsley is loving his time at Albyn Park.
The experienced centre-back contemplated ending his playing career at the end of last season until a call from then Broxburn boss Max Christie offered him a new challenge closer to home.
Townsley, who had just ended his time with Spartans after moving from East Stirlingshire, had planned to move up the refereeing ladder having spent his Sunday mornings and afternoons pacing local council pitches officiating youth football for several years in Edinburgh.
Now, having been revitalised at Broxburn with the club enjoying a stunning run of form under new manager Brian McNaughton which has seen them rocket up to fifth in the Super League without a defeat since August, Townsley plans to prolong his stay a little longer.
“After Spartans, I was thinking of retiring, but Max Christie, who was the manager at the time, asked me to come along to Broxburn,” said the 32-year-old. “I live in Winchburgh so it’s pretty handy and it seemed like a good move, so I just went for it and it’s worked out quite well. I was thinking of taking up refereeing a bit more seriously, but I thought I’ll just play for one more season, but I think Brian [McNaughton, manager] has roped me in to play for another season.
“Everyone was disappointed to see Max go but, at the same time, we were happy that Brian [formerly assistant manager] stayed and we had that continuity there.
“Everyone at the club had a lot of time for Max – there wasn’t any fall-out or anything like that. It was probably a bit out of the blue for the players. We’ve done poorly in the cups, there’s no doubt about that, but in the league we were going along all right. He left after a disappointing result against Carnoustie when we were 3-0 up – it was a game we should have won.”
McNaughton moved quickly to appoint former Arbroath and Linlithgow Rose assistant manager Steven Hislop as his No.2 – a familiar face for Townsley, who was serving his footballing apprenticeship with Ross County when striker Hislop was a first-team regular.
“All the boys were keen on Brian taking the job,” continued Townsley ahead of tomorrow’s home match against Broughty Athletic.
“I think everyone was in their comfort zone a little bit with Max. Brian is now the focal point and Hissy has come in and brought fresh ideas. He’s a new voice and has freshened it up a wee bit. Everyone has given their wee bit extra, training has gone up and everyone is on it just now.
“Hissy is a good motivator as well as a good coach which has helped as well. I played against Hissy a good few times, so he knows a thing or two about where the goals are and how to use your elbows – I’ve been on the receiving end a few times.
“He got me a few times at training when we were at Ross County and I was a young boy. He was taking liberties and I’ve told him that! He was always good with the young boys at the club. It’s good to see him having turned into a really good coach. He was one of those guys that was quite sensible, and he knew what he was talking about, so it was probably a natural step for him.”
Avoiding defeat tomorrow would take Broxburn’s unbeaten home league run for this season into double figures as they sit just five points off leaders Bonnyrigg Rose. They have certainly gone under the radar.
Townsley continued: “If we hadn’t dropped points we’d be right up there. We’ve not been beaten since August which is a good feat and we’ve still got teams above us to play a couple of times. We’re just taking it one game at a time. We’ve hit a bit of form now and people are maybe taking a bit more notice.
“We’ll try to win as many games as we can until the end of the season and try and finish as high as possible. Everyone wants to do well for the club because there’s a lot of good people there. There’s people who have stuck with the club through thick and thin and we want to do well for them.”