"I COULDN'T believe it and I shed a lot of tears at that time".

For Jim Leishman, the events of January 8, 1996, are as vivid 25 years on as they were at the time, and is something that everyone connected with Dunfermline Athletic can relate to.

January 8, 2021 marked a milestone quarter of a century since the club's legendary captain, record appearance holder and one of their greatest ambassadors, Norrie McCathie, died.

At the age of just 34, the Pars' iconic number four lost his life tragically, alongside girlfriend Amanda Burns, at his home on the outskirts of the town, due to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Having joined the club from Cowdenbeath in 1981, Norrie went on to achieve three promotions, which included winning First and Second Division titles, lead the team out in the 1991 League Cup final, and fall just three games short of making 500 league appearances in black and white.

Bert Paton, Norrie's manager at the time of his death and who, together with his grief-stricken players, went on to win the First Division championship, said that "Norrie epitomised everything that was good about Dunfermline, and we will hold his memory in our hearts forever."

For anyone connected to the club, the impact of the Edinburgh-born centre back's 15 years at East End continues to be felt, and one of the six managers he played under, Leishman, paid tribute to the "great contribution" he made.

"It seems only yesterday that he was playing. It seems like yesterday we were lifting trophies, winning the Second Division, playing in the Premier League for the first time, getting relegated and going back up again," he reflected to Press Sport.

"He was a big part of that and I've got great memories of his contribution.

"He was a midfielder when I came in. He was OK in midfield but when I moved him back to play as a central defender, especially him and Davie Young, they were great together and worked really hard together. He certainly gave 100 per cent and it was a great squad.

"They all liked each other – there was no bickering, there was no backstabbing at that time – they were just a good bunch of lads that liked each other and on the park worked hard for each other. He was a big part of that.

"I don't think I ever dropped Norrie McCathie. When I put him back to centre half, he was never out my team. The only time was when he got injured and he went down to Ayr for a game or two to get himself fit, and I had to call him back. In my time, he was always in the team.

"He played most of the games for every manager. It was a great contribution he made."

Leish, now a director with the club, was managing Livingston at the time of Norrie's death, and continued: "I can remember the day sitting in the house when I was told the two of them had passed away. It was a policeman called John Ford who phoned me up and told me.

"All the rumours were going around about this and that, and my friend John Ford phoned me and said, 'Jim, this is what's happened'. I couldn't believe it and I shed a lot of tears at that time.

"We talk about Norrie but Mandy, I didn't know her, but for her family as well it's a huge tragedy."

After three successive near misses, the Pars went on to achieve the promotion back to the Premier League that Norrie craved, in his honour.

Marc Millar scored the winning penalty on the final day against Airdrieonians to seal the title and, speaking to the Dunfermline Athletic Former Players' Association, described him as "the best captain I played with".

"Norrie was certainly a larger-than-life character on and off the pitch," he said.

"He was fully respected within the changing room and around the club. He always had his set space in the changing room and on the mini-bus to training. Time-keeping was not his best trait but l always remember how much he loved his music and the banter between all the players.

"He was a proper leader and willing to give everything week-in and week-out for the team. He was a great talker during the games and always had a knack for popping up and scoring important goals for us!

"He believed in all his team-mates and led by example. On and off the pitch he is the best captain l played with.

"l doubt any captain since for the Pars has been as good as Norrie."

Goalkeeper Ian Westwater, a long-standing team-mate stretching back to the 1980s, commented: "I had the privilege of playing behind Norrie for too many games than I can remember. He was a fantastic player and simply a really good guy.

"He was converted to a sweeper from playing further up the park and, as such, always fancied himself playing up front or at the shooting drills during training, never in defence!

"I had complete trust in him and knew how he played and what he would do in virtually every situation, so much so that I could adjust my position to his."

Current Montrose manager Stewart Petrie, whose memorable goal on the penultimate day of the 1995/96 season against Dundee United sent the Pars to the summit, said: "Norrie was simply a born winner and a leader who led by example on and off the pitch.

"If it was the case a crunching tackle was needed or a goal to drag you back into a game, you could count on big Norrie."

Ivo den Bieman described him as "quiet and reserved at times" but who "turned into this winner and leader on the pitch", while Jackie McNamara, who left in September 1995 for Celtic, remembered him as having a "good sense of humour" and being "very easy to get on with".

"He was great for younger players like myself to look up to and helped me settle into the first team when I made it," he said.

"He was very laid back and scruffy! When we went on an end-of-season trip to Magaluf he had a carrier bag with one shirt and one pair of shorts for a week's break!

"He was a true leader and sorely missed."

Later in the year, the Dunfermline Athletic Heritage Trust are planning an event to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Norrie's death, and that of the First Division title win.

Club chairman Ross McArthur added: "For Dunfermline fans, I think everyone will always remember where they were when they heard the shocking news.

"It continues to be really sad and I can't believe it's 25 years but I also can't believe it's five years since the SPIRIT campaign.

"I'm speaking to you just now from my office and, looking above me, I've got a framed picture with all the Norrie memorabilia. During my spell as a Dunfermline supporter, we've had some great players but Norrie's still my favourite player, just because of what he epitomised about the club, how he went about his business, his fighting spirit, and that he just gave so much back to the club as well.

"It's still a sore one. You can see the comments that people gave on our social media channels on our anniversary, he's still very much loved and highly-regarded amongst the fans. Obviously, the younger generation of fans won't remember Norrie in the same way, but of my generation, he's up there with the best of them.

"Five years ago, through the SPIRIT initiative that we did, it was a pleasure to meet Norrie's family, his brother and his mum. Sadly, since then, his mum's passed away.

"What I remember about the day we played Cowdenbeath was that Norrie's mum was sitting next to me, and I think she was genuinely taken aback by the outpouring of love for her son 20 years on. I don't think she realised the impact that Norrie had had on the club, and she was really emotional that day.

"It's not just the length of service, it's what he did during that spell; how he played, how he acted off the pitch, and epitomised everything that was great about our football club.

"Twenty five years he's been gone and it doesn't seem like it. I think it's important to remember, as we always do, Mandy died at the same time. It wasn't just all about Norrie.

"Whenever we talk about Norrie, we've got to acknowledge that Mandy died as well. We want to pass on our best wishes to her family as well."