Ryan Christie’s first experience of scoring the winner in an Old Firm derby wasn’t perhaps how he imagined it might be when growing up as a Celtic supporter in the Highlands.
There was no sound of 50,000 people roaring in acclaim – nor was there the sensation of having plunged such a large crowd into silence. There wasn’t even a single member of his family there to witness such a proud moment. Each player who took part in last week’s Old Firm mini-derby behind closed doors at Murray Park were given only two tickets each. “Nobody took my tickets,” bemoaned Christie.
It will be a different story come next month’s Scottish Cup semi-final, when Celtic and Rangers meet for real at Hampden Park. But only echoed shouts greeted Christie’s goal in Celtic’s 1-0 victory.
“There was only about 50 people there,” said Christie of the Developmental League fixture. It says everything about Christie’s professionalism that he emerged the match winner in comparatively low-key surroundings as he continues his efforts to secure a first-team berth.
He was a Scottish Cup final winner as recently as last season with Inverness Caledonian Thistle and was still a pivotal part of John Hughes’ side earlier this season.
Now he is simply hoping to be included in the Celtic squad for today’s lunchtime kick-off against Partick Thistle. He is yet to start a first-team fixture for Celtic since being recalled from his loan period back at Inverness. But he is still confident he can claim a starting berth in the Celtic midfield before next month’s Scottish Cup semi-final with Rangers, when he can sample what a real Old Firm derby is all about. Not that the Under 20s clash was any less fiercely contested, something Christie had prepared for in any case.
“Obviously that was a mini taste of the Old Firm if you like,” said Christie. “It was behind closed doors, there wasn’t any fans or any of that, but there was still a bit of bite in the game, especially in the first 10-15 minutes. It was good that I built myself up to expect it in the changing room before it or else I might have got a wee shock. It was good to be part of.
“It is funny to think I could go from that to 50,000,” he added. “I think it would be a wee bit different. I can’t wait, to be honest. To be part of an Old Firm first-team occasion will be pretty special, so I am looking forward to it.”
He will experience one sooner or later. But first he must concentrate on breaking into Ronny Deila’s side after four substitute appearances.
“It’s about backing myself,” the 21 year-old said. “You need to believe this is where you belong. Every day in training you need to be not just up to the level but almost push on and prove you are better than every other player in the squad.
“Other players in the team have had to bide their time. Young Calum McGregor, I know he picked up an injury and was out of the squad for a while, but he’s come back and has done brilliantly.
“So I can look at players like that and realise I’m not going to sit on the sidelines forever – you will get your chance. It shows it happens.”