Celtic’s Ryan Christie eager to fulfil Champions League dream

For a player whose Celtic career took more than three years to catch fire, Ryan Christie has already squeezed a lot of achievements into a relatively brief time frame.

Ryan Christie models Celtic's new third kit at the Celtic Festival in Glasgow's SEC centre. Picture: SNS

The midfielder had already won the Scottish Cup with Inverness Caledonian Thistle when Ronny Deila brought him to Parkhead in 2015.

He was immediately loaned back to the Highlanders and didn’t make his debut for 
Celtic until January of the following year. Although they won their fifth successive championship that season, his five league appearances were not enough to claim a winner’s medal.

Celtic: Get the latest team news, match previews and reports

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Brendan Rodgers’ arrival that summer saw him loaned to Aberdeen for 18 months and he struggled initially to assert himself on his return to Glasgow at the start of last term.

However, a game-changing appearance from the bench in the Betfred Cup semi-final victory over Hearts at Murrayfield in November signalled a change in status for the 24-year-old, who – barring injuries – has now established himself as an automatic starter for club and country.

After scoring the only goal in the final against Aberdeen, he went on to complete his collection of domestic honours when the title was secured. He also sampled life in the Europa League, leaving Uefa’s premier competition as the only box left for him to tick.

“It would be amazing to play in the group stages [of the Champions League],” he said. “I was at the club under Brendan when we qualified but I didn’t play for a minute. Those games were great spectacles against great teams, but it’s different when you’re not involved; it’s frustrating when you are not on the pitch.

“Last season I played Europa League football and loved it – the RB Leipzig match [a 2-1 win] was one of my favourite-ever at Celtic Park. But everyone dreams of playing in the Champions League as you get to test yourself against the very best and it would be nice to do that. Obviously, it can go wrong but you want to face the best and, hopefully, that can happen for us.”

Christie was still a schoolboy when he first sampled the charged atmosphere of 
the club game’s richest 
competition.

“I went to the Barcelona game in 2012, which we won 2-1 – my dad [Charlie, a former Celtic player] managed to get a few tickets. That was incredible and a peak time for me growing up seeing football. It’d be nice to be on the other side of the fence and playing.

“I hadn’t thought about the fact that the current manager
[Neil Lennon] was in charge then when I was down supporting them and now he’s my manager but football can throw up funny things like that. It’s clear how much he wants it again and he’s pushing us on to take the opportunity that we have.”

Christie may wish to make up for lost time when it comes to racking up appearances but, after collecting a 
caution in the 5-0 demolition of Estonia’s Nomme Kallju on Wednesday, he accepts that he may be rested in Tallin so that he doesn’t rule himself out of games when his presence will be vital.

“I always want to play but I would understand it if I was left out,” he said. “I’m not exactly looking to go flying about smashing people on the pitch. It was my first slide tackle in six months! Halfway through it I was thinking: ‘I’m miles off this’. If I pick up another booking I’d be suspended.”

Celtic have already added defenders Christian Jullien, Boli Bolingoli and Hatem Abed Elhamed plus midfielder Luca Connell this summer and Christie believes that Lennon doesn’t need any further signings in order to maintain the level of success supporters have come to expect.

“Could we make it with the current squad? Yeah, 100 per cent,” he said. “The players are not desperate for more signings. I mean, if good, quality
players come into the club and can help us out, we’ll be delighted.

“But the calibre of player we already have this season is, hopefully, enough to push us all the way. Our latest signing [Elhamed] came in today and he looked really sharp in training so that brought a smile to everyone’s faces. We’re quite confident in ourselves and our results have shown that up until now; that’s something for us to build on and keep going.”