Ryan Christie has stuck up his hand and declared he is happy and willing to attempt to solve Celtic’s problem with penalties.
The midfielder was one of the major positives to take from Wednesday night’s 2-0 win over St Mirren. Christie returned from a five-week lay-off due a hamstring injury and showed interim manager Neil Lennon what he has been missing by securing the points with Celtic’s second goal five minutes before the end.
The win might have been more comprehensive than it proved had Olivier Ntcham scored with a first-half penalty. However, St Mirren goalkeeper Vaclav Hladky saved the midfielder’s poor effort and then watched as the same player hit the rebound just over the bar. It’s the fifth time in 12 attempts this season that Celtic have been unsuccessful from the spot.
Ntcham had already missed once before against Salzburg in the Europa League, while Scott Sinclair joins him on two misses – against Aberdeen and Airdrieonians. Leigh Griffiths has also failed to score from the spot – against Motherwell at the start of December, in what was his penultimate appearance to date before being given time off due to personal problems.
It’s a conundrum Lennon has inherited from Brendan Rodgers’ time in charge. When asked after the game on Wednesday if he had someone in mind to take over the mantle of penalty-kick taker, Lennon quipped: “Well, don’t look at me!”
But Christie is itching to be involved in anything and everything after such a frustrating interruption to what’s been a landmark season for the player. He signed a new three-year deal for the champions in November after breaking back into the side the previous month. He has now scored 11 times during this campaign – including a penalty against Hearts in November, the only one he has taken in his professional career so far.
“I’ve only taken one and that was against Hearts at 4-0 up in the last minute, so there wasn’t a lot of pressure on that one!” he said. “I’m happy to take penalties if called upon.
“To be fair, I’d have put money on Oli scoring against St Mirren, it’s actually a good save. There are plenty of the boys in the squad happy to step up and take a penalty.”
Christie’s return went with a bang literally after someone threw a flashbang from the Celtic end towards the pitch to the shock of all those nearby, including St Mirren goalkeeper Hladky and the Celtic midfielder himself.
Christie admitted he feared his comeback game being abandoned and his goal rendered redundant. “That was the first thing that went through my head,” he said. “I thought that if he was seriously injured the game could have been postponed, and then it’s a different ball game altogether. I don’t know how you stop that. Sometimes the longer-term effect that this sort of thing can have isn’t thought about at the time.
“If the fans were to think more about the possible consequences, they wouldn’t be so eager to do stuff like this,” he added.
“Our following at home and away is absolutely brilliant, so I don’t think it’s needed. The noise and the support we take everywhere is loud enough for us to hear it and have an effect.”
While he appeared spooked at the time, Christie stressed he does feel safe on a football pitch. But there is a growing problem with supporters throwing objects and encroaching onto the pitch themselves. Christie has urged the minority who indulge in such antics to cut it out.
“I can only speak for myself and I certainly feel safe, but the important thing is that it doesn’t get any worse or continue coming into the game,” he said. “Hopefully it can go the other way and we can stamp it out, because if it keeps getting worse, that’s when the safety of the players does get questioned. Hopefully it can calm down again.”