Landing the Labrokes player of the month award for November yesterday capped a month of extraordinary form for club and country for Ryan Christie that he has simply carried into the current one.
The Celtic attacker’s goal at Motherwell on Wednesday may not have set his side on their way to a victory that would have taken them top of the Premiership table as they subsequently conceded a late equaliser. However, the sweet strike the 23-year-old plundered at Hampden last Sunday was enough to ensure a Betfred Cup final victory over Aberdeen that extended the club’s monopoly of domestic honours to seven straight successes.
Not everything that occurred at the national stadium last weekend did Christie delight in being preserved for posterity, though. The footage of his dance moves in the dressing room that was filmed by Scott Bain and has since entered the public domain represents the one blot on the Highlander’s serene landscape.
“I’ve been stitched up by Scott,” he said yesterday. “I fancy myself as a bit of a mover but that does me no justice whatsoever.”
His performances in the past six weeks do, though, do justice to the contention that Christie has become one of the prime movers and shakers in the Scottish game. Six goals in his past nine games for Celtic, he has become one of manager Brendan Rodgers’ prime go-to men.
Tomorrow’s game against Kilmarnock will indicate just how far Christie has come in an incredibly short period. When the clubs last met, at Rugby Park in late September, the player was handed a first league start for the club in 20 months after two loan spells at Aberdeen as Rodgers mixed up his side following a punishing run of fixtures across the first two months of the campaign.
The 2-1 loss led to his inclusion, and that of a number of other fringe performers, being cited as evidence that Celtic’s troublesome summer transfer activity had left them without strength in depth. Now Christie’s subsequent rise to prominence is being held up as proof that Celtic capabilities in the centre of the pitch have been far from undermined by the failure to land John McGinn and the loss of Stuart Armstrong.
He said: “That was a frustrating day and you do think it may be another opportunity that you’ve not taken. I was lucky enough to be given another opportunity and I’ve been in the starting XI ever since.
“My life has changed a lot since then. Sunday was nice and I got plenty of messages from everyone. It took me an hour to go through them all. But I know how quickly football can go the other way so I need to keep working hard. “
Celtic may have seven games in little more than the next three weeks – including Thursday’s Europa League decider at home to Salzburg – but Christie has no interest in being given a rest before the winter break that comes after the derby against Rangers on 29 December.
“I’m fine. It is modern day football that you have to be able to play every three days,” he said.
“Obviously the recovery we have at the club is top notch so every game that comes round I am feeling perfect. Just being in the starting XI and managing to maintain that is giving me that kick and boost. I’ll get my rest during the break.”
The incentive, he says, is to help his club to the summit of the top flight before then, with the wholly unexpected presence of Stevie Clarke’s men something that Christie says is not as big as surprise as many maintain.
In fact, Rodgers has yet to get the better of the Ayrshire club’s manager, Kilmarnock having won two and drawn two of the Scottish games between the pair.
“They are where they are on merit – this isn’t a fluke,” said Christie.
“Their manager has done a brilliant job. You saw glimpses of that last season.
“Look at the boys they’ve brought in. I was with Greg Stewart at Aberdeen last season and it didn’t really work out for him there but you could see how good he was in training. He’s got one of the best left-foot chops I’ve ever seen in football – you can see it coming but you can’t do anything about it.”