‘I still don’t have any feeling down my cheek’ - Celtic’s Ryan Christie lifts lid on injury nightmare

There is some irony to Ryan Christie’s new nickname.

Ryan Christie clashes with Aberdeen's Dominic Ball in the Scottish Cup semi-final. Picture: Alan Harvey/SNS

Answering to a call of “Two-Face” in the Celtic dressing room in reference to Batman’s supervillain nemesis, Christie would have had just cause to have considered himself one of the heroes of Celtic’s story this term.

Which is in sharp contrast to how the season began for the 24-year-old. The campaign will begin and end with Christie on the outside looking in but for very different reasons.

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Recovering from severe head and facial injuries after a clash with his former Aberdeen flatmate Dominic Ball in the Scottish Cup semi-final, Christie has explained the magnitude of his recovery. “Two-Face from Batman,” he said when asked if his injuries had brought him a new dressing room name. “You could be standing on one side and I looked completely fine but when I turned around you would hear a ‘Jesus Christ…’

“I broke my cheekbone, fractured my eye socket in two places and fractured my jaw,” he said. “They cut in here [under eye], just above my eye, the side of my head and cut into my mouth – four different places. They put a plate into my cheek and one into the side of my head.

“I haven’t had surgery like that before so it was a bit scary at first and all kind of things happen afterwards. I still don’t have any feeling in some of my teeth at that side or down my cheek.”

Christie posted social media updates of his recovery online and called around close family to tell them he was fine, but confessed that he has no recall of such moments. There is some comfort perhaps in the fact that he cannot remember the incident with Ball although he admitted to having watched it back through splayed fingers – “I don’t really like looking at it” – but the time in hospital is something of a blur.

“I can remember coming out of the tunnel, lining up, going into the huddle,” he said. “But that’s the last thing I can remember. Until that is about 10pm at night when my girlfriend visited me in the hospital. Apparently I was calling everyone to tell them I was ok, though I can’t remember that.

“I’ve just been surprised at how badly it has affected me. I remember speaking to Gary Mackay-Steven after his bad knock against us. He was saying how he couldn’t look at his phone, couldn’t watch the TV, he had a sore head. The first few weeks I didn’t feel myself at all. It was strange.”

Ball was red-carded for the incident but his real punishment was the realisation of the damage that had been done.

“He’s been in constant contact,” said Christie. “The first few weeks I made sure he was feeling bad about it! He was desperate to come down but because of the surgery and the way it was it was best he stayed away for a bit. But now I’m back it’s fine, although we’re not quite at the joking stage.”

It will be pre-season training at the earliest for Christie as he looks to return to the Celtic midfield, with the Scottish Cup final and a potential treble treble party missed out on. Scotland’s qualification games against Cyprus and Belgium will also be watched from afar but Christie is confident that he will bear only physical scars when he returns.

“Kris Ajer had a similar injury – not as bad, though – but he touched on that and how in his first games back he was a bit scared going to win headers and for a defender that is a bit more serious than me,” said Christie. “I am sure that it will take a few weeks or so but it is the same with every injury that it just takes a few games to get over that.

“But I would take these injuries. During the [summer] transfer window I didn’t know where my future was going to lie, and it was getting harder and harder to see myself breaking into this team, especially with how well they had done when I was away on loan.

“For the way it has gone and to have signed a new contract means I’m now only looking forward to next season with Celtic, which is something I definitely didn’t have last year.”