Ryan Christie won’t return to Celtic as a ‘shirt filler’

Ryan Christie enjoyed the shared experience of making his Scotland debut alongside Callum McGregor last week.

Ryan Christie enjoyed the shared experience of making his Scotland debut alongside Callum McGregor last week.

Now the on-loan Aberdeen midfielder hopes to follow McGregor’s example by using a period away from Celtic to eventually establish himself as a key player for the Scottish champions.

Sign up to our Football newsletter

Sign up to our Football newsletter

Christie has thrived at Pittodrie since being farmed out by Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers last season, the temporary arrangement then extended for the current campaign with little prospect of the 22-year-old gaining regular first-team football at his parent club.

The former Inverness Caledonian Thistle player has now scored 11 goals in 32 appearances for Aberdeen, form which earned him his first senior outing for his country in last Thursday’s friendly international against the Netherlands.

Christie remains confident he is not destined to return to Celtic simply to become what he describes as a “shirt filler”. He sees the career path followed by 24-year-old McGregor, who spent a season on loan at Notts County four years ago, as the template for fulfilling his own ambitions at Celtic.

“Callum is a good example,” said Christie. “Playing alongside him during the Scotland gathering, you can see that he is an exceptional player.

“He is so gifted on the ball and you look at the way he has come through at Celtic. He had to go away to England to get games and progress.

“It shows that, when you do go out on loan, it doesn’t mean that you are on the road out of that club. You can see how Callum has kicked on. He looks like one of the top players at Celtic right now and that’s great for him.

“It’s also good for me to look at him, look at his road and try to replicate it. Everyone talks about when you go out on loan and getting game time, but it has really helped me to be playing every week.

“I’m really loving my football in Aberdeen with the way we are playing. It is showing. My performances at the beginning of the season were a bit up and down and my consistency is something I need to work on. I need to make sure I’m churning out good performances on a weekly basis. If I can get consistent at the top of my game, I’ll be happy.

“Playing week in and week out helps my belief instead of sitting there on the sidelines and thinking that I’m not good enough. Playing for Scotland helps confidence. It shows that I might be able to go back to Celtic and prove a point.”

Christie also believes the intensity he is experiencing at Aberdeen provides him with an ideal learning experience at this stage of his career.

“There are demands at Aberdeen,” he added. “It’s one of the main reasons why I chose to go on loan here. I’m not saying it is as big as Celtic, but there is still that pressure and expectation to win games week in and week out.

“It was key that I had that pressure placed onto me every game. That experience helps me and that I can deal with it.

“I’ve felt this season and at the end of last season, I can make myself a key player in teams instead of going back to being a shirt-filler.

“I’m feeling confident that I can be the one people look at to influence or change a game. It’s nice to have that confidence and I’m lucky I have it at Aberdeen.”

Christie earned praise from Scotland interim manager Malky Mackay for his performance in the 1-0 defeat against the Dutch at Pittodrie.

As the national team prepare for a new era under a new permanent manager, Christie is hopeful he can remain a part of the squad going into the new Uefa Nations League next year and the subsequent Euro 2020 qualifying campaign.

“Playing for Scotland was a brilliant experience,” he added. “There were a few of us who made our debuts on the night and showed we can make the step up. I hope we didn’t look out of place.

“Having three Aberdeen players in the squad also showed we have made the step forward this season. It felt good against the Dutch. I felt like I could affect the game.

“Playing for Scotland, I have to make sure I kick-on and return to club level and keep my performances as high as I can week in and week out.

“The gaffer was speaking about more friendlies being arranged, so the aim is to do well for Aberdeen and ensure my face remains in the picture for the international scene when it comes around again.”