Single-match focus will drive Celtic to league title says Ryan Christie

Ryan Christie believes Celtic’s relentless focus on the immediate task at hand can “drive” them to nine-in-a-row glory this season.
Ryan Christie returned to action for Celti on Sunday and provided his 12th assist of the season. Picture: SNS.Ryan Christie returned to action for Celti on Sunday and provided his 12th assist of the season. Picture: SNS.
Ryan Christie returned to action for Celti on Sunday and provided his 12th assist of the season. Picture: SNS.

The Scottish champions have seized upon the stumbles of rivals Rangers since the winter break to open up a seven-point lead at the top of the Premiership table.

Although the Ibrox side still have a game in hand, Celtic have significantly shortened the odds on claiming a record-equalling ninth consecutive title triumph.

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Neil Lennon’s side displayed persistence in addition to flashes of real quality as they came from behind to defeat Hamilton Accies 4-1 at the Foys Stadium on Sunday, a result which the Celtic manager believes has given them a psychological edge in the title race.

Celtic will look to consolidate their lead when they return to action against third-placed Motherwell at Fir Park tomorrow night and playmaker Christie insists there is no prospect of complacency in their camp.

“Over the last couple of years, that’s what has helped us drive towards the finishing line – that mentality of one game at a time,” said Christie. “We knew it was a big game (at Hamilton) and we were desperate to get the three points. But there are so many games to go that we need to keep churning out victories, hopefully, and see how far it takes us.”

Amid the many positives for Celtic at the weekend, the return to action of Christie was a significant bonus.

The 24-year-old was sidelined throughout January by a combination of a groin injury and the retrospective suspension he received for an off-the-ball clash with Rangers striker Alfredo Morelos during Celtic’s 2-1 defeat in the Old Firm clash on 
29 December.

While Celtic have found winning momentum in his absence, there is no doubt that a fully-fit and firing Christie improves the attacking output of Lennon’s team.

Prior to the winter break, he had scored 17 goals for Celtic this season and he marked his comeback on Sunday as a second-half substitute by providing his 12th assist of the campaign, a crucial moment in which defender Christopher Jullien finally broke Hamilton Accies’ dogged resistance to make it 2-1 with only 12 minutes remaining.

“It felt amazing to get back out there,” Christie told Celtic TV. “Ever since the injury and the (winter) break – it was obviously very frustrating going out to Dubai and not being able to do much. I’ve been watching from the sidelines for the first few games back.

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“I’ve been itching to get back in about it. The boys have been doing so well up until now but it was nice to come on (at Hamilton) and help to get a victory.

“That’s my job, that’s what I’ve got to do. Especially in games like that one when it’s a bit stuffy at 1-1. You have to come off the bench and try to do something. To be fair, Jonny Hayes came off the bench and did very well as did Tom Rogic. That’s what we aim to do, that’s what the gaffer wants us to do. When we do it, 
we’re happy.

“I didn’t know (Christopher Jullien had that kind of finish in him)! When I crossed it in and looked up and saw it was him in there, I was a bit 
surprised. Fair play to him, he’s starting to get his goal tally up as well which is very nice to have from a central defender in your team.”

While Jullien has made a valuable contribution at the attacking end of the pitch, scoring his sixth goal of the season on Sunday, Celtic’s most potent weapon continues to be French striker Odsonne Edouard.

The 22-year-old’s double against Accies, including the stunning free-kick which drew Celtic level after the hosts were reduced to ten men before half-time following the dismissal of Jack Hamilton, took his goals tally for the campaign to 22 – 18 of them coming in the Premiership.

“Odsonne is just a natural goalscorer,” said Christie. “The free-kick under pressure was superb and then he just came on to an even better game in the second half.”