Why Ryan Christie's early-season explosion is significantly important to both player and Celtic

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To paraphrase an unintentionally proverbial favourite of former Sky Sports presenter Richard Keys: Celtic star Ryan Christie is literally on fire.

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The 24-year-old has returned from his summer holidays and smashed in six goals in just five matches playing in midfield for the reigning Ladbrokes Premiership champions.

Celtic midfielder Ryan Christie has netted six times in five matches.

Celtic midfielder Ryan Christie has netted six times in five matches.

His hat-trick against St Johnstone at the weekend was the springboard to a 7-0 goal victory (S-E-V-E-N) as Celtic took all the pre-season predictions which proclaimed that this year would, indeed, be Rangers' year and used it as motivation to wipe the floor with Tommy Wright's side.

Two new signings started the match, both at full-back, but it was the Scottish international who made the side look vastly superior to the one that lacked inspiration at the end of last term as they traipsed their way to a third successive domestic treble - were such a movement possible in search of such unparalleled dominance.

There can be little doubt now that Celtic missed Christie's explosive touch across the majority of the final three months of last season and, had he been fit, questions over Neil Lennon's suitability for the role as Brendan Rodgers' long-term successor may not have arisen as frequently as they did.

There can also be little doubt that he's now among one of the first names on the teamsheet and clearly ahead of the once-preferred Tom Rogic in the No.10 role. Part of this is down to Christie's versatility. His work rate, stamina and dribbling are all superior to Rogic, who is left only with muscle mass and perhaps ball control as the two attributes where he has the edge over his Scottish team-mate. Previously we could have included shooting ability in the 'advantage-Rogic' list, but seeing as Christie scored all three goals from outside the box on Saturday (!) and the Australian only netted five times last season, that no longer appears to be the case.

Christie can work effectively as a No.10 and a No.8. It is perhaps the latter where his qualities shine the brightest after he stepped up to fill the void left by Stuart Armstrong's departure to Southampton last summer. For all the talent Celtic have in their squad and have enjoyed during this perfect three-season domestic run, they've had periods where they've lacked a central midfielder capable of breaking through the lines of defence with regular ease. Armstrong did so by carrying the ball from A to B with a quickness and purpose few could match. Christie pierces through the gaps without needing to be in possession. Regardless, he's picked up the baton from his follicly-blessed ex-team-mate and, when he's fit, has enabled them to play at a level which distinguishes them from every other rival in the land.

Staying fit will be the key this season. His rise could only be described as meteoric last term. One minute he was a fringe player who contributed little to the big picture, the next he was rejuvenating the squad after a stuttering start to Rodgers' final campaign. Such a burst of productivity always brings with it a little scepticism once the dust has settled. Is the player really that good? Or was it just a purple patch?

Now we know that, yes, he is really that good. More importantly, the player knows this as well. Having missed all but three games from February 24th until the start of this campaign, it would have been easy for him to come back into the side with confidence a little dented and to slip below his previous brilliance; not necessarily in terms of going back to being a fringe player, but instead being unable to rediscover his aforementioned heights. It could have derailed his momentum. Instead, he's right back at it.

It should be pleasing for any supporter with even a casual interest in Scottish football peering over from beyond the walls of their own club. Christie at his swashbuckling best is one of the more entertaining players in the league, and a continued ascent - look for a run at the Player of the Year award this year - can only be good for the national team.

Rangers received praise for digging out a result against Kilmarnock on Sunday that, last season, they probably wouldn't have achieved. It shows a strength of will that perhaps wasn't part of the club's DNA last term. But with Celtic steamrolling over opponents renowned for their dogged approach and demonstrating the individual superiority within their ranks, there's no doubt they were the big winners from the opening weekend in Scotland's top flight.

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