It didn’t seem like Lennon’s heart was truly in having a go at Clarke - well, no one wants to tangle with a recently installed national treasure, do they?
Nevertheless, he clearly wanted to make a point. He was obviously upset Christie had started all three Scotland games during the recent international ‘break’ - the ultimate misnomer if you are among the players privileged enough to be called up by their country. It was certainly no break for Christie, who played 90 minutes against Slovakia and Israel and 87 minutes on that night of nights against Serbia.
Lennon had arched an eyebrow at the news from Trnava that Christie was starting the middle game against Slovakia, considered the least pivotal, when eight other heroes from Belgrade had been rested, including Rangers midfielder Ryan Jack. Even in the midst of Scotland glory, it’s still possible for an Old Firm narrative to play out.
Lennon is concerned Christie will suffer some physical ill-effects further down the line, perhaps when Celtic are most in need of him as the title race hots up – presuming, of course, there is still a title race by then, with the Parkhead side now 11 points behind Rangers, who have played two games more.
His own deployment of Christie exposes the flaw at the heart of most of these arguments regarding the overuse of players. Let’s face it, managers such as Lennon and Clarke are all motivated by self-interest. If it’s in their interests to play someone like Christie, they will play him.
Having had his say about Christie, we might have expected Lennon, who made four substitutions, to withdraw the midfielder at some point during Saturday’s clash with Hibs, particularly ahead of a huge game against Sparta Prague on Thursday. Indeed, that might well have been his intention. In the end, like Clarke, Lennon didn’t dare. Despite those concerns about his physical welfare, the under pressure Lennon gave Christie another full 90 minutes.
Celtic’s interests, as well as his own, were best served by having him on the pitch as they fought to retrieve a two-goal deficit, something they did courtesy of Odsonne Edouard’s penalty and Diego Laxalt’s late equaliser.
As for Christie, while as frisky as ever, he was unable to make any of the shots he peppered at Israel’s Ofir Marciano truly count as their duel resumed in Edinburgh following the midweek appointment in Netanya with their respective international sides.
Christie was asked afterwards where he stood on the matter. To no surprise whatsoever considering he’s a fit 25-year-old in the form of his life, he stressed he simply wanted to play as much as he can, for club and country.
“The clubs are always going to have a wee moan when players are asked to play three games in a short space of time,” said Christie. “But for me personally, I’m certainly not going to complain about getting to play for my country as many times as I can. I want to rack up the caps.”