The baby of the Inverness team had just done a man’s job in helping Caley Thistle reach their first-ever Scottish Cup final. Now, after his joust with Scott Brown, he had to show he could talk as well as play. In front of all the microphones the midfield kid took a big breath only to be drowned out by a familiar growl: “Hey Christie – you’ll never be as good as your dad!”
This was his manager John Hughes, referring to old man Charlie, the hero of the 2000 “Super Caley Go Ballistic” cup vanquishing of Celtic, a famous win which had just been usurped by Ryan and his team-mates – and the lad revealed he was looking forward to boring his father with a recording of Sunday’s victory, just as he had been forced to watch the goals from 15 years ago umpteen times.
“I had a quick word with Dad after the game and he’s delighted, not just for me but for everyone at the club,” said Chrstie.
“He didn’t get the chance to go all the way so us reaching the final is superb. Dad is always going on about what happened that night at Parkhead [ICT winning 3-1] but now I have something to come to him about.
“I was four in 2000 and so don’t really remember much about the match. I probably remember more about travelling all the way down on the Saturday only for the original game to be called off. But I’ve been forced to watch Dad’s tape. I think we actually have five recordings! Now I can make him watch our win.”
The 20-year-old had a fine game but admitted there had been pre-match jitters. “I was nervous, to be fair. It’s a big stage and harder to keep yourself calm and composed on the ball, but I actually think everyone in our team did that. We were superb.
Dad is delighted, not just for me but for everyone at the clubRyan Christie
“We’ve worked hard from the day the gaffer walked into the club. He told us the way he wanted us to play and that style has been implemented throughout the season. He said to us recently that we’re now in a mini-season, pushing for Europe and the cup. To get into Europe would be incredible and we must make sure our league form doesn’t slip.
“To come to Glasgow and beat Celtic in a semi-final is fantastic. We made sure they knew they were in a game, from first whistle to last. Everyone worked hard and I’m so happy it all paid off, for the fans as much as anyone because they all had to get up early to travel down.”
Christie paid tribute to Hughes and his assistant Russell Latapy for helping his development. “The gaffer has worked with me and protected me. I was just delighted to have started on Sunday and to have stayed on for the full game. I’ve learned so much from the gaffer and Russell who played in the position I like so he’s been a great help.”
Ryan’s father, who later managed Caley Thistle, was man of the match in 2000 and still has the bottle of champagne from that epic night. It’s become a ritual family joke that every Christmas he’s urged to uncork it, only for him to assert: “It gets opened when the boy is picked for Scotland.”
Quipped Christie: “Even if he did open it now I’m not sure if he’d give me a drink!” Inverness, he stressed, hadn’t won the cup yet. “Sunday will go down in history for us but we want to go one stage further. The final will have a different spin for us because against Falkirk we’ll be the favourites. We need to make sure we turn up and are definitely on our game.”
One man who won’t be there to help the effort come 30 May is Gary Warren after his yellow card ruling him out of his second final in a row with the Highlanders. “I’m gutted again,” said the central defender who also missed last season’s League Cup showdown through suspension. Sunday’s booking came for the foul on James Forrest which led to Virgil van Dijk’s free-kick opener and Warren knew right away he would miss out.
“When you come into a game you always think ‘What if…? “although if you start allowing it to play on your mind then you’re going to pull out of tackles. That’s not my nature: I can’t hold back. That’s a downside of my game, I guess, but it’s just the way it goes in football, it’s lady luck. I’m disappointed but someone else will come in and do just as good a job.”
Warren reckons it’s unfair that players can miss out on a national final after accumulating just two bookings. “It’s ridiculous, especially being a defender. Making challenges, interceptions and blocks is a big part of the job. I think the authorities should look at either increasing the number of bookings which bans you or, if you get to the final, having them wiped out so it’s a clean slate.”
Warren’s earlier booking in the competition came against Partick Thistle and annoys him more. “That was a silly one, my own fault for gobbing off to the referee. I should have kept my mouth shut. I’m 30 years old and I should know better. But if I’m not going to change now then I probably never will.”
So, if Inverness win the cup will he be doing a John Terry, swapping from a suit into his kit for the celebration pictures to make it look like he was playing after all? “No chance, that’s not me at all. I’ll be in the background somewhere, up in the stands.”