Technically Ryan Christie remains a Celtic player but the midfielder admits he will be as disappointed as anyone associated with Aberdeen if, as expected, Derek McInnes swaps the manager’s job at Pittodrie for the vacant post at Ibrox.
That’s hardly surprising as someone who has started just five league matches for his parent club since the switch from Inverness Caledonian Thistle in September 2015 has proved an invaluable asset during his time with the Dons.
So much so that Aberdeen have lost just two of the 23 Premiership games he’s played for the club since agreeing an initial loan deal in January and his importance to the team was reinforced again on Saturday.
Christie was a key figure in the result that took them back to within a point of Celtic at the top of the Premiership table just days after he was forced to sit out the 3-0 home hammering from the champions due to the terms of a current season-long return.
That included a wonderfully worked equaliser shortly after Michael Gardyne’s ninth-minute opener, exchanging passes with Stevie May before a sublime finish, showing the sort of skill the Dons sorely missed last midweek.
Afterwards, McInnes acknowledged the importance of someone he rates as Aberdeen’s best player and Christie was equally keen to recognise his current manager’s influence on him, and the hope it can continue despite the lure of replacing Pedro Caixinha.
“Derek McInnes is the main reason I came up here” claimed Christie. “The way I got on with him and I loved playing under him for the last six months of last season.
“When I was told I could go out on loan again, Aberdeen was top of my list for that reason. I’ve no regrets. I have loved training with him and being part of his squad.
“But it’s not just me – a lot of the boys will be disappointed if he did leave because of what a great manager he is. It’s a credit to him that we’ve maintained second place over the years.
“We look like we have another good season in us. We look like we have the ability to go really far. In terms of how we are doing, this would be a hard squad to leave behind.”
What does surprise Christie though is just how hard it’s been for Aberdeen players to get into the Scotland squad at a time when the Pittodrie club have been the second best team in the country for the last few years.
The midfielder’s form is expected to earn a place when Malky Mackay announces his pool of players for next month’s friendly against the Netherlands at Pittodrie today, with Graeme Shinnie and Kenny McLean also set to be included.
Dons captain Shinnie has been a model of consistency for a long time, while McLean’s second-half penalty winner against Ross County was the least he deserved for a performance that was the equal of the Celtic loanee.
Christie feels it’s about time that pair were rewarded but is self-effacing about his own involvement. “Right now I think there are people in front of me in the pecking order – people like Graeme and Kenny,” added Christie. “They are the players I think deserve a call-up.
“I train with them every day and know their quality. I think they are international players. They have been consistent and that is what international managers look for.
“In terms of myself I haven’t been doing that as much. I have gone off the boil a wee bit in the last few weeks.”
If that’s true then Hamilton Accies better hope he doesn’t reach boiling point this weekend, regardless of who is picking the Aberdeen team at New Douglas Park.