After turning 23 years old last month, Ryan Christie has reached a critical stage of his career. Not only does he want to settle down at a club, he is desperate to help Scotland reach the finals of a major tournament.
With regards to his own future, he can do little more than he has done so far this season. After establishing himself as a regular while on loan from Celtic at Aberdeen, he has put himself back in manager Brendan Rodgers’ sights.
A second Scotland call-up – he made his debut against the Netherlands in November – for tomorrow’s friendly with Costa Rica and Tuesday’s clash with Hungary underlines why Rodgers is adamant Christie will return to Celtic, where he still has another year left of his contract, once the season is over.
“I have spoken to him just briefly a couple of times,” said Christie. “As far as I know, I just need to report to Celtic for pre-season and we will take it from there.
“Obviously I’m not really thinking that far ahead right now, I’m just focusing on doing as well as I can for Aberdeen in the run-in. I’m excited about that, it should be a very good, exciting finish to the season.
“I’m glad and I know they will be keeping an eye on me week-in, week-out, so I need to make sure I’m playing as well as I can.
“Hopefully after the summer when I go back I will have a confidence now after a full season of games, knowing that I can hopefully go in and fit into that Celtic squad.”
Strangely, Christie’s hopes of ending the season with a Scottish Cup success rely on Celtic being knocked out – he would not be able to play for Aberdeen providing they dispense with Motherwell and Rodgers’ side overcome Rangers next month at Hampden.
But second place in the league is still up for grabs after Aberdeen got back to winning ways against Dundee last weekend while Rangers slipped up and Hibs dropped two points.
Christie insists Aberdeen now “expect” to come second – at least. “We certainly didn’t ever think it had slipped away from us,” he said. “From the start it was our aim to finish second in the league and we’ve got a real chance and are all really confident we can go ahead and fulfil that.
“We put that pressure on ourselves,” he added. “We don’t just hope, we expect it from each other to finish second now and it’ll be a disappointment if we don’t.”
But such ambitions are on hold over the coming days as Christie prepares to add to his single Scotland cap to date. Included among the four strikers, he is unsure where he will end up being deployed. “I would like to think I’m getting more versatile so if it’s wide right, wide left, off the striker, or maybe even up top, although I don’t really see myself as a target man,” he said.
Perhaps surprisingly given the club he plays for, Christie had not met Alex McLeish until Sunday night, when the players gathered at a hotel outside Edinburgh.
Christie listened to the new Scotland manager’s “positive” welcoming speech, where it was underlined to the group just what lies within reach following years of failure to qualify for a major finals.
“It’s been frustrating for the whole nation,” said Christie. “It’s something that needs to be changed, and to have the power, it’s in our hands to change it and hopefully get this nation to a national competition. It would be a pretty big feat.
“The manager spoke about it on Sunday night, it is a chance to make history. Sometimes you don’t really realise that when you’re playing at the time. You need to realise the opportunity you have and hopefully grasp it.”