Celtic man Ryan Christie and his wounded reputation need a big game for Scotland tonight

By Euan Davidson

March 25, 2021

Celtic fans, it’s fair to say, are split on Scotland star Ryan Christie.

The former Aberdeen and Inverness midfielder has endured a rough campaign, by his standards. After breaking into the team under Brendan Rodgers, Christie has endured his least prolific season to date in Celtic colours. His 4 league goals are shy of 19-20 and 18-19 totals, 11 and 9 respectively [Transfermarkt]. His efforts last season, let’s remember, were during a shortened season.

It’s not easy to see why it’s gone wrong for Christie this time round. Scottish Cup Final goal aside, he’s been shunted in and out of position. Earlier in the season, he didn’t fit into a 3-5-2, and was mystifyingly moved out wide in a 4-2-3-1. That’s despite, quite obviously, being a central attacking midfielder of some prowess.

Yet, his heroics against Serbia are legendary. His goal, and post-match interview, solidified his rarified air within the Tartan Army. Most likely, you can add him to James McFadden in the list of recent Scotland talismans.

So, against Austria, Christie needs to prove his worth. If Clarke picks him – and it’s reasonable to assume he will – Christie will be tasked with arming Che Adams or Lyndon Dykes to make a dent at Hampden. It’s not beyond his capabilities; we’ve seen that in abundance. Just on fewer occasions this campaign.

Ryan Christie in mid-air / (Photo by Paul Campbell/Getty Images)

Ryan Christie should have little to prove, but Celtic fans are unconvinced

It’s frustrating how many times Christie absolutely skies a shot from outside the box. Is there a bias over him in a sense, because they’re such egregious, wasteful acts that they’re easier to remember?

Statistically speaking (I can hear the groaning), he averages 2.8 shots per game [WhoScored?]. He’s second in the squad for that particular stat, behind Edouard on 3.5 per 90. Given he’s only found the net 4 times in the league, there’s certainly evidence that he’s being wasteful.

Yet, he has enough of a portfolio to suggest he’s as well taking shots. He’s an attacking player, after all, and he’s scored important goals for Celtic, and to an extent, Scotland.

He’s hitting those shots instead of looking for the pass, though. When he hurries into a wayward effort, it screams of a lack of confidence. Hitting and hoping, as opposed to being the incisive number 10 we’ve seen him blossom into. That speaks, to some degree, about management. It’s interesting that he only shot once against both Dundee United and Rangers. Perhaps Kennedy has told him to rein it in, or simply emphasised his other talents.

Celtic star Ryan Christie in action for Scotland / (Photo by Nikola Krstic/SNS Group via Getty Images)

Big game needed against Austria for Scotland talisman

It’s not like Ryan Christie needs to resuscitate his career. He’s having a less-than-stellar season, and that happens to even the best footballers.

But wow, what a lift it would be if Christie was to shine in this game. Picked ahead of the likes of Billy Gilmour and David Turnbull, he’s clearly a favourite of Steve Clarke’s. And that’s with good cause. He regularly plays well for Clarke, and Clarke understands his qualities.

He’s not a winger, he’s not a striker, he’s the kind of player who can unlock defences with swift passing and excellent movement. He’s also got a cracker of a shot in his arsenal, if given a yard of space. Actually finishing that shot comes with confidence though, and Clarke seems to know how to get the best out of him.

Scotland fans are going into this match with some measure of confidence. We are, after all, in a major tournament for the first time in over 20 years, this summer. World Cup qualifying should provide its own inherent motivation for this Scotland squad.

If Christie is central to that, or at least contributes in a tangible way, it’s good news for Celtic. An on-form, confident Ryan Christie is an asset for us.

READ MORE: Of all people, Luis Suarez is affecting the narrative around Odsonne Edouard.