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VITAL SPARK CHRISTIE

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A FULLY-FIT Ryan Christie will provide the vital spark at Celtic – that’s the verdict of his dad Charlie.

The classy midfielder was bought from Inverness Caley Thistle for £500,000 in the summer and promptly loaned back to the Highlanders.

Unfortunately, the 20-year-old playmaker damaged a knee joint against Motherwell at the start of November and is now working his way back to peak fitness at Lennoxtown after being recalled by the champions.

He hopes to be back in full training by the end of the month and dad Charlie, the former Hoops striker in charge of Youth Development at Caley, said: “Obviously it wasn’t ideal with the injury, that certainly wasn’t the plan.

“But Celtic have got more expertise than we do up here at Inverness to deal with these sorts of things and his rehab has gone really well.

“In one way, it has been a cloud with a silver lining. While the injury was a blow, it means he has gone down there, settled very well, got to know all the guys and is feeling more comfortable going in and out of Lennoxtown.

“His knee looks very strong, he has worked very hard and I think, going forward, that will serve him very well.

“He says they are a really nice bunch of guys, who have made him feel welcome and I think the physio staff in particular have been a credit to Celtic.

“I have been delighted by it all because I was quite wary myself of him going down there.”

Christie moved to Parkhead in September 1987, but was unable to break into Billy McNeill’s Centenary Double-winning team with Frank McAvennie and Andy Walker in goalscoring form.

He said: “Ryan, after 75 senior appearances and a Scottish Cup winner’s medal, is in a far better position than me. I had just won the Highland League, but, of course, that was non-league.

“My son is playing at a far higher level than I was and has far better foundations to go down and settle at Celtic than I had. He is a year older than I was as well.

“Looking back on my time, it was very difficult. I played in a fantastic Celtic team that did the League and Cup Double and was team of the year, so it was a great time to be there.

“However, looking back, it would probably have been better if I had gone down two or three years later.

“At the time I was there, it was Frank McAvennie and Andy Walker who were in and they played the whole season with hardly any injuries.

“There were only two subs in Scottish football at that time, so getting in the first team was difficult and I did find it frustrating because I was doing so well in my first season in the reserves.

“But Ryan is far better placed. He showed in the semi-final last year at Hampden what he is capable of. There is a huge element of luck involved, being in the right place at the right time, and he knows all that.

“But he was keen to give it a go and feels if he gets himself 100 per cent he is good enough to play for Celtic and that is a big thing.

“Naturally, I don’t know how much he will figure between February and the end of the season, but, hopefully, he will figure a bit.

“I am obviously biased, but I think he is good enough to make an impression, and sometimes when you have seen Celtic recently they have maybe lacked that wee bit of spark.

“Kris Commons has been injured, so they have maybe missed that spark at times and now it is Scott Brown who is out, so there maybe is a wee hole for a player who can go in there and produce.

“The good thing is that he is in there now, he is a Celtic player, getting used to their way of training, the higher tempo.

“He will hit the ground running in pre-season, but I know he is desperate to make an impression in the remainder of this season.”

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