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CLARKE HAILS HOOPS PLAYMAKER CHRISTIE

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STEVE CLARKE admits he is looking forward to working with Celtic playmaker Ryan Christie as the Euro 2020 double-header against Russia and Belgium edges closer.

Alex McLeish’s successor was without the skills of the Hoops midfielder in his first two games in charge against Cyprus and the Belgians in June.

However, Clarke has welcomed back the gifted Highlander who has been on fire since the season’s kick-off after being sidelined through injury in the run-in to his club’s historic treble treble campaign.

The 24-year-old ex-Inverness Caley Thistle star was still recovering from the aftermath of a horrific aerial collision with Aberdeen defender Dom Ball, which left him with multiple fractures of the eye socket, jaw and cheekbone.

But Christie has hit the ground running this time around and has claimed eight goals in as many games.

He is likely to be handed a key role in the Euro confrontations and Clarke, speaking to the media, said: “Ryan has been terrific.

“Ryan really deserves his place in the group because he has done so well to recover from the injury at the end of last season.

“He’s come back in a really good place.

“When you look where he was this time last season, he’s really grown into that Celtic team.

“He is quick, direct, excites you, gets at people and likes to shoot.

“Celtic found a little position for him before Brendan left where he played a sort of inside-left, free position getting forward.

READY FOR ACTION…Ryan Christie (front row, extreme left) with his Scotland team-mates before the Israel clash in November last year when Hoops colleague James Forrest (No.7) fired in a hat-trick.

“I remember going to Celtic Park with Kilmarnock and getting spanked 5-1, which wasn’t very nice.

“But, for me, Ryan was the catalyst for Celtic at that time.

“He did really well, and kept that form going before picking up his injury against Aberdeen.”

The international boss added: “Sometimes you have a No. 10 who is a luxury player. I think Ryan’s a little bit more than that.

“If you watch him play, it’s not a free role in there behind the strikers because when he hasn’t got the ball, he goes chasing after people all the time.

“He’s not a tackler, not a ball-winner. But he’s always ratting around people. When he loses the ball, he gets after them, he chases around.

“He wants the ball, and never hides.

“Even on a bad day, he will keep looking to get on the ball and look to make things happen in the final third of the pitch, which is great.

“Sometimes he maybe overplays a little bit in areas where he shouldn’t. But as he gets older and wiser, Ryan will learn when to play and when not to play.

“But we have good options in the midfield and forward areas.”

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Acclaimed author Alex Gordon wrote the biography of Scotland international legend Denis Law, entitled 'King and Country'. He is a former columnist with World Soccer magazine and Scottish correspondent of respected European journal L'Equipe.

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