RYAN CHRISTIE has admitted to frustration at being unable to reclaim a first-team place at Celtic since the turn of the year.
The Scotland international playmaker underwent emergency groin surgery after the 2-1 loss to Rangers at Parkhead in the last game of 2019.
Christie was then hit by a bizarre three-game ban following the incident with Ibrox striker Alfredo Morelos which SFA compliance officer Clare Whyte and her panel of three ex-refs deemed violent conduct.
The midfielder, injured or not, was forced to sit out the Scottish Cup opener against Partick and the Premiership encounters against Kilmarnock and Ross County.
The champions won all three and have carried on with five more successive triumphs and the skilful Highlander has been forced into a role of bit-part player.
DELIGHT AND DESPAIR…Ryan Christie after scoring Celtic’s fourth goal while Hearts keeper Joel Pereira sits it out.
Neil Lennon’s side have thumped in 27 goals in eight outings in 2020 and Christie joined in the hit parade when he claimed his 18th of the season with the fourth in the 5-0 romp over Hearts in midweek following his 64th-minute appearance as a substitute for Leigh Griffiths.
The gifted midfield man, speaking to the Evening Times, admitted: “It’s frustrating when you’re on the sidelines and desperate to be a part of it.
“It goes without saying you want the boys to do well and keep the run going, but you want to be part of it, too. So, it was good to come on and get the goal against Hearts and feel a bit more part of it again.”
Christie is raring to go after his enforced spell on the sidelines and added: “It didn’t do any harm. Obviously, I’ve got a job to get back in the team now.
“But I feel as fresh as ever. I’ve almost had another pre-season and I’m ready to get going again.
“We played a lot of games, especially in December, and towards the end of the month you’re warming up for games thinking: ‘I don’t feel anywhere near 100 per cent here’. So, when the break comes, you feel you need it.
“I’m confident I can get back to where I was. You need to keep working hard. It’ll always be the same at Celtic, when you drop out it’s hard to come straight back in, you need to work your way there then do your thing when you get the chance.
ON THE RUN…Ryan Christie races away from Aberdeen defender Doug Considine.
“I hope I’ve still got a big part to play between now and the end of the season because there are so many big games, domestically and in Europe, as well.”
Christie is hoping to get the nod from boss Lennon for this afternoon’s Premiership meeting with Aberdeen at Pittodrie, where he spent 18 months on loan before returning to Parkhead at the start of last season and proving he was worth a new contract to Brendan Rodgers.
The player is in the same situation as the likes of Tom Rogic and Mohamed Elyounousi. All three are current internationals with Scotland, Australia and Norway respectively, but the trio had to be content with sub roles in the destruction of the Tynecastle side.
All three hope to play a part against the Dons with the Hoops getting the opportunity to stretch their lead at the top of the league to 13 points, albeit possibly momentarily.