Celtic midfielder Ryan Christie on what could have cost him his professional football career
The punitive nature of the pandemic has threatened the continuation of the Inverness Caledonian Thistle youth academy.
Only donations from parents and benefactors have allowed its continued operation. The crucial role it plays in giving players from the Highlands a pathway to the professional game could never be lost on Ryan Christie, the system’s highest-profile graduate.
The 25-year-old believes a career that has taken him to the heights with Celtic and Scotland simply would not have been possible without the youth set up at Inverness, leaving him to play part-time in the Highland League, at best.
"To have Inverness up there as a professional team was massive for me. My age group or the one just above me was the first youth to come through at Inverness so I was very lucky in the timing of that,” said the attacker, speaking before he was forced to self-isolate for a 14-day period that has counted him out of Scotland’s triple header and the derby fixture with Rangers next Saturday.
“There was plenty of other good players up there but sometimes when you are right at the top of the country it's hard to get the top-class training three or four times a week like I had. It was only when I was coming through that Inverness extended their horizons to look for players. We had players coming down from Orkney and that sort of area to play for us through the youth and there was only hope of a team where they could get the proper training they needed to try and make it. So many players up north a few years ago before my time didn't have the same opportunities.
“It was Inverness Caley or nothing for me. If they hadn't taken me and I hadn't pushed through, I doubt that I'd have gone to another professional club. I might have gone to play Highland League. So many of my pals who I came through the youths with, when it got to the under-19 stage and they weren't offered a contract – they didn't stay in professional football at all. They dropped down to the Highland League and picked up a part-time job on the side. That's easily the way I could have gone, I guess.”
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