Neil Lennon "surprised" Ryan Christie started all three Scotland games as Celtic prepare for crucial run

Neil Lennon has voiced his displeasure after Ryan Christie started all three recent Scotland matches ahead of Celtic’s crucial trip face Hibs at Easter Road this afternoon.

Celtic manager Neil Lennon is unhappy Ryan Christie started all three recent Scotland games (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)
Celtic manager Neil Lennon is unhappy Ryan Christie started all three recent Scotland games (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

The midfielder has become an increasingly influential figure for clubs and country and Scotland manager Steve Clarke felt he could not do without him.

While Lennon expected him to start the two must-win games against Serbia and Israel, the manager was “surprised” to see him also start the middle game against Slovakia. The midfielder has returned with what Lennon described as a “bit of a bump” on his thigh but trained yesterday and is expected to feature against Hibs.

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Christie played every minute of the clashes with Israel and Slovakia and was taken off just three minutes before the end of regulation time in the play-off final against Serbia, which then went into extra-time and penalties.

Lennon was the first to congratulate his Scotland players on their return to the club and he is glad of the positive vibes after qualifying for Euro 2020.

But he is concerned about the potential for a “kick-in effect later down the line” with Christie a pivotal part of Lennon’s plans as Celtic prepare for a crucial run of games. The champions face twelve matches between now and January 2, including a Scottish Cup final v Hearts, an Old Firm derby against Rangers and a Europa League group game at AC Milan.

Lennon questioned why Clarke did not treat Christie with more care but he acknowledged the midfielder is as important to his country as he has become to his club.

"He (Clarke) didn't rest Ryan,” said Lennon. “That didn't please me.” Lennon confirmed all the players had returned from Scotland duty looking “OK”. Leigh Griffiths featured as a substitute twice, Callum McGregor started two of the three games and Greg Taylor, in contrast to Christie, did not get any minutes at all.

“There might be a kick-in effect later down the line but they are fit and available to play,” said Lennon. “It was three 90 minutes’ in six days which is a big ask for any individual,” he added.

"Steve tried to balance the squad as best he could but it looked like he didn't want to play without Ryan. I can't be over-critical, but we would have liked him to miss some of the games."

One player Lennon hopes has been re-energised by his endeavours during the international break is Odsonne Edouard. The striker has been criticised this season for looking uninterested at times and was also struck down by Covid-19 earlier in the campaign.

Edouard broke the record for Under-21 goals for France when he struck twice in the midweek win over Switzerland that helped secure qualification for Euro 2021.

“His two goals were beautiful, and he looked more like the Odsonne of last season,” said Lennon. “Again, psychologically, having broken the Under 21s scoring record, he will be in great form and we're hoping he can catch fire now for us over the next couple of months.”

Lennon expects centre-half Christopher Jullien to make a long-awaited return next week from back injury. “He has trained the last few days, so he is not far away,” he said.

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