WHEN James Maddison’s loan deal expired at the beginning of the month, Aberdeen needed to fill the gap with another creative midfielder capable of unlocking a sturdy defence and winning a game with a piece of skill and brilliance.
Initial talk was that the £6million man from Norwich would be allowed to continue his development at Pittodrie for the remainder of the season, with the chances of regular first team football at Carrow Road remaining slim.
It soon became apparent that wasn’t happening and Derek McInnes has now turned to Celtic to secure the loan signing of Ryan Christie until the end of the season.
Signing a player on loan from a rival club does spring the big question – what benefit is there to Aberdeen in bringing in a player who can’t play against Celtic?
Christie is a player of massive potential and was one that most Dons fans would’ve taken from our unofficial feeder club, Inverness Caledonian Thistle, as he emerged through the ranks in the Highlands.
He moved to Celtic 18 months ago having won a Scottish Cup Winners medal and picking up the Scottish Football Writers Young Player of the Year along the way, an indication of the progress he was making.
Predictably, Christie found it difficult to break into the Celtic team under Ronny Delia and now Brendan Rodgers, who have an overload of attacking midfielders and the form of Tom Rogic in Christie’s preferred position makes it even harder for him to get an opportunity to establish himself at Parkhead.
Sending him on loan is a good move by Celtic and for the player to gain regular first team football and return to Celtic Park a better player.
However, whilst Christie’s talents are not in question, the practicalities of the move are leaving a few fans scratching their heads.
Whilst Celtic have the title more or less wrapped up, therefore sending Christie to a rival club is not that big a deal to them, Aberdeen are still involved in a fight for a third consecutive runners-up spot and are desperate to end a 27 year wait for the Scottish Cup.
There are two League matches against the Champions to play and a potential Scottish Cup tie between the two (depending on progress and subsequent draws of course), and these matches could affect Aberdeen’s season in both competitions.
It could severely disrupt the Dons side having to leave Christie in the stands as part of the loan agreement, particularly if he plays to his full capabilities, leaving someone who’s come in out the cold to take his place.
And in the scenario that, for example, Peter Pawlett impresses, would he then have to be dropped for Christie or would the man sent on loan to get first team experience be left on the sidelines instead?
This is the side effect of loan deals, particularly from clubs in your own League. Whilst you’re getting, potentially, a better player to help your season, you know he’s got to go back to his club and, in this case, he can’t play against his parent side.
Whilst the Maddison signing wasn’t ideal in the knowledge he was returning so quickly, there were no restrictions in what competition or opponent he was playing against.
Whilst having your own players on permanent contracts and churning through the youth system is the ideal scenario, sometimes bringing in quality on a short term basis is not a bad thing and McInnes has had some success in the likes of Michael Hector, Danny Ward and, to a degree, Maddison.
Ryan Christie adds that bit of guile that can be crucial in tight games and his knowledge of the League will be an advantage to us.
He might not walk straight into the team on Friday against Dundee, and neither he should given the fact Aberdeen have won four straight games in both competitions and are looking like their normal selves again.
However, Christie is a valuable addition and he could help make the difference between second place and third/fourth, which is what fellow Dons fans should be judging him on and not the alleged tweet he sent five years ago, when he was only 16, saying he hated the sheep.
To be frankly honest, what Ryan Christie’s thoughts on Aberdeen back then are totally irrelevant, especially given there are lots of players who’ve been a success at teams they once saw as “the enemy” – Murdo McLeod and Mo Johnston spring to mind.
The best way a footballer can talk is on the pitch and Ryan Christie has the talent to show that he can succeed in his short spell at Aberdeen.