Friday 20 September 2019

Christie's time to shine as he fills Coleman's boots

Cyrus Christie believes he is continuing to learn from more experienced players within the Ireland set-up. Photo: Sportsfile
Cyrus Christie believes he is continuing to learn from more experienced players within the Ireland set-up. Photo: Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Had things worked out differently for Cyrus Christie, he might have been looked at as a potential option to help solve Ireland's striker crisis but as it is, he has the unenviable task of attempting to fill Seamus Coleman's boots.

During his Coventry City days, Christie regularly alternated between playing as a striker and winger but he slowly made his way to the back.

Since the 24-year old has come on to Ireland's radar, he has established himself as a regular right-back with Derby and more recently Middlesbrough but it's a position that he is still adjusting to.

With the Ireland captain ahead of him in the pecking order, opportunities had been scarce but since Coleman's horrific leg break, Christie has been one of the first names on Martin O'Neill's team sheet.

The Ireland boss has shown faith in Christie but by his own admission, he is still far from the finished article.

"I probably need to improve on my defending," Christie says.


"I need to become a more solid defender. I don't think I'm a bad defender but I'm not great. I can admit that.

"I think I'm a good defender, I do my job well and I'm solid. That's probably one thing that'll need to improve.

"It is a hard thing to learn, considering there are probably a lot of lads here who have probably played in the same position over their whole career. I didn't start out as a right-back so I'm always learning and improving. I know what I need to do to make it at the highest level."

Christie has his sights firmly sight on one day playing in the Premier League and while regular international football will help him in his quest, 11th-placed Boro have a bit of ground to make up if they are to live up to their Championship favourites' tag.

Coleman has been in regular contact since his injury. His words of encouragement have helped but Christie is aware that the skipper has set high standards in the right-back berth.

"I have got big boots to fill with Seamus and people will always judge me on that," Christie maintains.

"We are two different players and we do have similar attributes. It is a tough role to fill and I feel I'm doing OK, and learning and growing.

"It is football at the end of the day, people are going to have their opinion. It probably wouldn't be football if people didn't compare so for me, it's fine. I just go out there and do my job, give 110pc. I just want to do well.

"I spoke to Seamus a few times. I want to do well for him as well, he's been fantastic and an integral part of the squad. For him to have the injury, it's such a shame.

"He just speaks to me; how well I'm doing, he messages me throughout the season as well and you know he gives me a lot of confidence.

"I spoke to him many a time and he just tells me to go out there and play my own game, I've done really well when I have played and he wants me to carry on.

"The only thing he tells me is to not score any more so he can catch me up! But other than that, he gives me advice which is great for me because he's one of the best full-backs in the world.

"When he broke his leg, I was in shock. As much as it's a team game, it's an individual game but that wasn't my thinking at all.

"For me, for the lads, we'd lost a big part of the squad, you need your main players, your key players and he is one of them and he is a big loss."

There is an acceptance that when Coleman does return to full fitness he will reclaim his starting spot but that doesn't mean that Christie isn't going to do everything within his power to push him all the way.

"I'm coming here now and more than likely I'm going to be playing but once Seamus is back he will be back in, I'm not going to shy away from that," the 24-year old reasons.

"I know I've come in as a second choice and understudy to Seamus because he is playing at the highest level. For me to be taking that spot I need to be playing at that level. I come in here and I can learn off Seamus and push him all the way. If you asked him I think I do that.

"I would want to be first choice but I know the task ahead, that Seamus is the captain and certain things in football you have to... not accept. I'm not just going to let him be first choice but I want to push him all the way.

"But like I said, Seamus is playing at the highest level and I need to get there to be pushing him on even more.

"I think I've come in and done well the majority of the time. The big thing was probably the Germany game. I think it was only my second cap at the time and I came in there and did really well.

"There were games there where I felt like I really belonged. I'm still inexperienced at this level and I have made mistakes and I have held my hand up for that.

"For me it's about learning from them and moving on and establishing myself. I want to push Seamus all the way. I'm fighting for the same spot. It is a big competition and I just want to do as well as possible.

"I think I've hit some of my best-ever form this season. I just want to build on that."

Despite the tricky situation that Ireland find themselves in, confidence is not in short supply, according to Christie. They face an uphill task but it was one that they are ready for.

"We've been in these situations before and thrived under the pressure," he adds.

"We go into these games full of confidence. We know what we're capable of."

Irish Independent

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