A Scotland call-up, let alone a starting slot, was so far off attacker Ryan Christie’s radar at the turn of the year he didn’t give it a single thought.
That all changed when the 22-year-old agreed to move to Pittodrie in January on a six-month loan deal.
It was so successful that boss Derek McInnes bust a gut to bring him back to the Granite City on a permanent deal during the summer transfer window. Ultimately, Hoops boss Brendan Rodgers would not sell as he, like McInnes, also clearly saw something special.
McInnes did however land his man, on a season-long loan, and the upward trajectory has continued.
Christie reckons the move to Aberdeen has helped take him from the international wilderness into contention for a role in the Euro 2020 qualifiers.
For the attacker, boss McInnes has been pivotal to him emerging into the Scotland set-up.
McInnes remains favourite for the vacant Rangers managerial post as the Ibrox club’s hunt for a successor to Pedro Caixinha drags into a third week.
Christie insists it is vital for the Dons that McInnes remains at the helm if Rangers, as expected, make an approach for the 46-year-old.
He said: “I owe Aberdeen and the manager a lot.
“I didn’t even think about the Scotland squad when I came up to Aberdeen because I thought it was too far away.
“If I am honest, at that time I thought it (Scotland) was so far away it was not even a possibility.
“Now that it has happened I am absolutely delighted about it
“I absolutely love my football and love working with the manager, his staff and with a great squad of players.
“Long may it continue.”
Christie has been away from Pittodrie on international duty since the 2-2 draw with Hamilton. That isolation has not entirely cocooned him from speculation about his gaffer’s future.
McInnes is understood to top Rangers’ wish-list for their managerial position compiled by Ibrox director of football Mark Allen.
Rangers have made no approach to the Dons yet.
It was expected that would come during the international break.
It has also been reported the representatives of former England, Newcastle and Middlesbrough boss Steve McClaren have sent his CV to the Ibrox club’s board.
McClaren is currently working as an advisor for Israeli club Maccabi Tel-Aviv and does not require a compensation payment.
It would take £800,000 in compensation for Rangers to secure McInnes if they make an approach, and IF he agrees to move.
Christie said: “It is very important that the manager stays at Aberdeen.
“He is one of the main reasons I came back and signed for Aberdeen this season. For the six months of last season I loved playing under him so much, and have enjoyed great success under him.
“That has continued into this season again.
“On a personal note I really hope he stays because it is great to play under him.”
McInnes was coveted by Sunderland during the summer and their approach reached the advanced stage of agreeing compensation.
However, McInnes rejected the Black Cats. The man Sunderland turned to after McInnes’ rebuttal, Simon Grayson, was sacked recently after just four months.
On the Rangers speculation, Christie said: “The players have not really discussed it.
“I have been asked so many questions about it, though.
“I haven’t heard anything which is a positive for me, the longer that continues the better.
“I have worked with the manager for so long now and hopefully he stays here.”
Christie was one of three players handed Scotland debuts by interim national boss Malky Mackay.
The others were former Aberdeen skipper Ryan Jack, now at Rangers, and Celtic’s Callum McGregor.
Cheered on by his family, the playmaker enjoyed an impressive senior debut. He said: “My family were all down for the game, as well as half of Inverness!
“Hopefully, my family were proud. The main thing for me was I wanted to go into the game and not look out of place.
“I felt good against Holland – they are a really good team and move the ball well.
“Being at Pittodrie added a nice touch as the fans were brilliant.
“You need to be so patient off the ball which can be very frustrating as a footballer.
“You want to go and get it back but you know if you do that Holland can easily play the ball around you.
“Although we lost, there were plenty of positives to take from the game.
“Apart from their goal I can’t really think of any other clear cut chances Holland had which is a credit to the way we defended as a team.
“Their goal was frustrating as it came from a little lapse in concentration. “One of the pinnacles in football is to play for your country and I am delighted to finally make that step up.”
The next step for Christie is to maintain his involvement in the upcoming friendlies, with a clash away to Morocco mooted for March.
Then there is the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign which will begin next September.
Christie accepts the key to pushing for involvement in the Euro bid rests on domestic form with the Dons to impress the new Scottish boss – whoever that may be.
He said: “It is up to me to keep pushing and keep in that international scene.
“That (Euro 2020 campaign) is the plan, the big target.
“The manager (Malky Mackay) was saying to us that there will hopefully be a couple of friendlies between now and the start of the next qualifiers.
“I have to keep my club form as high as I can to make sure I am in the picture for that.”
Christie has been one of the stand-out performers for the Dons this season and reckons international football can only improve his game even further.
He said: “It is part of the learning process and playing against Holland can only help a player like myself.
“I am still young and have plenty to learn in the game.
“Going up against international players like Holland gives you the feel for that level of football.
“It was brilliant, and I just want more of that now.”