Ryan Christie has lived in Inverness all his life and watched some of his hometown club’s greatest moments unfold.
However, the young Caley Thistle midfielder has been forced to rapidly get used to his new-found celebrity status in the Highland capital.
Christie is the son of Inverness legend Charlie Christie, who played for the club for the first decade of its existence after it was founded in 1994.
As a four-year-old, Ryan was in the crowd to watch his father win the man-of-the-match award in Caley Jags’ famous 3-1 Scottish Cup victory against Celtic at Parkhead in 2000.
Having come all the way through the club’s youth ranks, Ryan is set to cap a tremendous first full season at top-team level by playing in the Scottish Cup final against Falkirk at Hampden on May 30.
Ryan has made 40 appearances for Inverness and become a Scotland under-21 international this season. Last week, he won the Scottish Football Writers’ young player-of-the-year award.
Having initially been overwhelmed by the public reaction to his breakthrough, the 20-year-old is now relishing his new-found fame and is determined to be associated with the club’s first major silverware by helping Caley Jags defeat the Bairns.
He said: “I can definitely feel the buzz in the town. I can see how the whole community is coming together. It’s been great to take the trophy out to schools and meet people.
“We get people stopping us in the street and wishing us luck. It’s great for the city.
“That’s been a new thing for me this season.
“I remember the first time I got recognised in town. A couple of kids chased after me. My face went a deep red – I didn’t know what to do.
“I am a bit more used to it now, so it’s not too bad.
“I enjoy it. It’s nice to be stopped and having people chat to me and wish me well. Especially now we have the cup final to look forward to.
“I have lost count how many times I have been stopped now. It feels good the city is recognising what we are doing.
“I can only imagine what it will be like if we win the cup. Growing up in Inverness and supporting the club I think I realise more than most how big a chance this really is for us.
“This doesn’t happen every year for a club like Inverness. I know how much it means to the supporters and hopefully we can go all the way now. It would be an incredible achievement.”
Ryan has been taken aback by the progress he has made since making his debut as an 18-year-old in a 1-0 defeat by Celtic in December 2013.
He added: “I just wanted to play as many first-team games as I could this season. I have been lucky to get a few good runs in the team.
“I’m delighted. If somebody had told me I would have played this many games at the start of the season I would have bitten their hand off for it.
“I wanted to become a regular part of the first team this season so I am delighted to have done that.”