BRENDAN Rodgers feared a gust of wind would be too strong an opponent for Ryan Christie when he first saw the Highlander.

This is why Celtic twice loaned the skinny kid from Inverness to Aberdeen. He had the talent, which everyone saw from his 18 months at Pittodrie, but nothing close to the physicality required to make it as his parent club.,

It is to Christie’s credit that he did not give up on his Celtic dream.

Rodgers told him to get stronger, put a few more pounds on and then they would see if he could cut it.

Christie’s 45-minute man off the match performance against Hearts at Murrayfield, capped by a wonderful goal, could well be the start, properly, of his career as a Celtic player.

A delighted Rodgers said: “It was a big step for him at the weekend. When I came in, I had a boy of 64 kilos, who played as a striker against Motherwell, and I felt, okay, here’s a talent but is he going to play regularly for me?

“I didn’t think he was, but he wasn’t 17 or 18. He was 20, 21, so what would benefit him, thinking medium and longer term? He would benefit from playing games and feeling the pressure week in, week out, because coming from Inverness to Celtic is a big jump.

“I was thinking of his development. Some players cope straight away when they come in as a 17-year-old. Raheem Sterling’s maturation level at that age as an example was a kid who was physically strong. There are some players who mature a bit later.

“I felt that with Ryan and his body type he needed that. We were lucky to send him to a club where he would be under pressure, but still get regular game time. I had a conversation with Derek McInnes and that’s what we looked at.

“Ryan went away and had 18 months playing, he played well and still had to develop and grow but at least he was feeling pressure. Within that period, with the programme we had given him, he went from 64 kilos to 74. That was 10 kilos of muscle there but he can carry that.

“That helps you with your physicality in the game, it helps him to press the game, it increases his running strength and power as well as his football ability.”

This is all well and good but a footballer has to play football to justify himself. Christie had done fine in his previous Celtic outings but Sunday felt, at least to his manager, something changed.

Rodgers said: “What Ryan probably needed was a big moment in an important game. He’s had those at Aberdeen as well in big games but that can be real spark for his confidence. Now you see a boy at 23 who I feel is ready now to really participate.

“Now it’s about him and what he does on the pitch. He’s a great boy, a good guy and it’s been slow burning for him here but that was the plan. It was about taking his talent and bringing it to fruition and could he take the opportunity.”

Rarely do substitutes make such a difference as Christie and Scott Sinclair, who scored a penalty, did against Hearts.

A return to form of Sinclair would be a welcome twist in the season. Rodgers needs those who have not been regulars to be better, and the Englishman at long last showed some of his old self.

Rodgers said: “Every player is a confidence player. When Scott came into the game he looked different class but he’s a big game player. He’s played in enough big games and shown up well.

“He was ready for this one, no matter when he came into it. As soon as he came on he got as his man and took on from there. He looked a lot more like himself and it was great to see.”

Celtic should take apart Dundee at Dens Park tonight. Their defence is vastly improved and the team is scoring goals again.

The feeling always was that once the champions sorted themselves out at both sides of the park then they would pull free from the rest. We shall see.

Rodgers said: “Collectively, the team needed to perform better and, step by step, we’ve been getting better. Leigh Griffiths a goalscorer but it’s more than that which brings the fluency to the team.

“We’re pressing the ball much better and that’s a huge element because that allows you to win the ball higher up the field; you shorten the pitch and create more chances. When you’re not pressing high up the field then you’re much deeper.

“Our last three domestic games – against St Johnstone, who hadn’t been beaten at home for a while, we were very good and we took that into the Hibs match, which was always going to be a big test, and then we did well against Hearts, who’s made a great start to the campaign.

“The intensity is back in our game, which is great to see, and that performance level is very important to us.”

Rodgers admitted not so long ago that he didn't know if Celtic would find their full flow this season. They are not quite there yet but are getting to where they want to be.

The manager said: "I am not psychic. All we could do was to work hard on the training field. I’m just so happy for the players. There is not a great deal of work we can do in terms of being physical with them because we are playing and then recovering. You can’t push them work hard.

“We did a lot of sessions in terms of technical and tactical work, and patterns we can create better on the pitch and then analysis our work.

“Fundamentally, it comes from how we press the game. We are pressing better and winning the ball higher up the pitch. The front players are not isolated. For us, that’s always been the method of our game.

“This gives us higher number of players up the pitch so when you win it you can combine with one another, to try something creative, and if you lose it there are people there to win it back.

"The basics of the game is better now for us. When we don’t have the ball we are tighter as a team, more compact, and when we have the ball we are creating better space in order to play and are doing things quicker because we have the numbers in effective areas.

“That is something which has returned to our game and or course there is confidence as well.”

It's a potent mix.