THE LURE of Championship football was too good to turn down for Coventry-born defender Cyrus Christie who feels a lack of ambition during his time with the Sky Blues was the main reason behind his decision to leave two years ago.
Having worked his way through the club’s successful Academy since the age of seven, Christie became a first team regular while the Sky Blues were a second tier club.
His performances as an attacking full-back and his determination to succeed with the Sky Blues made him an instant hit with the City faithful.
But relegation to League One proved tough to take for the young defender and that combined with a controversial ground share 35 miles away from home in Northampton proved the final straw for Christie.
“I think we all have to move on eventually,” Christie told the Observer. “We couldn’t really stay around with all the stuff that was going on and the problems.
“The ambition of the boys wasn’t really matched by the club. It’s a shame because there were so many great players coming through the Academy.
“They had the hunger to succeed at the club by getting into the first team because they knew they were going to get chances.
“I got 40 appearances in the Championship when I was with Coventry and we then got relegated. I got injured towards the end of that season but there was a lot of stuff going on at the club and I wanted to leave.
“There were certain things said about me but I was just trying to concentrate on my football. There wasn’t once when I never tried but I wanted at the highest level possible.”
There were reported offers from a number of Championship clubs and there was also rumoured to be interest from America too in Major League Soccer (MLS).
But free agent Christie opted for a move to the East Midlands back in June 2014 where he was offered a chance to return to the second tier alongside former team mate Richard Keogh and help Derby return to the Premier League.
“An opportunity came for me to join Derby and it’s been fantastic for me to come to a club like this and play under some good managers and with some fantastic players.
“We’re mounting promotion pushes each year and we fell at the last hurdle last season but we’ve got another season coming up and hopefully we can go again under the new manager and staff.
“The Championship is very tough. Anyone can beat anyone on their day so we have to keep our concentration for the whole season and beat the teams that we’ve got to beat.
“If we can match the other big teams that are in the league now there’s no reason why we can’t go up.
“The aim for every player is to play in the Premiership and get to the highest level. That’s the aim that everyone wants at Derby. The foundations are here for us to be a Premier League club, with the setup, the facilities, the players and staff.”
It was no surprise to Sky Blues fans to see Christie slot straight into the Derby side where he has made 89 appearances in two seasons at Pride Park.
But Christie has also excelled at international level too. The 23-year-old was called up for the Republic of Ireland through his Dublin-born grandmother and is loving every minute of his international experience under Martin O’Neill.
“Funnily enough I was sitting there with Jeff Hendrick when a number rang on my phone and it was Martin O’Neill,” Christie added.
“He was trying to get me in for the qualifier in Germany but I couldn’t get my passport done in time for that one. But he told me that he was going to call me up for the next one.
“When I went over with the squad he told me that I was going to be given my debut against USA and I did well.
“Martin O’Neill is a great manager. He makes you feel like you’re a brilliant player which is good for everyone and I think you can see that by the way the boys played for Ireland. The commitment and the way we approached those games, we showed that we are a match for any team.
“I’ve had some big scalps in my time, we beat Germany and we beat Italy and we came close against France in the last game in the Euros, so there’s no reason why we can’t go on into the World Cup qualifiers and do really well.
“The aim will be to get to the World Cup and there’s no reason if we get there why we can’t go one better.”
Christie made his debut against the USA before scoring his first Ireland goal in a Euro 2016 qualifier away at Gilbraltar, which earned him a spot on the plane to France this summer.
And although he did not make an appearance as Ireland reached the knockout stage of the competition, he admits Euro 2016 was an unforgettable experience.
“It was great to just be there. To be fair to the manager he did come up to me just before the Italy game and said out of everyone I deserved to start.
“He admitted that he had been trying to get me in the team but he couldn’t at the minute because of Seamus.
“It’s great to hear stuff from a manager like that and one that does think highly of you. He wanted to put me in the team but he just said that he couldn’t. As a player you have to accept that. He’s been honest and open with me.
“Seamus is a fantastic player and for me to dislodge him from the team is a big task. He has also been very complimentary of me and he’s even said that he’s got to find a way to get us both in the team.
“For a player like that to comment about my ability like that is fantastic for me. It is a confidence boost and I’ve just got to keep my head down, keep working hard because anything can happen.”