After Baptism of Fire at Ibrox, Alistair Johnston can handle Cup Final

When you make your Celtic debut in that cauldron at Ibrox, and hit the ground running, there is a fair chance your Celtic career is heading in the right direction. And for Celtic’s Alastair Johnston, who made his first appearance for Celtic in January’s 2-2 draw at Ibrox that certainly appears to be the case.

However, for anyone who perhaps needs a further character reference to supplement Johnston’s impressive form in a Celtic jersey, since signing from MLS side Montreal Impact, Stephen Caldwell – brother of Gary Caldwell – has some reassuring words for the Celtic support.

As reported in Scottish Sun, Caldwell, who saw first-hand Johnston’s abilities during his time as the Canada national team’s defensive coach, was struck immediately by Johnston’s mentality, professionalism and athleticism, and believes his positive outlook and thirst for knowledge will see him reach the very top, even if Caldwell already seems to be trying to sell Johnston to EPL clubs already.

“Alistair was a lad who first came into the Canada squad when I was coaching the defensive group. His real strength is his mentality in terms of the way he applies himself and how professional and athletic he is.

“He’s a voracious learner, always wanting to get better, challenge himself. He has an honesty, a sort of British mentality in the way he takes things on the chin and pushes forwards. The way he took different positions and philosophies and his positive outlook make him a real special player and person.”

“Coaches want someone who does his job and adds to their game. He’s done both every year and if he keeps that up then in two or three years he could be at a really high level. With his mindset and the way he wants to learn, he’ll only get better. There are areas he can improve and he’ll be the first to admit it. But I think Alistair can play in the Premier League, for sure.

“He won’t be getting carried away, though, and will want to establish himself at Celtic. He’ll want to be one of the top three or four performers there every week. If you play with a club like Celtic and show your personality every game in front of 60,000 fans, there’s no doubt you’ll be on the radar of Premier League teams.

“So, I think he’s got the potential to play there in the next two or three years.”

And it appears the positivity in Johnston’s personality – who already seems to have settled into the Celtic dressing room – is also a huge plus for Caldwell, with the TV pundit for Canadian network TSN, also highlighting some welcome information from Johnston’s time playing as both a No6 and a No8 during his time in youth football. And perhaps allaying any fears when it comes to the Canadian international getting to grips with Ange Postecoglou’s use of inverted full backs.

“He wants to be the best and is a great boy everyone warms towards. You’ve seen his interviews, he’s so unique in how positive he goes about things. It’s infectious, it rubs off on people. When you come to selection you want him out there because you know he’ll roll his sleeves up and get stuck in.

“He’s hardy, he’s up and down, can run all day and can come into that inside position Ange Postecoglou likes because he’s had a background as a No 6 and No 8 in his youth football days.

“So, he’s well capable of going on to the next level. That step of training with better players and challenging himself in European competitions and the big games in Scotland should allow him to make that growth which might have been harder if he’d stayed in the MLS.”

Alastair Johnston was handed as tough a first day at the office as anyone has had in a new job. However after making a good first impression in a tough environment at Ibrox, Celtic’s replacement for Josip Juranovic has looked an excellent addition to a Celtic squad already deep with talented players.

Next up of course is this Sunday’s Glasgow Derby League Cup final, but after coping with Ibrox there is no reason to believe Johnston won’t also have his first winners medal at Celtic hanging around his neck by 5pm on Sunday night.

Niall J

About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor, who has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email

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