OVER the past two summers we have talked up the prospects of Mikey Johnston making a significant breakthrough into the Celtic team and becoming a regular first pick. There is no doubt that the potential is there in abundance for us all to see and we’ve had glimpses of his brilliance that has lit up many of the matches he’s played in but a series of injury problems during the past few campaigns has frustrated the player himself and kept the support waiting to see the very best of one of the most talented Academy players to emerge in many years.
That goal Johnston scored last July in Sarajevo was sensational and he also netted a remarkable goal in the early round of the League Cup against Dunfermline to take the tie into extra-time. He also had the good grace that day not to over celebrate as his long distance effort was more likely intended as a cross rather than a shot on goal!
Last season ended up as one of frustration for the talented Celtic left winger who has incidentally watched on as competition for that position in the team has somewhat thinned out over recent months. Scotty Sinclair, the hero of the Invincible and Double Treble campaigns moved on to Preston North End. Jonny Hayes wasn’t offered a new deal and has now returned to Aberdeen on a free transfer and Moi Elyounoussi’s loan deal from Southampton expires at the end of this month. He could be back at Celtic for another season long loan deal as Neil Lennon is a huge admirer of the Norwegian but nothing has been finalised and other offers may be forthcoming.
Mikey Johnston’s season ended at Perth when he came off the bench against St Johnstone and picked up an injury almost straight away. Such was his desire to play, he somewhat foolishly attempted to run it off perhaps but within a few minutes he had to bow to the inevitable and head off, head down and listening to his manager’s choice words about the player’s decision making. This medial collateral ligament injury ended Johnston’s season and in total the 21 year old had managed just 1124 minutes of football for the campaign, scoring six goals.
That could have been seven though, with Celtic one up, somewhat against the run of play in the Betfred Cup Final Johnston was put through on goals with only the keeper to beat but his shot was off target.
The COVID-19 enforced early termination of the 2019-20 season meant that Johnston didn’t miss too many games and he’s used the lockdown lay-off as a chance to re-gain full fitness. He’ll enter the new season determined to put the painful Perth memories behind him and make that wide left position his own. And Mikey will be hoping that his performances will get him back in Neil Lennon’s good books and that the tongue lashing he received at McDiarmid Park was a one off!
So for Mikey Johnston this season is very much a case of third time lucky as he seeks to avoid injury problems and establish himself as a top Celtic Star.
Highlights of that match in Perth on 29 January 2020 are below, just how good were Celtic that night in very difficult conditions!