Celtic interim boss provides hope for Mikey Johnston

By John McGinley

March 6, 2021

Celtic interim manager John Kennedy has namechecked Mikey Johnston in his pre-Dundee United press conference, providing hope for the academy graduate he could get more game time between now and the end of the season.

Johnston has started just three matches for the club since 2019. He suffered a bad injury in a game away to St Johnstone last January and spend the vast majority of 2020 rehabilitating.

However, he has been fit since December. Unfortunately, he’s been unable to break into the first-team on a consistent basis.

His only starts since his injury return were in the post-Dubai frenzy against Hibernian and Livingston.

The winger has also been used as a substitute on six occasions, but tactically he hasn’t been a great fit of late.

Former manager Neil Lennon, and Kennedy, have primarily utilised a central midfield diamond, with the team’s width coming from attacking full-backs.

Kennedy is relishing the prospect of utilising wingers

However, Kennedy’s comments yesterday suggest Johnston could get more game time, perhaps when James Forrest is also available for selection.

As we discussed yesterday, Forrest has had a great week of training at Lennoxtown and could feature against Dundee United tomorrow.

In his broadcast press conference [YouTube], the interim boss expanded on his comments, also referencing Johnston: “As a team, we’ve missed James Forrest. His numbers in terms of goals and assists and what he brings to the team over the last few seasons have been terrific.

“We’ve certainly missed that. There have been periods in games where you need someone who can unlock and have that bit of individual brilliance.

“So between him and Mikey Johnston, we’ve had guys like that missing, they’re your eliminators.

“As much as a team can set up in a structure to block you up, if you get James, guys like Mikey Johnston and your wingers in dangerous areas one on one versus full-backs then that can break any structure. We’ve missed that at times this year, so it’s exciting to have James back in training.”

Celtic youngster Mikey Johnston / (Photo by Craig Foy/SNS Group via Getty Images)

A return to familiar formation could provide Celtic chances for Mikey Johnston

Odsonne Edouard is the only striker showing any sort of form for Celtic right now.

Do Kennedy’s comments above hint at a change to a 4-2-3-1 formation, with pacy, tricky wingers providing attacking support for the central French striker?

It wasn’t utilised last week in his first match in charge against Aberdeen, but Forrest wasn’t available.

A return for the long-serving Scotland international could also open up more chances for Johnston, who fits more naturally into a wide left position.

I would love to see both wingers get some game time together before the end of the season, given they are two of the players guaranteed to play a part next season.

In other news, Chris Sutton has criticised Peter Lawwell and Dermot Desmond.