Of all the players returning from injury during the international break, one of the most interesting is Mikey Johnston and his prospect of getting minutes under Brendan Rodgers.
Johnston hasn’t made a single competitive appearance for Celtic since March 14th 2022 – featuring as a substitute in a 3-0 Scottish Cup win over Dundee United.
Since then he’s suffered from injuries and spent time out on loan in Portugal. Now, given the current injury situation, he has as good a shot as anyone of forcing his way into the manager’s plans.
Johnston was spotted back in training at the start of the month, prior to the trip to Ibrox. However, that match was also going to come too soon for him following injury through the entire pre-season period.
Again shown in pictures and videos of training at the end of this week, he’s kept himself fit and is surely closing in on getting some exposure to Rodgers’ match squads.
An injury to Liel Abada means that the manager is searching for alternative options in the wide areas and nobody, apart from Daizen Maeda, has really cemented a place in the current set-up.
With new signing Luis Palma not returning to Lennoxtown until today, Johnston is in the running to feature on the bench against Dundee if nothing else.
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Unlike Marco Tilio, Johnston has also been included in the UEFA Champions League group stage squad, boosted by his homegrown status.
Rodgers is a noted admirer of Johnston’s talents and he said so himself during the summer period he was out injured, stating: “He has fantastic attributes, he’s quick and direct. He can score goals, he can create and has a lot of tools that I like for guys who play in wide areas.
“But you have to be available and that is going to be important for him. Hopefully this season, when he gets over this back injury, he can have a sustained run of fitness to perform.”
In that context, Johnston is unlikely to be given too heavy a workload over the next few weeks.
But given his eligibility for all competitions and the need for Celtic to find an attacking spark, who’d bet against Rodgers finding form in a player nobody is expecting anything from? He’s done it before.