Celtic boss issues challenge to perennial sub Mikey Johnston

By Euan Davidson

December 4, 2021

Ange Postecoglou has told Celtic attacker Mikey Johnston it’s time to “step up” in the absence of star winger Jota.

Jota was injured during the game against Hearts, and while it’s not believed to be serious, it’s enough to rule him out of action on Sunday against Dundee United.

That makes Mikey Johnston the likeliest player to move into the left-back slot. Johnston looked sharp upon his return from injury in October. However, recent displays have seen diminishing returns from an undoubtedly talented player.

Photo by Laszlo Szirtesi/Getty Images

After the Hearts game, which saw three players come off injured for Celtic, Ange Postecoglou issued his challenge to Mikey Johnston and to Liel Abada, who had a fantastic start to life at the club.

Ange Postecoglou said [Herald]:

“Ultimately, we need guys like Mikey and Liel (Abada) to step up, that’s why they’re here at the club.

“And if the opportunity exists for them it’s up to them to take it.”

Johnston is yet to score or provide an assist for Celtic this season [Transfermarkt]. Albeit, he has come close, against St Johnstone and Ferencvaros. However, the ball just hasn’t hit the back of the net for the left-winger in limited minutes.

In 71 appearances for Celtic overall, he’s scored 11 and assisted 9 more, and it is tempting to wonder what those numbers might have been if he’d been able to remain fit over the last few seasons.

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Time for Mikey Johnston to make a telling impact for Celtic

With Jota looking as if he might have needed a rest regardless, it was clear Mikey Johnston would be called upon at some point.

Let’s be clear, when he’s good, he’s very good. Taking on defenders with glee, Johnston has decent ability striking the ball, and can be a game-winner in his own right.

It would be harsh to say “but we haven’t seen that yet”, especially when he’s coming back from injury. That, and he’s still only 22.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

He does need to show a bit more than he is currently, though. Darren Jackson called it when he said the winger just wasn’t taking players on in the same way. That could be lack of match fitness, confidence or still getting used to Postecoglou’s demanding system.

He’s got an opportunity on Sunday, though. And Ange Postecoglou will be counting on him to fill in for Jota; hardly the easiest task for a player.

Let’s hope he steps up. The talent is obviously there.

Read more: German Report: Celtic interested in January loan move for £8.1m attacking midfielder