Celtic winger Mikey Johnston has pulled out of the Scotland U21s squad because of injury, The Evening Times report.
The 20-year-old attacker has not played for the club in over two months but was thought to be closing in on a return to first-team action.
Neil Lennon told reporters prior to the weekend’s game at Motherwell that he had a ‘small chance’ of making the match squad for that one (The Scottish Sun).
He was included on the bench against Hibernian the week prior.
However, he is now one of four players to drop out of the Scotland U21s group to face Greece in Euro qualifying on Friday night, having originally been included by manager Scot Gemmill.
Hopefully this is simply a precaution, but it is a rather late call off and doesn’t bode well for an imminent Hoops return after the break.
Johnston’s form in the early stages of the season demonstrated the excellent potential he has. He was threatening to be a regular throughout the 2019/20 campaign, despite the arrival of experienced talent such as Mohamed Elyounoussi.
He scored three goals and assisted four times in ten appearances between July and early September (Transfermarkt). He was trusted by Lennon enough to start key matches against Cluj and AIK, favoured ahead of treble-treble top scorer Scott Sinclair.
It’s unfortunate the way things have panned out since, with his injury and fitness issues now an ongoing problem for months.
Lennon admitted in October he was worried about the issue, telling The Scottish Sun: “Mikey is still struggling with the hip and groin area. It’s a bit of a concern. We’ve missed that dynamism. He’s a bit frustrated as it’s been so slow, but it’s not going to be long-term.”
The player was reported to have returned to first-team training at the start of the month (The Daily Record) and he was subsequently included on the bench in the League Cup semi-final against Hibs.
Unfortunately, his latest call-off has put paid to the opportunity of minutes in a Scotland shirt that could have helped build his match fitness.
It’d be great to see him back on the pitch sooner rather than later so he can continue developing in the Hoops first-team.