Celtic star Mikey Johnston can be Lennon's secret weapon at Ibrox

By David Walton

December 29, 2020

We’re fully aware Dundee United is just around the corner, but we wouldn’t be Celtic fans if our minds didn’t wander ahead to the derby.

And as we do, we continue to look at areas in which the Hoops can hurt our rivals. There will be so many different opinions on where Rangers are at their weakest and where they can be got at.

Connor Goldson and Filip Helander/Leon Balogan perhaps? Not many Hoops fans are too concerned about this supposedly fearsome backline Steven Gerrard has assembled.

But for me, there is still one glaring area Rangers are weak, and it’s not at centre-back. I think the Ibrox side can be seriously exploited down their right side with James Tavernier often bombing forward and trying to force the issue.

It’s likely that Lennon will start with a diamond. Or if a left-winger is to play then you can expect Mohamed Elyounoussi to be given his place in the team back. However, we most certainly should not be overlooking the effect Mikey Johnston could have at Ibrox.

Mikey has been given two starts in away-day derbies to varying success. His first was one to forget in a 1-0 loss back in December 2018. However, he stepped up and bagged an assist on our last visit to Ibrox. A sumptuous through ball to Odsonne Edouard set the tone for a heroic 2-0 success when not many gave us a chance.

It’s a bit of a balancing act this time around. Johnston is still only recently just back from a long-term ACL injury. He missed 11 months of action because of it. But since his return, Lennon has used him regularly. Mikey has featured on four occasions against Kilmarnock, Hearts, Ross County, and Hamilton respectively.

Celtic have the talent there to rinse Tavernier on Saturday

Yet the most he’s played is 18 minutes (Transfermarkt). Neil may want to think about raising that at Ibrox if the game remains a tight one heading into the final half hour.

Tavernier is still there to be got at defensively. He’s improved in that aspect over the last 12 months, but he still hates one-v-one defending. I would love nothing more than to see us get the ball to Mikey in the final half hour and see him take on the Rangers captain. It’s an area we could get real joy from.

Mikey has ridiculous technique and skill. Get him up against any full-back in Scotland and nine times out of 10 he’ll breeze past them. Tavernier included. Sure, the Ibrox man may be the more physical of the two, but Mikey’s feet can still catch him out.

Celtic winger Mikey Johnston getting the better of James Tavernier (Photo by Rob Casey/SNS Group via Getty Images)

Make no mistake, Tavernier would hate the prospect of coming up against Johnston for the final half-hour in Govan.

That’s not to mention that the Rangers man will likely be caught up the pitch more often than not. If there’s one winger you would want to exploit the space left in behind late on then it’s Johnston.

This, for me, is the sub that Lennon will have to make if we’re still well in the game with the majority of the second half remaining. Not Albian Ajeti, not Moi Elyounoussi, and not Tom Rogic.

Johnston is your man to make the difference from the bench. He’s already proven his sharpness in his cameos in recent weeks. At Ibrox it’s set up beautifully for him to seriously announce his return this season.

That is assuming, of course, that all goes well against United tomorrow night.

In other news, this Celtic man’s mini-renaissance in Belgium has their footballers talking.