Chris Sutton backs Celtic Academy graduate who has "unbelievable ability"

By Euan Davidson

January 8, 2022

Former Celtic goal-scorer Chris Sutton has backed Mikey Johnston, a player who he believes has taken a “battering” from fans at junctures this season.

Johnston returned this season from a long and frustrating injury spell. The winger, who has made 3 starts in the Premiership and 8 appearances off the bench, has been criticised for some of his decision making. But Johnston has been supported by Chris Sutton, who believes the Celtic Academy graduate can still provide moments of magic.

Johnston has a single assist to his name this campaign, but has come close to settling matches on a number of occasions. A winger with guile and flair, his end-product hasn’t come off. But Sutton believes it’s about keeping the faith in the young winger.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Writing in the Daily Record, Sutton said: “The really interesting one this season is Mikey Johnston.

“He’s taken a bit of a battering from fans at times. Johnston’s a bit of a showpony at times. But I’d keep him.

“Why? He has that unbelievable ability to go past players. He just needs to know when is the right time. When you need a goal or someone to unlock a defence and if there’s 20 minutes to go in a tight game then he can be one to produce a moment of magic.

“His decision making hasn’t been good enough. It reminds me a bit of a young Aiden McGeady when I was still there. Aiden would give you the ball when he was finished with it. It took senior players including myself, John Hartson, Henrik Larsson, Neil Lennon, Paul Lambert to emphasise in no uncertain terms to him about the right time to release the ball. He developed his game really well and has had a fantastic career.”

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Chris Sutton believes Celtic will get the goods from Mikey Johnston eventually

Johnston feels like he’s been around forever at this point. He’s been so unlucky with injuries, and it’s definitely stunted his growth somewhat.

But it’s still early days in Ange’s time at Celtic. There’s enough there, at least I feel, to believe that eventually the Celtic manager can get a tune out of the Academy graduate. The positioning, the dribbling and the confidence – largely – are there.

Just like McGeady before him, it’s about finding that end product. When he does, Johnston could be a real star for Celtic, and another player from the Academy to make a lasting mark.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

You could argue that Johnston would benefit from a loan spell away from the club. However, playing alongside the likes of Kyogo, Maeda, Forrest et al in training surely helps more than trying to make it work elsewhere. It’s a mentality thing; the ability surely isn’t in too much doubt.

Sutton’s right; Johnston does get a hard time on occasion, and he can be frustrating to watch. But the potential is there, and giving up on him so early would be a mistake.

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