It's time to give Mikey Johnston the Celtic run his potential deserves

By David Walton

February 21, 2021

Mikey Johnston hasn’t had much in the way of Celtic appearances this season, but the potential he has should merit more inclusion in the coming weeks.

It’s been a real stop-start season for Mikey after the bitter blow picked up back in January 2020. Indeed, he had to come off in a clash against St Johnstone in McDiarmid Park with what would prove to be knee ligament damage that would keep him sidelined for 11 months.

As such, Johnston was rooted to the sidelines for the first five months of the campaign. He was forced to watch on as our 10-in-a-row dreams began to disintegrate before our very eyes.

Over the last few days, he may have been raising an eyebrow at certain comments from Neil Lennon too. The Celtic boss had been discussing the emergence of some promising youngsters at Lennoxtown. Speaking to the press in the build-up to tonight’s game at Ross County [Celtic TV], Lennon said the following:

“Yeah, we’ve got a couple of good young players underneath here training with us currently. They are coming along very nicely, indeed. We are really pleased with their progress so far.

“It depends on the situation (whether they’ll get minutes anytime soon), whether it’s too soon for them or not. We’ll have to gauge that over a period of time. We’re just very pleased with the progress they’re making.”

Johnston has been one of the youngsters training with the first-team now for some time. In various stages over the last couple of years, he’s threatened to make a big impact.

Mikey Johnston can’t be forgotten about; Celtic potential there for all to see

He was incredible in a 2-0 win at Ibrox last season and had accumulated 12 direct goal contributions before his January injury [Transfermarkt]. He was in the mood for it last term, and showed exactly the directness and width he can bring to this Celtic side when fit.

What irks a big Johnston fan like me is how he appears to have been perceived by some to have had his chance. Indeed, Mikey was given a few run-outs over the last few months. After some impressive December cameos against Kilmarnock and Ross County, he struggled to make an impact in 12 minutes against Hamilton.

His big opportunity arguably came in January after the Dubai crisis. A raft of absences led to consecutive starts against Hibernian and Livingston. Many were looking for Johnston to lead the way as one of the more senior youngsters given his previous experiences. However, he was quiet in both of the stalemates as Celtic dropped further behind in the title race.

But this can’t be considered as his big chance to get back into the fold. Not many performed in either of those two matches, and the club was going through plenty of controversial events off the park at the time. Johnston was having to play alongside fringe players and other academy youngsters who had yet to experience much in the way of game-time.

He hasn’t been seen since a 17-minute cameo at Kilmarnock in a recent 4-0 win at Rugby Park. He was on the bench for the next three matches before dropping out of the squad altogether for Aberdeen last week.

Celtic winger Mikey Johnston / (Photo by Craig Williamson/SNS Group via Getty Images)

Can play on either flank

Even though Johnston is a left-winger by trade, he can also play extremely comfortably on the right. A position operated by the out-of-form Ryan Christie. A player who has been given 35 appearances this season and bagged 18 direct goal contributions [Transfermarkt]. Not bad going over the piece, but it’s not that better a ratio than Johnston’s figures from last season’s appearances.

It’s time to start rotating these two more often to give Celtic the width they need at times. We all know what Johnston is capable of. It’s important his development doesn’t halt too much over the next few months. He can be a huge asset to Celtic for years to come.

So if Lennon is going to start looking at some of the Lennoxtown youngsters, he could first do with reintegrating his most exciting one.

In other news, Michael Stewart has given Celtic a vital instruction.