Neil Lennon has outlined the long road ahead for returning winger Mikey Johnston.
The manager confirmed last week that Johnston had returned to training but that, considering how long he’s been out, it would take a substantial period of time before he was up to speed (Daily Record).
Johnston picked up horrendous ligament damage at St Johnstone back in January that required surgery and it’s kept him out ever since. That’s left Mohamed Elyounoussi as the only available left-winger available at Lennon’s disposal.
And the Celtic boss has admitted that there’s still some way for Johnston to go before he can be considered for game-time.
As quoted by The Glasgow Times, Lennon said: “Mikey is a wee bit away yet.
“He hasn’t played any football since January and he’s also had surgery during that time. He has an injury against St Johnstone and then required operations on both calfs so it’s going to be a slow burner for him and he’ll probably pick up a few niggles on his road back.”
Lack of left-winger versatility has become a problem
Johnston is another of the injured contingent whose return simply can’t come quick enough from a Celtic perspective.
I’m going to just say it – Elyounoussi has been one overwhelmingly disappointing signing this season. Yes, he had a spell in the first-team 12 months ago where it looked as though he was going to take Scottish football by storm, but since then he’s offered nothing since his injury problems.
This season, Elyounoussi has featured in 15 games and produced nine direct goal contributions. On paper that looks decent, but his overall displays have left a lot to be desired. Goals against KR Reykjavik and Riga don’t cut it, and neither does one goal in 10 Premiership games this season (Transfermarkt).
But the Norwegian hasn’t benefited from having absolutely nobody behind him to allow him to rest up. That’s why Johnston’s return to this Celtic squad is so important. He not only represents directness and speed, but more importantly variation.
Whilst Elyounoussi did well to win the penalty at Pittodrie on Sunday, he was poor for the majority of the game. What Celtic could’ve used was Johnston’s pace to exploit the tired legs of Andrew Considine and Ash Taylor respectively as we got into the closing stages.
You can’t underestimate just how important it is to have that level of variation in your squad and available to you on matchday. Lennon has suffered from not having Mikey’s traits as regularly as he did last season. Hopefully, his long road back is as smooth as possible.