Celtic manager Neil Lennon has backed Steve Clarke’s decision not to give Mikey Johnston a Scotland call-up.
For the second time this season, Johnston’s form has been ignored as Clarke refused to call him up for the double-header against Russia and San Marino respectively. Instead, Johnston has been selected for the under-21 squad.
He will now come up against both Lithuania and the Czech Republic in his upcoming under-21 European qualifiers. However, despite that, Clarke admitted in the Scottish Sun that he considered calling him up to the A squad.
The winger has been sidelined since the 2-0 win over Rangers at Ibrox back at the beginning of September.. And speaking ahead of the Cluj match via Celtic TV, Lenny agreed with Clarke’s decision.
“He needs consistency in performances and he needs to play a little bit more I think. I think he’s been called up to the 21s, which is pleasing from his point of view.
“He does bring an extra dimension to the way we play when he’s fit and sharp. We miss him sometimes. But he’s a work in progress and we’re delighted with the progress he’s making. Hopefully we’ll see him sooner rather than later back on the pitch.
“But in terms for Scotland, it’s maybe too soon for him just yet.”
Johnston has reached the right level, he just has to maintain it
The way Johnston has performed against the likes of Sarajevo, Nomme Kalju, and Rangers to name a few, proves that he can handle things on the big stage.
He’s experienced enough at under-21 level, but he’s still to taste the honour of a senior call up. Clarke’s admission, however, proves that he most certainly isn’t far away.
Instead, Johnston will be looking to help maintain the under-21’s 100% record in Euro qualifying. The Scots come into their double-header on the back of victories over San Marino and Croatia respectively. It’s all set up for them if they can produce another couple of performances next week.
But it’s also important to remember that Mikey is only 20 years old. He still has plenty of development still to go. His explosiveness won’t be overlooked for much longer.
It’s interesting to hear Lenny back up the idea that he’s not quite ready for the senior side either. When the likes of Oliver Burke and Oli McBurnie are making Scotland squads, it’s ridiculous to think Johnston couldn’t hold his own.
His injury over the last month has perhaps confirmed Clarke’s decision to leave him out. But the way he’s going, it’s only a matter of time before he’s starring at Hampden for his country.