One of the lesser talked about points of Neil Lennon’s press conference yesterday was the return date for exciting youngster Mikey Johnston.
Johnston hasn’t played for the club since January when he came off against St Johnstone having suffered knee ligament damage.
It wasn’t an overly-damaging injury for Celtic to have at the time. With Greg Taylor and Jonny Hayes available at that point, the manager had a couple of options to go for in his 3-5-2 set-up, albeit it wasn’t ideal given Mo Elyounoussi was also sidelined.
These days, however, we’re struggling for genuine competition for loan star Moi. Lennon has even moved James Forrest over to the left on occasion this term, but that’s yet to really work out either.
So when Lennon said yesterday that Mikey could be back training in a two/three-week time-frame, it provided us with a big boost when it comes to our depth down the left.
In terms of more dynamic options in that position, Lennon doesn’t really have any options outside of Elyounoussi. When the Norwegian is off-form? Sure, assuming it’s a 3-5-2 then Taylor can feature, but he has his limits in terms of contributing going forward.
That’s without even mentioning the fact that, should Lennon go back to a back four, there would be no natural replacement for Moi as it stands.
Johnston’s goal contribution isn’t insignificant
Lennoxtown graduate Johnston, however, managed 12 direct goal contributions last season in only 21 appearances (Transfermarkt). That was made up of six goals and six assists, as he threw himself into Lennon’s plans in impressive fashion.
Having him back will boost us substantially when it comes to attacking options at left-wing or left wing-back.
It also gives Elyounoussi some genuine competition. It’s pretentious to act as though Taylor is a genuine threat to Moi’s place in the team. Taylor is available if necessary, and his performances in a Celtic jersey so far should ensure that remains the case.
Johnston will add an injection of pace, dribbling ability, and an eye for goal to this squad. It’s a tremendous option for the manager to have either in his starting XI or from the bench against tired legs.
It’s easy to forget just how effective Johnston was in spells last season. Had he not picked up an injury, it’s difficult to see who was going to keep him out of the team.
When he’s back, no longer will the manager have to worry about a lack of attacking threat down the left. No longer will he have to bring right-sided players over when he needs a replacement for Elyounoussi.
Johnston’s return solves a big problem for Celtic, and it’s a return that simply can’t come quickly enough.