Mikey Johnston has been on the fringes of the Celtic first team for 18 months now but should capitalise on the summer of change at Parkhead and assert himself as a first-team regular under Neil Lennon this coming season.
The tricky attacking midfielder is the perfect player for Lennon’s 4-2-3-1 system as he can play in any and all of the three positions in behind the lone striker. His tactical flexibility will stand him in good stead at a club likely to play 60 games again this season as they aim to fight it out on four fronts: the Scottish Premiership, League Cup, Scottish Cup and either of Europe’s two competition’s- ideally the Champions League.
The 20-year-old’s adaptability will come in handy as it looks like some of his competition might be departing the club this summer. Tom Rogic has been linked with a move to Zenit and as Olivier Ntcham continues to link himself away from Parkhead it might mean there’s a chance to establish himself as the central attacking force of the side, especially as Ryan Christie continues to recover from a gruesome injury. Johnston could provide a verve and athleticism to the number 10 role that is often lacking when the languid Australian Rogic plays in the hole and Celtic fans could see the potential departure of the 26-year-old as something of a blessing in disguise if Johnston stepped up and claimed the position as his own.
Yet from what we’ve seen of the youngster so far it looks as if he’d be more comfortable out wide for Celtic, given his spectacular performance against Hearts in the tail-end of last season. Scott Sinclair’s effectiveness is waning as the winger ages and Marian Shved has just arrived at Celtic Park and although big things are expected of the Ukranian he seems to have already picked up the niggly-injury curse that has plagued Celtic of late. Johnston could capitalise on inconsistent competition and form a formidable wide-partnership with James Forrest. Although we’ve seen him add goals to his game it’s still safe to say Forrest is more of a traditional winger capable of beating his man and hitting the by-line than someone who thrives drifting in towards the centre of the park, making him the perfect foil to Johnston and allowing the 20-year-old to find pockets of space centrally.
In a summer in which a lot is changing at Celtic Park, it could be the perfect environment for Johnston to emerge as a first-team regular and become an important part of a club on the cusp of making history.