ALISTAIR JOHNSTON became an instant hero with the Celtic support just over a year ago when he made a quickfire debut at Ibrox.
The Canadian World Cup right-back was snapped up in a £3.5million deal by the champions and was pitched in at the deep end by Ange Postecoglou.
Josip Juranovic, who had hit the ground running after his £2million arrival from Legia Warsaw the previous summer, looked to be on his way out after his impressive performances for Croatia in the Qatar soccer showpiece during the previous two months.
Looking to the future, Postecoglou dropped the regular No.2 to the substitutes’ bench and introduced Johnston who put in a solid shift in the 2-2 draw with the hosts.
HAMPDEN HOORAYS…Alistair Johnston bits on his newly-won League Cup medal after Celtic’s 2-1 success over Ibrox opposition in February last year.
The defender’s love affair with all things Celtic continued with three domestic honours in four spectacular months as he played his part in the Hampden victories over the Ibrox side, 2-1 in the League Cup Final, and 3-1 in the Scottish Cup showdown against Inverness Caley Thistle.
Johnston also picked up a Premiership medal as the Hoops claimed a second successive title under the Greek-Aussie gaffer.
So far, so good for the 25-year-old Vancouver-born back-four operator who was brought in on a five-year deal from MLS outfit CF Montreal.
However, there are now question marks over Johnston who has failed to convince consistently under the leadership of Brendan Rodgers.
Former Hoops goal hero Chris Sutton believes the player can improve his game going forward.
Looking at the overall situation at his old club in this transfer market, the one-time England international pointed out: “There are areas which are absolute priority.
“Greg Taylor is having to carry the entire load on his shoulders at left-back because Alexandro Bernabei isn’t good enough to replace him.
“That position is a must. That’s no slight on Taylor who keeps doing the job, but he needs to be properly backed-up at the very least and upgraded if possible, especially with the Champions League in mind.”
OOPS…Alistair Johnston looks dismayed after a miss in the 3-0 victory over St Mirren in Paisley earlier this month.
Sutton, speaking to the Daily Record, added: “I’d also wonder if [Brendan] Rodgers might look to the opposite side and deliberate whether Alistair Johnston offers enough of a threat in the final third of the pitch for a modern-day full back.”
It’s difficult to argue with Sutton after the full-back’s erratic displays in the first half of the campaign.
Johnston has failed to deliver in more ways than one with his final ball into the box from good positions. Too many have been wildly off target and there is no doubt there is room for improvement in this part of his game.
Defensively, the defender is fast and sharp in the tackle. Offensively, he looks too eager to fire crosses blindly into the opposition penalty area bringing to an abrupt conclusion to promises attacks.
In the harsh world of football and the expectancy levels at Celtic, Johnston has a case to answer in the second part of a crucial campaign with the Hoops bidding for their twelfth crown in 13 years.
Over to you, Alistair.