MIKEY JOHNSTON’S hopes of impressing Brendan Rodgers in the early games of the new season have been obliterated.

The winger, who spent last term on loan at Portuguese club Vitoria Guimaraes, will miss the kick off to the 2023/24 campaign with a back injury and could be out for THREE months.

It’s a hammer blow for the Republic of Ireland winger and boss Rodgers, speaking to the media, confirmed: “Sadly for Mikey, he is going to be out for a few more months.

“He had an issue with his back, sadly, so he’ll probably be out for near on three months.”

IRISH AYES…Mikey Johnston is all smiles as he makes the breakthrough with Republic of Ireland.

Before the extent of the problem had been identified, the returning Hoops gaffer was poised to assess the player’s first-team claims and had said: “His job is to convince myself and the coaches that he is ready for a place.

“It’s the players’ responsibility and they have to show the quality and consistency and robustness in order to play.”

The injury could also prevent any potential transfer – temporary or permanent – for the Glaswegian who was given his first-team chance at the Hoops by Rodgers in a 4-1 victory over St Johnstone in Glasgow in May 2017.

Johnston, who is under contract until June 2026, won a League Cup medal and made 20 appearances in Ange Postecoglou’s debut crusade before being allowed to move on loan last summer.

Speaking as he prepared to end his stay in Portugal, Johnston, as reported by CQN in May, admitted: “I’ve given it everything I’ve got over here and I’ve enjoyed it.

PORTUGUESE MAN OF ROAR…Mikey Johnston yells in delight after scoring for Vitoria Guimaraes.

“But if I can go back to Celtic and play, that’s definitely something I want to do. I’m 24 and this is the most games I’ve played in a season. I want to build on that, not go back the way.

“I’d love to play for Celtic next season, but we’ll have to wait and see. I’ve always thought I could play for the club on a regular basis. I’ve never felt I wasn’t good enough to be there.

“Once you do that, you’re defeated. Obviously, I’ve watched as many games as I possibly could over here. They’ve done brilliantly this season and I want to be involved in that. Any player would.”

Johnston scored his first international goal for his adopted nation in the win over Gibraltar and would have figured in manager Stephen Kennys international squad for the Euro 24 qualifiers against France and Holland.

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