ALISTAIR JOHNSTON has opened up on the pressure of the intense title race as Celtic bid for their twelfth Premiership crown in 13 years.

The Canadian World Cup defender won THREE domestic honours in five months after joining the Hoops in a £3.5million switch from MLS outfit CF Montreal in January last year.

He lifted a League Cup medal in the 2-1 triumph over Michael Beale’s ibrox outfit in his eleventh outing for his new club, followed up with the flag when the side sealed the deal with a 2-0 win over Hearts at Tynecastle in May and completed a memorable hat-trick in the 3-1 Scottish Cup success over Inverness Caley Thistle on June 3.

ON THE RUN…Alistair Johnston displays typical true grit as he pushes forward.

Johnston’s silverware surge was derailed when the holders tumbled out of the League Cup in the 1-0 setback against Kilmarnock at Rugby Park in August.

Now the adventurous, energetic defender is aiming to get back on track with eight league games to play – starting at Livingston a week today – and a Scottish Cup semi-final against Aberdeen at Hampden due on Saturday April 20.

The champions are a point ahead of their nearest challengers with the Ibrox club holding a game in hand. The third derby of the campaign is scheduled for Govan in a fortnight’s time with Brendan Rodgers’ men already emerging victorious in the previous two meetings of the Glasgow foes.

Examining the stress levels, Johnston said: “The expectations are there, so dealing with that it takes a big personality.

“That is what I have found at that level – you need to have a level of mental fortitude, perseverance and resilience because not every day is going to be as great as it seems to the outside world. There is a ton of pressure.

“You can feel the pressure. It’s nothing like I experienced in the MLS just because, first of all, the rivalry is just a lot deeper.”

I’M A WINNER – BY GUM…Alistair Johnston chews on his first Celtic medal after the 2-1 League Cup success over Ibrox opponents at Hampden in February last year.

Johnston, speaking to Canadian sports outlet OneSoccer, continued: “You share the same city, so you know when you walk out the door you are going to be loved or hated.

“That is an interesting thing that you have to learn and deal with quickly. But, at the same time, you feel the pressure and you are expected to win.

“Not only are you expected to win, but you are expected to win in a certain way.

“We have felt that a lot this year and that has been difficult. “

Speaking about the switchover of bosses with Brendan Rodgers replacing Spurs-bound Ange Postecoglou in June, the 25-year-old international added: “There has not been quite as long of that period of grace given when there is a lot of change and a new manager coming in.

“At these clubs there is no time to have that period where you say: ‘Okay, things are new’. It’s not like that at these massive clubs.

“It’s straight in, the pressure is there right from the get go.”

As far as the pursuit of a Premiership medal is concerned, it has been a case of so far so good for Johnston.

The determined back-four operator aims to keep it that way.

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