DAVIE HAY is already an admirer of January recruit Alistair Johnston who won his first Celtic honour at the weekend.
The Canada World Cup right-back won his first Hoops honour in the 2-1 Viaplay League Cup Final triumph over Ibrox opposition at the national stadium.
It was only the tenth first-team appearance for the 24-year-old £3.5million purchase from MLS outfit CF Montreal who had made his debut in the 2-2 draw in the derby on January 2.
HAVING A BAWL…Alistair Johnston whoops it up at Hampden after winning his first Celtic medal.
Hay lifted his first medal after a similar number of outings in the top side when he was given the nod to face St Johnstone at Hampden in the League Cup Final in October 1969.
In another CQN EXCLUSIVE, the club legend speaks to Celtic book author Alex Gordon, who co-wrote the former player and manager’s best-selling autography, ‘The Quiet Assassin‘, which was published in 2009.
Hay told Alex: “I believe the Cup Final against the Perth Saints was my ninth first team match that season.
“I had played the previous year in the same competition in the second leg against Hamilton Accies when Jock Stein took the opportunity to introduce a few of the younger players.
“He wasn’t taking too many chances – Celtic were 10-0 up from the first leg at our place. Kenny Dalglish made his debut as a second-half substitute for Charlie Gallagher while the likes of George Connelly, Lou Macari, John Gorman, Pat McMahon and Jimmy Quinn all started.
“I was 20 at the time – I believe the average age of that line-up was 22 – and we won 4-2.
CONFRONTATION…Alistair Johnston and Borna Barisic tussle for possession.
CONFLICT…Borna Barisic pushes Alistair Johnston away.
CALM DOWN…referee Nick Walsh gets in the middle of the warring duo and is about to issue a yellow card to the Ibrox defender.
“It was the start of the following season that we all started to make more frequent appearances. I played at left-back against a very good St Johnstone team, managed by future Scotland 1974 World Cup Finals boss Willie Ormond, and was utterly delighted to go up those Hampden steps to be presented with my medal.
“So, I can identify with Alistair Johnston, to a certain extent. You have to look at that badge and believe it will be the first of many. That honour has to be your springboard to greater things to make certain you have a fulfilling career.
“I was at the game on Sunday and had a good look at Johnston. I have to admit I liked what I saw.
“If I had to sum him up in one word it would ‘fearless’. The lad wasn’t afraid to get in there and mix it up.
MAN IN THE MIDDLE…Matt O’Riley acts as the mediator on this occasion between Alistair Johnston and Ibrox striker Antonio Colak.
“In 50/50 challenges, he didn’t shirk a tackle. He’s hard, but certainly not dirty. There’s a world of difference between the two. Ange Postecoglou has spent wisely in bringing in a young and hungry footballer who will not be bullied by anyone.
“I doubt if there will be too many wingers who will relish coming up against him. He will battle tooth and nail for every ball, he won’t be slow to get into a scrap.
“Watching the match as it unfolded, you could see he was getting stronger and stronger. He was getting forward and demanding the ball. He was eager to take responsibility and he proved he can ally skill with his strength.
“His pass out of defence to release Sead Haksabanovic late in the game was perfection. The Swede, another of our more recent buys I think has a big future, did everything right as he refused to rush his final shot.
CELEBRATIONS…Filipe Jota and Alistair Johnston at the final whistle.
“He twisted and turned away from Connor Goldson to drill in a low drive and he was only denied by a frantic boot thrown out in desperattion by the keeper. On another day, that effort will hit the net and it will be game over.
“So, Johnston stood up to be counted after only 10 appearances for the team. He seems to have zoomed through the settling-in process.
“Remember, this is a young lad coming to a foreign country and playing in a completely new environment. You wouldn’t have thought it by watching his assured and accomplished performance in the heat of a Glasgow derby where a lot of players can wilt under the pressure.
“People may draw comparisons with his style and mine. Yes, I was uncompromising and I suppose the nickname, ‘The Quiet Aassassin’, might tell you something!
“I would like to think I could actually use the ball once I had won it. I saw that with Johnston on Sunday.
“I can’t remember him getting caught in possession once. He always had an idea what he was going to do with the ball when it was at his feet.
“It was an absolute pleasure watching this young lad in a demanding confrontation in front of an audience where 50 per cent would be screaming at him in circumstances I doubt he had encountered before in his young football life.
“He stood up to everything that was hurled at him and dealt with any danger coming down his flank in the shape of Ryan Kent or Borna Barisic.
“I’m going to enjoy watching Alistair Johnston in a green and white hooped shirt on match day. No argument!”
* TOMORROW: Don’t miss another EXCLUSIVE from Celtic legend Davie Hay – only in your champion CQN.