DETERMINED Mikey Johnston is a man on a mission as he aims to show Brendan Rodgers he has a future at Celtic.

The manager threw down the gauntlet to the 24-year-old winger when he insisted the Republic of Ireland international “needed to do more” after his first start in the top side in 22 months in midweek.

Johnston was pitched in against Hibs in th 4-1 win and no-nonsense Rodgers took the opportunity to remind the forward what is expected of him if his Hoops aspirations are to be realised.

The Glaswegian, who was given his debut by the Irishman in a 4-1 victory over St Johnstone in May 2017, hopes to get the nod to play in the midday kick-off against Kilmarnock at Rugby Park today as he continues his quest to convince his team boss of his right to be a valuable member of his squad.

ON THE BALL…Mikey johnston answered an SOS from Brendan Rodgers at half-time during Celtic’s match against St Johnstone in Perth last weekend.

Johnston said: “I am still just trying to prove to people that I can play here. I have been at the club for a while and people are probably saying that I’ve been here for this long and maybe not proven myself – but I have in spells.

“It’s very hard to win people over. The pressure is on me and I’m trying to unlock my potential the best I can. I went on loan to a league in Portugal when I wanted to be at Celtic.

“I’m trying to take every step I can to fulfil my potential.

“People act as though I haven’t actually played games for Celtic, but I have played nearly 100 and played in six Cup Finals. Obviously, I need to be playing every single week and that’s what I want to do.

“The manager is telling me to take the bull by the horns and, hopefully, I can do that.”

Johnston, speaking to the Daily Record, continued: “I hadn’t started a game this season although I’d played a couple of games for the Republic of Ireland. So, it did feel like a sort of pre-season in that I needed to get up to speed.

ON THE RUN…Mikey Johnston races down the wing in the goalless draw against Hibs at Easter Road in October.

“It was just good to get back out on the pitch again, though. Starting the game is also a bit different, too, rather than coming on as a sub.

“Games are coming thick and fast just now, so it was tough for me physically. I just need to build that up and keep at it. It’s just the way the game goes when you are a winger.

“Sometimes you don’t get a lot of the ball – the other night I wasn’t getting a lot of the ball. But I pressed well, defensively I was good for the team and getting the result was the most important thing.

“Last season, I was with Vitoria Guimaraes who played a different way and I feel I learned a lot from that tactically.

“I haven’t played a lot, so it’s just about adjusting and doing exactly what the manager wants. I’m taking everything that the manager is asking for on board.”

The tricky touchline operator added: “I don’t think there is ever a comfort blanket at a club like Celtic. There is pressure every minute. When I went away on loan there was less pressure, but I learned a lot.

CUP THAT CHEERS…Mikey Johnston and Ryan Christie celebrate Celtic’s 2019 League Cup Final triumph over Ibrox opposition at a bouncing Hampden.

“It was always in the back of my head that I wanted to come back to Celtic Park. You grow up quickly in a new country on your own. Living away from home, when it’s a different language, is tough.

“It’s a different sort of football and I also learned from playing last season as it was a bit similar to that in terms of tactically. That has stood me in good stead going into this season.

”When I first came through there was Scott Sinclair, James Forrest and Pat Roberts. There’s always the threat of someone new coming in the door at every transfer window.

“That is understandable as the club are trying to win titles and do well in Europe. So, there is always competition and you need to step up.”

* DON’T miss the unbeatable match report and the bext action images from Kilmarnock v Celtic this afternoon – only in your champion CQN.


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