ALISTAIR JOHNSTON has admitted he is a lucky Bhoy to be playing with so many quality performers around him at Celtic.
The Canada World Cup right-back has become an instant hit with the support since he hit the ground running in his Hoops career with a debut in the Glasgow derby on January 2.
Ange Postecoglou didn’t hang around when Josip Juranovic rejected a contract extension in November before the player joined up with the Croatian international team for the soccer showpiece in Qatar later that month.
ON THE BALL…Alistair Johnston is revelling in life as a Celt.
Coincidentally, the pair were opponents when their nations met in the elite competition with the Canadians opening the scoring before losing 4-1. For many Celtic supporters it was their first TV sighting of the defender linked with the champions and they must have been impressed with his diehard spirit, despite the result.
The £3.5million deal to take the 23-year-old right from MLS outfit CF Montreal was sealed in mid-December although, of course, the move could not be ratified until the January transfer window opened on the first day of the new year.
Johnston played in the 2-2 draw in Govan and shortly afterwards Juranovic was on his way to the Bundesliga with Union Berlin in a £7.5million switch.
There are more than a few who insist the replacement of the former Legia Warsaw star and the Vancouver-born defender is an UPGRADE for the Hoops.
TESTING THE METTLE…Alistair Johnston with his newly-won League Cup medal after February’s 2-1 win over Ibrox opposition at Hampden – his first honour as a Hoops star.
Johnston, who won the Man of the Match accolade with a near-faultless performance in the 3-2 win over Michael Beale’s side at Parkhead last weekend, remains refreshingly unaffected by his new-found status on these shores.
The all-action man thanked his team-mates for easing him into his new career and insisted: “When you play with a guy like Jota on your wing in front then it makes it easier, or when Cameron is covering your shoulder and Callum is inside, they make my life easy.
“They make me look like a much better player than I am and I’m lucky and fortunate to be part of this system and play at this club.”
Reflecting on the victory that propelled the champions 12 points clear with only seven games to play, Johnston, speaking to Celtic TV, added: “We sent 60,000 fans at Celtic Park home happy and fans across the world. At the end of the day, that’s the most important thing.
PUSH OFF…Alistair Johnston tussles with Borna Barisic for possession.
“It was an enjoyable match and we never make it easy for ourselves sometimes, but it’s one that no-one will be forgetting any time soon.
“For myself as a defender, those are the type of games you live for where the fans want you to get stuck in, the gaffer wants you to get stuck in, your team-mates want to see you get stuck in and that’s what I thrive on.
“There are also moments where you need to show you have quality, too, and I think I showed that, as well.”
No-one is arguing with Johnston who will almost certainly take his berth on the right side of the rearguard when the Hoops face Kilmarnock at Rugby Park on Sunday with the midday kick-off.