MIKEY JOHNSTON has set himself a January target to make the breakthrough at Celtic.
The one-time wonder Bhoy, who broke into the team as a teenager during Brendan Rodgers’ first spell as manager, has played only 25 first-team minutes this season.
Johnston, now 24, came on as a second-half substitute in the scoreless stalemate with Hibs at Easter Road last month before slipping back out of the picture.
The Republic of Ireland, who is with his adopted nation as he prepares for tomorrow night’s Euro 24 encounter against the Netherlands in Amsterdam, spent the previous campaign on loan at Portuguese top-flight outfit Vitoria Guimaraes.
THE GOOD OLD DAZE…Mikey Johnston and Ryan Christie celebrate the League Cup Final success over Steven Gerrard’s Ibrox side at Hampden in 2019.
He returned to Parkhead with a back problem and missed the first couple of months, but he is now up to speed and acknowledged he faces a make-or-break period in his Hoops career.
Reflecting on his time at the champions, Johnston said: “It’s not happened yet. Hopefully, it does. A big dream of mine would have been to play in the Champions League for Celtic.
“It’s sort of what I wanted to do as a boy, so, hopefully, it happens, but if it doesn’t it’s not the end of the world. No player is going to be happy when they’re not playing.
“Ultimately, it’s up to me and I need to try and force my way into that team. I have until January to do that and I will try and give it everything, but we just have to see what happens.
“I’ve not spoken to the manager much in the last month, we’ve had chats here and there. It’s tough decisions for the manager to make and ultimately it’s up to me.”
Johnston, speaking to the Daily Record, continued: “I’m not sure what’s going to happen in January, but I do want to play.
“I’m not going to say anything bad about Celtic and I would love for it to happen at Celtic. But I’m 24 now and I want to play every game.
ON THE MOVE…Mikey Johnston during his cameo appearance against Hibs at Easter Road.
“I’d like to have done a lot more at this stage of my career, obviously. I had 18 months at one stage of quite bad injuries, but I seem to have overcome that now and I’m playing.
“Obviously what happens on the pitch affects your life massively and every footballer will tell you that. It’s hard to be happy when you’re not doing what you love.
“It comes hand in hand. People expected me to do more and I expected more of myself, but there has been a lot of factors into why I haven’t done that, injuries probably been the main one.
“I didn’t have too much trust in my body at one stage, I was afraid to get injured and there was stuff happening, but I seem to have overcome that. I’m confident again.”
The wide Bhoy hopes to get the nod from boss Stephen Kenny to face the Dutch and he added: “I want to be playing for Ireland. Realistically, if I’m not playing I won’t be getting picked unless I go out and do really well.
NET PROFIT…Mikey Johnston slides in to score for the Republic of Ireland against Gibraltar.
“I hope I get some game time here. It does help when the manager has shown faith in me. He has given me a lot of confidence to go out and play the way I want to and i want to do that again.
“Obviously, if I can make an impact at international level then I should be able to do that at club level. As you say, it’s a big stage and if I can show that then all the better.”
Rodgers has already stated he will attempt to trim his 33-man squad during the transfer window while there is every likelihood of new faces being introduced for the second half of the campaign.
Johnston, who is under contract until June 2026, accepts time is running out to make sure he has a part to play as Celtic bid to win a twelfth title in 13 years and complete the term with a Scottish Cup success at Hampden on the iconic date of May 25.