LIAM SCALES could have been preparing to play for Aberdeen against Eintracht Frankfurt in their Euro Conference League match in Germany this evening.
It looked as though the Republic of Ireland defender was on his way to Pittodrie in a permanent move in the summer after impressing in his season-long loan at the Dons in the previous campaign.
Returning manager Brendan Rodgers already had Cameron Carter-Vickers as his rock in his central rearguard and Maik Nawrocki was on his way in a £4.3million move from Legia Warsaw with Carl Starfelt heading for La Liga outfit Celta Vigo.
Stephen Welsh signed an enhanced contract and Gustaf Lagerbiekle was also introduced in a £3million switch from Elfsborg.
READY FOR THE KICK-OFF…Liam Scales (fourth left) lines up with his team-mates Daizen Maeda, Matt O’Riley, Luis Palma, Gustaf Lagerbiekle, Alistair Johnston, Reo Hatate, Joe Hart and Callum McGregor in Rotterdam.
For a moment, Scales may have been perceived by onlookers as being surplus to requirements while Barry Robson let it be known he would welcome the versatile back-four performer back to the north-east.
However, the £600,000 recruit from Shamrock Rovers in August 2021 has emerged as a key component in Rodgers’ backline after a landslide of injuries to Carter-Vickers, Nawrocki and Welsh.
Liverpool loanee Nat Phillips wasn’t fit enough to be considered for the squad in the opening-day Champions League Group E encounter against Feyenoord.
Scales stepped up to be counted – and colleague Alistair Johnson is now a confirmed fan.
The Canadian World Cup right-back reflected on his team-mate’s display in the 2-0 loss in Rotterdam when it was all hands to the pump after the Hoops went down to nine men after second-half red cards for Lagerbiekle and Odin Holm.
Johnston said: “Liam Scales has been unbelievable coming into this role.
DOWN – AND OFF…Liam Scales looks on as Feyenoord’s Igor Paixao goes through his dying swan routine while Joe Hart collects the ball. Gustaf Lagerbiekle doesn’t know it, but he is about to be red-carded.
“A lot of people probably felt they’d never see him in a Celtic kit again, but arguably he’s been our best player these past couple of matches.
“I’ve been really impressed with his composure on the ball. He’s been better on the ball than I could have imagined.
“Again, he is one of those guys who hasn’t shied away from the moment.
“He throws his body about, gets in there and loves a tackle.
“He’s one of those guys who plays for the badge and you never knock that.”
Johnston, speaking to the Scottish Sun, added: “Of course, we have guys such as Cameron Carter-Vickers coming back and the big names who have been mainstays in this team the past couple of years and also in our treble campaign.
“That is something that definitely gives us confidence, especially going into the rest of these European games.”
Johnston will be introduced to the plastic pitch at Livingston in Saturday’s 12.30pm kick-off in West Lothian.
The 24-year-old dependable defender is racking up new experiences after sampling defeat for the first time in 24 games against Feyenoord, making his debut in European competition and now preparing to perform on probably the worst surface in Scotland’s top flight.
Let’s hope Johnston and his team-mates get back to old habits and pick up three crucial Premiership points.