This time last year, the idea that Tony Ralston was on the brink of a fantastic campaign, European games, international recognition and a newfound respect from every Celtic fan would have been greeted by most people with bitter laughter.
Ralston was miles off it.
He was a player most of the support had almost completely disregarded.
It’s not even clear that he was in the manager’s plans; he was just another warm body at training, just another player to fill a gap whilst the boss waited to get in his own signings. We were linked with a new right back every other day during the summer.
But surely, steadily, something was happening which no-one had foreseen.
Ralston had started pre-season with intensity and intent. He wanted to be part of the Ange revolution and saw the new boss as someone with whom he could have a fresh start. He got down to hard graft. He impressed mightily in the pre-season games. Then he started to perform in the domestic campaign.
Ralston was sort of fortunate. It took us a while to bring in Juranovic, and so he had plenty of time with the role to himself in order to impress big Ange.
Mikey Johnson will have no such advantage this summer.
He has Maeda and Jota in front of him right now, and Forrest and Abada and even Kyogo have all played wide left for us. This is without the manager bringing in another forward player.
There probably isn’t a single player at the club with more to do to win a place in the first team squad every week, or with more to prove every time he goes out onto the pitch.
The turnaround from Ralston offers him hope, but it’s an also an additional pressure he certainly didn’t need. Because it’s not like Mikey didn’t have his chances in the last campaign.
Part of the issue here is how often he’s injured.
Today he’s given an interview where he’s thankful to be fit and “enjoying his football again.” If he stays fit he’s got a chance. If he suffers another of his many tweaks or strains or tears he’s probably not going to make any more of an impact than he has in years gone by.
I feel for Mikey at times. Because we’ve all seen flashes of a rare talent.
But it’s overshadowed by a lack of composure.
A lack of strength.
A lack of that cutting edge that makes good players into great ones.
Oddly, at a time when we’re exploring a lot of different options in the sports science field, you get the impression that Mikey would benefit from a good sports psychologist, the better to get him over some of the hurdles he faces.
The biggest thing though is this; he simply has to play better.
He has to focus and get his head down and work harder than he ever has in his life, and he has to improve across the boards. The competition for places is fierce at Celtic right now, and he is way behind.
Ralston, at least, was able to benefit from a clear field … but his stunning turnaround shows us what is possible, and Mikey has to look at it that way. Pre-season can be his launch pad.
Think you know what happened last season? Take our quiz and find out!