Yesterday I said in a piece that Mikey Johnston was being kept around the building mainly because he offered us something in terms of our European registration. Someone pointed out to me that even without Mikey, we meet the criteria.
Our home grown players – we need eight, including four trained at the club – are as follows; Bain, Ralston, Welsh, Taylor, McGregor, McCarthy, Turnbull, Johnston and Forrest.
That’s nine, including five who were developed by Celtic’s academy.
This is probably why letting Mikey go on loan seems permissible to the club at the moment. In terms of what’s right for Celtic, and what’s right for Mikey Johnston, the argument in favour of his going out on loan is unassailable.
Alan Morrison, of the brilliant Celtic By Numbers site, actually did an excellent piece on Mikey yesterday where he sought to nail this idea that he isn’t as big a contributor as a lot of the previous hype around his talent would suggest. Aside from composure and an occasional lapse of confidence, Mikey has actually done pretty well.
But I think it’s unarguable that his development has stalled at Celtic somewhere along the line. I am convinced that he needs to leave for a spell, for his own good. I am not as convinced that he will return as I am about Liam Scales, and as I was once about the likes of Kris Ajer and Ryan Christie. It might be that Mikey’s best years lie away from Parkhead.
It just feels like a road we’ve over too many times now, with too many different coaches and types of playing style. The suggestion that we might be looking for another wide player niggles away in the background; who would be the obvious casualty if we signed one? Forrest has just signed a new deal and is on the brink of 100 goals.
With all respect to Mikey, Jota, Abada and Maeda are all better players than he is and all three of them can play wide left more effectively, although I prefer Abada on the right. Forrest can play wide left too, and all four would be ahead of him for that place.
I have always liked the kid, and always thought he was too good for the Celtic bench. But he’s in that horrible place where he’s not quite good enough to be starting in the team every week either, and for any footballer that’s a bad spot to be in.
I wish I thought Mikey Johnston was going to be a success at our club, the kind of success we all hoped for when he broke through and started dazzling us with that fancy footwork in Rodgers last six months, and then into Lennon’s time.
He regressed under him, as so many other players did.
The last two years, he hasn’t scored a single goal. He has two assists.
That’s not form that’s going to get him into this side, and nothing we’ve seen in pre-season suggests that the breakthrough will happen for him. Ange did tell him that it was his chance to shine … but he’s been overshadowed.
It is a sad pass that Mikey has come to, one where you can’t see how he progresses if he stays at Celtic Park. A move out will work wonders for him, and I actually hope he stays in Scotland instead of going abroad.
We can watch him more closely, and see how well he does if he’s playing every single week. And he offers a weapon against Ibrox, which is as good a reason for letting our loanees stay in this country, and this league, as any.
I did think he’d hang around this campaign.
I also feared for him if he did, because I can’t see any way that he will be anything like a regular in the side and he needs that, he needs to be playing, if he’s ever to realise even a fraction of his talent.
What I said in the article yesterday about Pirie’s seven players who the manager has to make a call on stands; the manager has made that call already and Pirie looks like an even bigger idiot in light of Celtic’s decision to let the player go and try his luck elsewhere.
I really do wish this kid every success, and every fulfilment of his ambitions in the game. There comes a time with all of our promising kids that we either see their development peak and their emergence as genuine stars, or their fade.
How many have we seen in our lifetimes?
Not just kids like Dembele, but guys who did crack the squad and stayed there for a while, many of them front men … eventually you have to ask yourself; “Are they really capable of becoming Celtic greats, or is it time to accept that it’s just not going to happen for them here?”
Mikey has almost 80 professional games for us, and he’s just 23.
He has a future in this sport, and that is not up for even the slightest doubt.
The tragedy for him, and for us, is that it might not be, and in fact probably won’t be, at Celtic Park.
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