I know that fans of our rivals will not recognise this description, but football is still a game of romance and daring to dream. (I said dream, not indulge mad fantasies.)
There are still Roy of the Rovers type stories out there, stories which more resemble fairytales than the kind of stuff you expect to read in the average football match report, stories of how players who had been written off came good. You need the right manager … and the right circumstances.
Brendan Rodgers has rescued, or turned around, plenty of football careers in his time. We saw great examples of it during his last spell at Parkhead. More than that, he has made good players better. I don’t think I’ve seen a more amazing example than what he’s managed to do with Liam Scales though. It borders on the miraculous.
Before he went to Ibrox, I wrote about Scales and the historical “trial by fire.” I said that if he passed that test, with all the weight on him, that he’d never need to prove himself in any other way again, and he did and he hasn’t looked back. But there had to have been a player there in the first place, and we started seeing the emergence of one in pre-season.
Mikey Johnston is definitely a player and we’ve all seen him produce. We’ve also seen him flop terribly and look out of place in the first team squad. It is up to him to grab his chances and he doesn’t do it enough. Injury issues have not helped.
Mikey has to stay fit and get an extended run. The good news is that if he does stay fit the possibility of the run will be there. With Abada out at the moment we’re one short out wide, although there is competition aplenty. Mikey has talent and we know does. It’s finding consistency that’s always been his issue, that and producing on the big stage.
I want Mikey to succeed. He could not be playing under a better manager to get him to where he needs to be and he only needs to look at Liam Scales, and not just how well he’s playing but the way the manager has shown tremendous loyalty to him now that he is doing it in the team. If Mikey gets fit and stays fit and starts to produce he’ll play, regularly, regularly enough that he can crack it and show his quality in this side.
Liam Scales is the example he aspire to, and not only that but he’s the lesson that someone who does play well in this team can get in and stay in regardless of how big their reputation is, or the transfer fee that was paid for them. Scales is starting in front of a multi-million pound signing and he’s there because he deserves to be … that can be Mikey.
He was brilliant for the Republic last night. Brilliant. He keeps on doing this, every once in a while, showing us glimpses of a major footballer … he must be incredibly frustrated that he doesn’t do it enough and that he doesn’t nail down a place.
I suspect that now he’s fit the chance is going to come sooner or later. This time he has to do more than just show up. And he needs to stay fit.
But if Liam Scales can turn it around and look like he was born to play in our team then this guy has a shot. Another one.