What last weekend showed us all – and when I say all I mean everyone in the Celtic Family from fans to those inside the club itself – was that our boy on the wing, Yang, has potential that needs to be nurtured.
We all know that Palma has got it. Abada is quality and Maeda is a superstar.
The battle between the four of them will be the one that defines us out wide. Forrest is a guy we know we can rely on from the bench, and there’s still the question of Tillio to answer. Where exactly this leaves Mikey Johnston is an open question … and here’s the thing; it’s a question that Mikey himself has started to ask.
Today he sounds a lot like a guy who has put a timeframe on his Celtic career in its current form; he wants it sorted it by January, presumably so he can consider his options then. For a guy who has just signed a new deal, and must have had high hopes, that must be hard to take. But he is doing the right thing putting a deadline up. For him and for us.
“(Playing in the Champions League) is 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,” he said. “I have until January to do that and I will try and give it everything to do that but we just have to see what happens. I’ve not spoken to the manager much in the last sort of month, we’ve had chats here and there. It’s tough decisions for the manager to make and ultimately, it’s up to me.”
His frustration is obvious. But he’s directing it to the right place, at himself. He’s assumed full responsibility for his failure to crack the team and that’s the right start. His ambition is in his own hands and he needs to grab at it.
How many times have I written that or something like it over the last year or two? Too many. But this one is different, because this time it’s Johnson himself who acknowledges what it is that we’ve all been saying over and over again; he needs to make the breakthrough soon or he needs to move on.
It’s no use to him hanging around here to crowd out the bench and we cannot hang onto a guy who isn’t going to make it just because he checks a European box.
It is important for us to check those boxes, but keeping someone around for no other reason than he does that is just stupid. Johnston needs to seize every moment that comes along, he needs to impress every single time he’s on the pitch.
He needs to give the manager decisions to make, and he can look at David Turnbull as an example of how hard it is to stay in the team anyway; Turnbull is scoring goals for fun and still isn’t guaranteed a place.
This is an incredibly difficult side to crack now, even for good players. Mikey says he wants to play every week; he will have to be really good to do that, because that’s not the sort of assurance that Rodgers gives anybody.
If that’s what he wants to do then he’s going to have to leave because here at Celtic that is definitely not going to happen.
Regular readers know how much I like Mikey, but more and more he reminds me of Patrick Roberts, whose biggest problem, for a long time, was that he was capable of great things but clung on too long to his ambition of playing for Manchester City instead of realising that it wasn’t going to happen and moving on.
Had he signed for us, he’d have long ago become the footballer he now looks like he’s growing into at Sunderland.
But clinging to a dream which is increasingly sour is not good for any footballer, and if Mikey is coming to the realisation that his time at the club might be coming to an end perhaps that’s what he needs and perhaps that is what Celtic needs too.
I will be sad and disappointed, because I like him and I want our academy to produce good players and I want to see those players in the team.
But if it’s time then it’s time … and when Mikey himself is starting to think that it might be the writing is on the wall.