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Celtic’s Canadian Bhoy Leaves His Ibrox Counterpart In The Dust. He Is Destined For Greatness.

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Before the game kicked off, I said that it’s outcome would depend on what version of Celtic showed up. In the end, I thought we could have been a lot, lot better. Not that it mattered, because our quality shone through and in the end we’re double winners.

There will be plenty of time in the next few weeks for the retrospective pieces, and I look forward to writing them. A lot went right. A lot went wrong. But 93 points to win the title and the Scottish Cup is pretty outstanding. Three wins and a draw against the Ibrox club in the league, and beating them in the cup final … that’s also pretty damned good.

You know what that record puts into perspective? Clement’s enormous luck that Derek McInnes had already knocked us out of the League Cup before his arrival, or his record against us would look even worse and we’d have celebrated a treble again yesterday.

So whilst our performance overall was not as great as we’d hoped it would be, it is the classic example of how our mental fortitude got us through and made the difference, and about how we simply have the better footballers capable of winning big games. The Ibrox club saw what Bernardo produced earlier in the season, and the same with Idah. When those guys came on yesterday, they should have been much more switched on to the danger they were in.

These games are always about what your big players do, and the big performances sometimes come from those who aren’t on the list of those who would normally make the headlines. I thought the best man on the park by a country mile yesterday was a Celtic player, and one who isn’t getting any of the praise in the media that he deserves.

His name is Alastair Johnston. I thought he was immense.

Usually, this season, when talking about the defence, I talk about Carter Vickers. I have almost run out of superlatives for him by now, and he was a rock again yesterday. But AJ made a real difference and had a real impact and shut them down over and over again and on top of that he was one of our most dangerous players going forward.

There is a bizarre school of thought that when Tavernier goes that the tag of Scotland’s best right back will be available to all comers. It’s not true.

Tavernier hasn’t been Scotland’s best right back at any time since he arrived here. There has always been someone in that position better than him at Celtic, and this has been especially true when you consider Frimpong, Juranovic and now AJ, and those three are so obviously better footballers than Tavernier, and comfortably better defenders, that is ridiculous, and a little bit pathetic, that this debate has lasted this long. At the end of every campaign, Tavernier appears in the “team of the year” and I wonder how his fan-boys can have failed to notice that there have been better players, in his position, at Celtic Park the whole time.

Alastair Johnston is everything I want to see in a Celtic defender. He is aggressive, brave, positionally smart and possessed of an iron self-confidence. Let’s not forget that this boy made his debut in a massive, massive game at Ibrox and came through it like a champ. He has not looked back since. I can count on one hand how many poor performances he’s had.

I have written a lot about Carter Vickers being a warrior; so is this boy. He gets banged about a lot and puts himself in harms way time and again and never misses a beat. He works incredibly hard. He is courageous. He will make a great captain one day.

He is one of the most dependable players in this side on these massive days, with big things at stake. I cannot remember ever having a moment where your head is in your hands at some major error he has made. All players in his position make mistakes, but you define the good ones but how seldom they do it and he is definitely one of the good ones in that respect.

Every member of the team yesterday deserves credit because it was not just a one-off game, this was the culmination of a bloody, brutal campaign where they have been the main men. Some of them must be out on their feet, and I wish them all a great summer and some real down time. They earned it. But he has been one of the most important players in the team over this period, and yesterday his performance was a masterclass in how to handle pressure.

I think we’re very lucky to have this lad. He might not hit a great free kick or be the designated penalty taker and thus doesn’t get in the headlines … but what a great Celt he is turning into, and having watched the Legends game this afternoon I’m moved to wonder if he’s not destined to be our best right back since Lustig, and maybe even one day eclipse that outstanding footballer who has more than earned his place in the pantheon of greats.

So will Alastair Johnston. I’m convinced of that.

When you consider that Tavernier is in the Ibrox Hall Of Fame, with that pitiful trophy haul as a captain, it is all the more ridiculous to consider that this young lion doesn’t get half the headlines he does … but boy oh boy, with four trophies in a mere 18 months, he has certainly gotten more of the glory, and he has years of successes still in front of him here.

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  • Pat says:

    Agreed. I thought AJ was our strongest player yesterday.

    • Jackson says:

      AJ was great yesterday and not scared at all to get up and look them in the eye after getting fouled.
      AJ in a class of his own in contrast to the thug Lundstram who tried to leave a calling card on Matty and seriously injure him in the last minute minute of the game.

  • Frank c says:

    Totally agree, thought he was outstanding.

  • Woodyiom says:

    AJ was excellent yesterday but for me CCV was still the man of the match – he saved us with 3 great blocks/clearances that would otherwise have been goals for sure.

    But I agree I’m far more bothered about what AJ’s defensive stats are c/f with goals, assists etc etc. Those only matter if you can defend in the first place – something TavPen will never get…..

  • James Garrity says:

    It’s easy to mock Tavpen, but he deserves his Legend status. Since he arrived in Glasgow he’s watched Celtic lift TWENTY trophies; that takes some doing!

  • James mcglone says:

    Hi I’ve been waiting a while for this article totally agree and he’s my favourite player by a long way and if he stays he will captain CELTIC thank you James mcglone Belfast

  • Joe McQuaid says:

    Agree – although I sometimes wonder if AJ truly realises how good he is/can be. Think he has the ability to offer more offensively and really push on. Hugely impressed with him every time he talks to camera – poised, articulate, modest and self-deprecating. His parents should be hugely proud.

  • Chris says:

    Good solid player, just get the left side of the defence sorted out.

  • Kevin Dunne says:

    The masons voted so it,s always going to be through red hand tinted specs . The best players play at the best team that win the league title and Scottish cup. MON THE HOOPS.HAIL HAIL

  • Torky58 says:

    Johnston has five trophies, James, a treble and a double.

  • Calton Bhoy says:

    Great heart Johnston and a calmness about him, he could b a future captain. He Carries himself as a celt perfect.
    Im a fan of Ralston, who has not put a foot wrong and his stats when starting are crazy.
    Would say they are like for like
    Would agree Johnston had a great game and had Silva knackered after 20 mins lol.
    He carrying the ball full length of pitch and looking at Silva and smiling was class and this is were we have got them.
    Aw over the park, we are smiling/winking after 50/50 tackles and they are losing the plot lol.
    HAIL HAIL( laughing)

  • Clachnacuddin and the Hoops says:

    “Celtic’s Canadian leaves his Ibrox counterparts in the dust”

    I’d like to add in the ashes to ashes and in the earth to earth to that as the old club from Liebrox are dead !

  • Dando says:

    Brendan Rodgers & Joe Hart aren’t in the top 5 managers or goalkeeper’s respectively….

    Only in fair Caledonian !!!!!!!!!!!

    HH

  • Brendan O'Connor says:

    Give Anthony Ralson credit. He works his balls off when involved.He’sCeltic through and through

  • Brendan O'Connor says:

    Don’t forget Anthony Ralston.Gives his all for Celtic.He’s Celtic through and through

  • Joe says:

    AJ. what a full back that bhoys a machine

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