Chris Sutton has admitted that he’d be battering Mikey Johnston every day in training!
The former Celtic striker thrived in the old-school environment created under Martin O’Neill where characters like Alan Thompson, Neil Lennon, Paul Lambert and Henrik Larsson dominated and tested out the younger talents.
Si Ferry has loads of stories to share on Open Goal about those days at Barrowfield as the young pups tried to get one over on the senior pros.
Aiden McGeady and Shaun Maloney managed to graduate but only after they had demonstrated that they had the steely character as well as the ability to meet the demands of first team football.
Johnston has already discovered the sharp end of Lennon’s management style, with Jota and Kyogo Furuhashi on the sidelines Sutton has a message of tough love for the forward in his Daily Record column:
I really think it’s time for Mikey Johnston to step up. I’m a huge fan of his. He’s such a big talent and we’ve been talking about his potential for long enough. Johnston is 22 now and he needs to be producing in the here and now.
As much as I like him, I would be battering him every day in training if I was still in that dressing room. Wide players need to know when it’s not about them. When to understand you need to release the ball rather than beating a man a couple of times.
It’s not about fancy tricks or YouTube clips. It’s about sticking the ball in the net or into areas for others to do so. The likes of myself and Henrik Larsson used to give Shaun Maloney and Aiden McGeady a kicking on the training ground.
They probably hated us but it was for their own good. They were brilliant footballers but they needed to learn the game – even if it was the hard way. It’s the same with Johnston. We saw the good and bad the other night from him.
He lost the ball a couple of times for the goals, for the second he tried to be too clever when he should have popped it off. But then he produced a piece of magic for Ewan Henderson’s goal and should have scored himself.
He’s a frustrating player at times but this is the moment he needs to soak up everything his manager tells him to become a key player. Celtic are going to rely on him in the next few weeks but it’s obvious the main men will have to drag the side through the festive period.
Johnston started his second match of the season last Sunday away to Dundee United, his appearance off the bench against Real Betis was his 12th as a substitute.