AFTER an extended period out of action through injury, Mikey Johnston is now nearing his much-anticipated return. It’s been a long road back for the Hoops winger, but he’s taken positives from the experience and is desperate to pull on the green and white jersey again and make a contribution.
It’s been almost 10 months since Johnston played his last game for Celtic. That was as a second-half substitute against St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park on January 29. He replaced Leigh Griffiths with just over 20 minutes remaining but picked up a knee injury shortly after his introduction.
At that point in the campaign, Johnston had scored six goals in 20 appearances across all competitions, along with a further six assists and was hopeful of further contributions.
However, it wasn’t just Johnston who saw his season end early. The coronavirus pandemic brought the campaign to an early conclusion which meant he didn’t miss out on as much football as he might have.
Still, the road back has been longer than he first anticipated and he wasn’t able to join the squad for pre-season back in July. Thankfully, Johnston is now at that stage in his own recovery and is focusing on reaching a fitness level that will allow him to begin playing again.
“It’s been tough,” admitted Johnston, speaking exclusively to the Celtic View. “The coaches are wanting to get me fit so I’ve been running a lot and working closely with the sports scientists. I’m just trying to build myself up to a level where I can be involved again.
“The intensity of it is tough, but it’s what you have to do. Most of football is running nowadays so I’ve got to get myself into a place where I’m robust and not picking up wee injuries.
“The boys get a lot of this work during pre-season so this is essentially my own pre-season. It’s important to get myself right and ready for a season of football because I don’t want to come back and be out again.”
Unlike the squad’s pre-season training, Johnston’s work has been a solitary camp and one without the benefit of playing friendlies to build up match fitness.
“It’s hard doing it alone,” said the 21-year-old. “You’re gubbed after the running session and then you need to go and do more, but that’s what builds mental toughness and character. I know I’ll get through it and I’ll be better for it at the end.
“Usually I’d play some games with the reserves at this point but there aren’t any games for them right now. We’re in our bubble and they’re in there bubble so we’re not wanting to change that with everything’s that’s going on. Hopefully, over the next couple of weeks, I can get some minutes and build on them week-to-week.
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