This article is part of Football FanCast’s Pundit View series, which provides opinion and analysis on recent quotes from journalists, pundits, players and managers…
Celtic winger Mikey Johnston is seeking advice from Belgium international coach Shaun Maloney in his efforts to reach the standard required at Celtic Park, as reported by The Scottish Sun.
Johnston made something of a first-team breakthrough last term, making 23 appearances and scoring five goals.
However, with Scott Sinclair entering the last year of his contract and playing less under Neil Lennon than Brendan Rodgers – he only started two of the five league games after the Scottish Premiership split in April – there’s a real opportunity to stake a claim for that left wing position.
On the advice of Roberto Martinez’s assistant and former Celtic star Maloney, he’s been working with sports scientist Hugh Watson outside of Celtic training to put in the extra work required to be a hit at the Hoops.
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As quoted by The Scottish Sun, he said of working with Watson:
“I’ve been working really hard in training and over the summer. I came back in flying and feeling like I was really fit.
“It was Shaun Maloney who recommended him. He used him a lot when he was here. I still text Shaun here and there because he’s got good advice for me. I always like to listen to people who have got a lot of experience.
“I was away on holiday doing stuff every day when I was there, then I met the fitness coach when I got back for a couple of sessions. Most people do it, it’s just what you do when you get to this level. I just needed to come back in really flying.
“You don’t get much of a holiday anyway and that’s what you need to do if you want to come back in flying. At a club like this, that’s what everyone has to do.”
Celtic have played a few pre-season tune-up matches already in preparation for their qualifying test against Sarajevo on Tuesday night and Johnston has featured heavily.
He scored two in a 6-1 mauling of Austrian amateurs Pinkafeld before starting the next match against SC Wiener.
Against Swiss side St Gallen he featured from the start too, perhaps a hint that Lennon sees him as someone who can be in his starting XI against the Bosnians.
The 20-year-old has been one of the stand-out players so far, even winning a man of the match award from the club’s official website in the most recent encounter.
Clearly the extra work he is putting in has paid off so far. The aim now will be cementing his position in the team for competitive matches.