Patrick Roberts’ start for Celtic stirs memories of ‘Jinky’

Patrick Roberts has been compared with Celtic legend Jimmy Johnstone. Picture: SNS

Patrick Roberts has been compared with Celtic legend Jimmy Johnstone. Picture: SNS

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When Celtic host Championship side Morton tomorrow, the home crowd will be sparse and quick to turn on players whose confidence and reputations have plummeted in recent weeks.

In such circumstances it requires brave players to display the willingness to get on the ball, take on opponents and make things happen.

There were not too many of those in evidence during Wednesday’s 0-0 draw with Dundee at Parkhead. Indeed, long before the end the supporters were constantly urging his team-mates to supply Patrick Roberts, the 18-year-old winger making his first start since arriving on loan from Manchester City.

Ernest Hemingway’s famous definition, that courage is grace under pressure, certainly applies to the teenager, who was being compared to 
Celtic legend Jimmy Johnstone before knowing who he was. “[Former Celt] Peter Grant was coaching at Fulham during my time there and one day I was walking out the tunnel and one of our fans said to me: ‘Ask him about Jimmy Johnstone’,” said the teenager.

“I had no clue what he was on about so I didn’t ask Peter but, when I came here, I found out they rave about Jimmy. Allan Preston looks after me up here and he goes on about Jinky, saying he was an unbelievable player.”

Like Johnstone, Roberts is a crowd pleaser with extravagant skills. The £12 million Manchester City paid for him suggests that they believe he may eventually be similarly effective. Time will be the judge of that but, at the very least, Roberts possesses the same approach to the game as his illustrious predecessor.

“I had it at Fulham and Man City as well; the fans would take to me because of the way I play,” he said. “My mum and dad enjoy it, too. The way I play is quite catching on the eye, maybe, I don’t know.”

Defeat today would signal the end of manager Ronny Deila’s tenure at Celtic Park and many players are clearly struggling to cope with the strain. Roberts, by contrast, is thriving on it.

“Pressure’s good for me, I think,” he claimed. “The more pressure there is the better I play because, when your back’s up against the wall, you have something to prove – to the fans, especially.

“The most important thing is that you play for the supporters because, without them, it would just be a boring game of football. They bring more entertainment to the game than we do because of the excitement they generate.

“Which is why, when they pay money to watch you every week, you’ve got to give them something back and let them watch some good football.”

Being jeered by his own supporters, as Celtic were in midweek, was not new to Roberts.

“I was in a relegation team at Fulham and we lost nearly every game so we were booed constantly by our own crowd – and they’re not known for being rough,” he said.

“They were nice fans; Hammersmith and Fulham are good areas of London. I was only young then and I was just at the club for a year and a half but I experienced a lot there and that’s helped me in my career.”

Morton defender Luca Gasparotto hopes to face Celtic after parent club Rangers helped speed up his recovery from damaged ankle 
ligaments.

The Canada Under-23 internationalist, who is on a season-long loan from Ibrox, returned to training three weeks ahead of schedule and said: “I am hoping I’ll be included. I’ve trained the last four days and I’ve not had any problems with it, so fingers-crossed I’ll be part of the squad.”

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