Mikey Johnston believes the arrival of Scotland striker Oliver Burke can provide fresh impetus to Celtic’s bid to clinch a third successive treble.
Although Brendan Rodgers’ side remain top of the Premiership as they seek an eighth straight title, they do so only on goal difference after defeat by Rangers, albeit they have a game in hand over their arch-rivals.
While conceding the title race is tight following that rare loss to the Ibrox club in the final game of 2018, Johnston insisted there was no need to panic. “No-one has ever won the league title after half a season, so we just need to kick on now,” he said.
“Obviously, there is a bit more pressure on us with the league being tight, but we’ll just work as we always do and, hopefully, we get the results that we need.
“We’ve made a good start. We’re still top of the table and we have a game in hand, so it’s going the right way.”
Rodgers has been left short of strikers after Frenchman Moussa Dembele’s £19.7 million move to Lyon on transfer deadline day in August followed by Leigh Griffiths’ personal problems which have seen him given leave of absence from the club to help his recovery.
But now the manager has moved to bring 21-year-old Burke in on loan from West Bromwich Albion, a player Johnston knows well having been a team-mate of the youngster who made a £13m switch from Nottingham Forest to RB Leipzig.
Nineteen-year-old Johnston said: “The manager has said he wants to add new players and seeing new players coming into the squad is a good thing for everyone at the club and the supporters.
“It provides healthy competition for all of the ones who were there before and it also keeps everyone working as hard as they can and pushing for the places. I’ve played alongside Oliver quite a few times, through the Scotland set-ups and up into the Under-21s.
“In fact, I’ve shared [a room] with him before during one of the trips. It was good fun and it was an enjoyable trip.
“Did I do all the talking or did he? It was about the same, to be fair. After a couple of trips we had together, I got closer to him and we spoke quite a bit more often.
“He’s a good guy and he’s also a really good player. Oli is really athletic and fast and can play in different areas.
“He’s seen as a wide player, but he can also play as a striker. I’ve seen him do that a couple of times and he is so quick and powerful. It’s always a really good thing for young players to be at Celtic because you do get opportunities and you do get chances to play and show yourself.”
Currently enjoying his first extended run in the Celtic first team, Johnston admitted Rodgers’ willingness to play him against Rangers after scoring three goals in his previous two Premiership games against Motherwell and Dundee had sent his confidence soaring.
As such, he’s determined to use Celtic’s sunshine break in Dubai as best he can to help maintain his place in the first team.
He said: “It’s really good just to be here and in the environment with the first team training every day and I just want to get myself ready to kick-on for the second half of the season and keep trying to do well.
“It’s given me a lot of confidence that the manager has been prepared to show the faith in me and given me an opportunity in high-profile games, such as the one against Rangers at Ibrox just before the break.
“It doesn’t take anything away from the special feeling when you get called up to play against any side. You still feel brilliant when you are handed the chance to play any game for Celtic, even if it against one of the so-called lesser teams.
“But, of course, it does give you extra confidence as a player when you are chosen to play in the bigger ones. The match itself ended up a really big disappointment in terms of the result.
“We didn’t play well enough on the day, but it is something that we will use to make sure we bounce back from it in the future.
“On a personal level, it will also hold me in good stead for the future to have experienced it and have gone through it all, even though the result wasn’t what any of us wanted.
“I’m delighted to have had that chance and some of the other chances that the manager has given to me through the first half of the season and it’s definitely something for me to build upon.
“As for the Rangers game, it’ll make me feel more confident if I go into that game the next time we play them.”