MIKEY JOHNSTON has gone from cleaning Nir Bitton’s boots to sitting beside him in the first-team dressing room at Celtic, but he admits it may be some time before he feels he is a peer of the more experienced men who now get changed all around him.
The 20-year-old has had a scintillating summer for Celtic, impressing on their pre-season tour of Austria and Switzerland and then scoring a screamer in the first leg of the away tie against FK Sarajevo in the first round of Champions League qualifying.
The more he plays and the more he catches the eye, the more Johnston feels at home in the starting line-up. And he hopes it won’t be long before he subsequently feels at home in the changing room too after making the step up in the summer.
“I’ve just moved into the first-team dressing room recently and that’s good because you’re working towards certain goals and that’s one of them,” Johnston said.
“After Austria I just walked in one day and the kitman said ‘you’re in the first-team dressing room now,’ and I was, like ‘fine.’ Then I walked in and everyone said nice stuff to me.
“You get a locker and that’s the step up. You get a bit of stick but nothing too much and I’m level headed so I won’t get carried away.
“I still need to play quite a few more games before I feel I’m established but little rewards like that make it worthwhile and you appreciate it.
“The last one to do that was probably Kieran Tierney who broke into the first team and got into the dressing room and you look up to players like him and others in the academy like Callum McGregor and James Forrest.
“You don’t get to choose where you sit or anything like that – I don’t call any shots! I got put between Nir Bitton and [Daniel] Arzani. I sometimes put the tunes on but that’s about it.
“As a younger player I would help clean out the changing rooms and clear out the water bottles as well as cleaning boots, and things like that. I did the boots for Kris Commons, Efe Ambrose and Nir Bitton. Their tips at Christmas were okay too.
“I still don’t feel like a first-team regular yet. But I know all the boys well enough now and my confidence has grown.”
Johnston too has grown, with his stature both in terms of his height and his physique noticeably more impressive, though it may take him a little while yet though to shake off a nickname from his youth.
His believes though that his previously diminutive stature may work in his favour, as he wasn’t able to rely on his physical attributes as a young player.
“I’ve been growing this year, I know that, but I’m still known as wee Mikey,” he said.
“I think I’m getting quite big. I’m 5ft 10in at the moment, I know that, so I’m not a wee guy. I just think in Scotland that’s how you’re described.
“I was smaller as a kid but that was good as it helped me learn how to play in a different way from the bigger lads. I found out how to use my body more and be smarter.
“So, I think it can be an advantage.”