Mikey Johnston could not even get into Celtic Park to see his team-mates in action during the first half of the season – now the Parkhead winger is aiming to play a starring role as he steps up his return from injury.
The 21-year-old endured a frustrating 2020, with his year blighted by knee and calf injuries.
He limped off against St Johnstone back in January and did not return to action until last month’s win over Kilmarnock.
But he was faced with further anguish during his lay-off as he was forced to sit and watch Neil Lennon’s champions enter a slump that has all but killed off their dreams of 10-in-a-row.
To make matters worse, he had to view that damaging run of results from his living room after Covid restrictions prevented him from cheering on his team-mates in person at Celtic Park.
However, now that he is back to full fitness, Johnston is determined to make up for lost time in the second half of the campaign.
“It makes me so happy being out on the pitch,” Johnston told Celtic TV. “Obviously, being out for so long was hard and there was a lot of hard work that had to go in to get myself back where I am, so I’m just happy to be back on the pitch with the boys again.
“It can be frustrating, not being able to affect things on the pitch when you’re out, especially in the games where we’ve been struggling a bit recently.
“We weren’t even allowed to go to the games because of the Covid stuff, so that was tough, having to watch it from the couch in the house. It was tough, but I’m just happy to be back.”
While this season has not gone to plan for Celtic, they did finally finish off last year’s delayed campaign by beating Hearts in the William Hill Scottish Cup final last month to seal a historic quadruple treble.
Johnston played his part as he slotted past former Hoops team-mate Craig Gordon in the penalty shoot-out to ensure Lennon’s team remained on track for another domestic clean sweep.
“I thought the penalty in the cup final would be a good way to bounce back after so long,” he said.
“I think it would have been something I’d have regretted for the rest of my life if I didn’t take it, to score a penalty in a Scottish Cup final, so I’m just buzzing that I’ve done it.”
Celtic have flown out to Dubai to recharge their batteries after last week’s disappointing Old Firm defeat to Rangers left them 19 points adrift of Steven Gerrard’s Scottish Premiership leaders, albeit with three games in hand.
But Johnston insists spirits remain high in Lennon’s squad, saying: “The high-intensity sessions in Dubai have been hard. The heat definitely makes it harder, but the sessions were good, they were really competitive and the boys worked really hard.
“The defeat at Ibrox was a tough one to take, but everyone was out there with a good mindset and working hard every day. We’ve got a lot of games coming up after the break and the camp was a great opportunity to get fit, work really hard and I think we made the most of it.”
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