MIKEY Johnston has pledged to rise to the challenge laid down by his manager Brendan Rodgers and prove he deserves to be a first team regular with Celtic in the coming weeks.

Johnston started his first game for the Parkhead club since February last year in midweek when the Scottish champions took on Hibernian at home in the cinch Premiership on Wednesday night. 

However, Rodgers admitted after the 4-1 triumph that the winger, who had performed brightly after coming on in the win over St Johnstone in Perth three days earlier, needs to do more to establish himself.

The Republic of Ireland internationalist, who spent last season on loan at Vitoria Guimaraes in Portugal, insisted he has put his back injury behind him and can do so ahead of the league game against Kilmarnock at Rugby Park this afternoon.

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"People act as though I haven't actually played games for Celtic,” he said. “But I have played nearly 100 games and I have played in six cup finals.

“I obviously need to be playing every single week and that's what I want to do. The manager is telling me to take the bull by the horns and hopefully I can do that.”
Johnston added: "People do like something that is new, such as new signings. But I am still just trying to prove to people that I can play here.

“I have been here for a while and people are probably saying that I've been here for this long and maybe I've not proven that. But I think I have in spells. It's very hard to win people over. The pressure is on me and I'm trying to unlock my potential the best I can.

The National: "I went out on loan to a league in Portugal when I wanted to be here. I'm trying to take every step I can to fulfil my potential. It's not as though I am not trying.”
Johnston won his first international cap for his adopted homeland on the back of his performances for Vitoria last term and is confident his experiences in Portugal will help him at Celtic.

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"I don't think there is ever a comfort blanket at a club like Celtic,” he said. “There is pressure here every single minute.
"When I went away on loan there was less pressure, but I learned a lot during that year. I did play in a team that did have a lot of pressure and put expectations on me.

"You grow up quickly when you go to a new country on your own, living away from home when it's a different language is tough. But it was always in the back of my head that I did want to come back here.”