SPL

Celtic handed pre-Hampden boost as Alistair Johnston returns to training

By Sports Desk May 23, 2023

Celtic have been handed a pre-Hampden boost after Alistair Johnston returned to training.

Johnston has been out since taking a heavy knock to his lower leg during Celtic’s Scottish Cup semi-final win over Rangers on April 30.

The Canada right-back will not feature in Wednesday’s cinch Premiership encounter with Hibernian at Easter Road but is in line to return against Aberdeen on Saturday, seven days before the cup final against Inverness.

Johnston was back in training on Tuesday morning and came through the session with no problems.

Manager Ange Postecoglou said: “All things being equal, if he gets through the rest of the week’s training he should be available for the weekend’s game.

“We will hopefully get him some game time at the weekend and assess it from there.

“He has worked really hard to get back with the cup final in mind. He has got back really well and worked hard with the medical team and looked after himself really well.

“It was good to see him training and good to see him part of it because he has obviously been a big part of the second half of the year.”

Celtic have only taken a point in two games since clinching the title and face a Hibs side who are still battling for a European place.

Postecoglou said: “We just go out there and try to play our football but we know the league is done.

“We can’t lose the league now, unless someone has brought in a new rule. The players are aware of that so I can’t go about pretending, trying to create some alternative universe where they are trying to achieve something they have already achieved.

“But we still want to enjoy our games and prepare for the cup final and the best way to do that is play our football and take each challenge as it comes.

“The players are training well and we want to finish the season strongly.”

Meanwhile, Postecoglou was completely unmoved by news from Rangers that several experienced players will be leaving Ibrox this summer including Allan McGregor and Scott Arfield.

When asked if he expected a tougher title challenge from their rivals next season, he said: “I don’t know why that would even concern me to be honest.

“This time last year Rangers were in a Europa League final and a Scottish Cup final, and they strengthened after the season didn’t they?

“So does anybody really care? Like, seriously. We didn’t start favourites in my first year and probably weren’t overwhelming favourites this year, so people will say what they want, mate. Everyone has got a plan until they are punched on the nose and then you kind of reassess from there.

“When we start next year, when the games start, everyone will see who is really strong and who isn’t strong and all that sort of stuff.

“Right now, league-wise anyway, it’s the equivalent of junk-time, mate, so we just get on with it.”

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