Alistair Johnston cuts an extremely relaxed figure upon arriving at the Celtic Park media room.

Maybe it was the photoshoot in sub-zero temperatures, or perhaps it's something else about this young right-back whose life has suddenly taken a dramatic turn. Less than two years ago, Johnston was grinding a path through the college circuit in his native Canada. In the past 21 days, he's savoured a World Cup and signed for a club he afforded mythical status as a child. Not a bad few weeks, by anyone's standards.

If any of this has even slightly fazed him, he's doing a great job hiding it. Johnston answers questions with vibrant enthusiasm and a maturity beyond his 24 years, proving a fascinating listen. He grew up as the middle child in a family of three boys, so being competitive was non-negotiable; his family is of Scottish, English and Northern Irish heritage; he was told he was too small to make it; he reckons Scots and Canadians are very much alike; he used to be a centre midfielder; and, of course, he dabbled in ice hockey, but was only ever really interested in football.

But that's not to say the rough and tumble of the ice rink didn't impart a few life lessons. It did, but not just on a young Alistair, who has quickly displayed a steely resolve that might just serve him well in this part of the world.

“Fighting in hockey comes with the sport – every shot, every whistle there’s always pushing going on," Johnston explains. "We tried to bring that into the national team in this last World Cup cycle and it worked for us. A big thing in the CONCACAF region is you’ll go to down to Honduras or Panama and the night before the game, they’ll pull the fire alarm on you. You play Mexico in the Azteca, 7000 feet above sea level, you’re gasping for breath. The term is always ‘you got CONCACAF’d’. 

“All these countries find a way to use what they have to their advantage, and us Canadians are always so nice. So, we asked ourselves what we do best. We’re an extremely tight group, and we have the frozen north. So, we started playing games there. We played Mexico in November out in Edmonton, and it was -20 degrees at kick-off. Another thing is, if you want to push one of us, we’ll do what we always do. 

“It’s in our DNA that we always stand up for each other, so if you lay a hand on one us? The whole eleven and the bench is coming over. That’s something we started intimidating teams with. It also showed how collective a group we have, that was a really special thing. That’s when I realised this Canadian team has a chance to be special. That plays into how we are as people, extremely fierce competitors who love a fight, don’t like to get pushed around. If you’re going to push me, I’ll push you back. That sets the tone for what I want to bring to this club."

Johnston certainly appears to have the mindset for it - Canada, with a bit of the Calton. He's also swiftly discovered that anonymity is left on the flight over when you sign for Celtic.

"I have some Scottish friends and they said it’s like night and day," he said. "It’s hard to put into words how big this club is and once I signed, even once there were rumours, my phone instantly went mental. I thought OK, this is a bit of a step up from what I’m used to. Once I got here I was full, cap down low, just out trying to experience what Glasgow is like on a Sunday morning. And people were very respectfully going 'welcome to the biggest club in the world’.

"This is a fanbase that isn’t just diehard for their club. It’s also a very educated fanbase. They know the players, they understand the game. That’s something that I really enjoy as well because I consider myself a student of the game as well,  not only watching it as a player but watching it as a fan as well. I can appreciate a fanbase that understands what’s going on out there and is fully invested in it. That’s what I’m going to get here."

Social media frenzies and strolls around the city are one thing, but there's perhaps no better way of understanding Celtic than simply 10 minutes with Callum McGregor. He'll have spoken to countless people and shaken just as many hands on a hectic first day at the club, but it feels safe to assume a sit down with the skipper is the conversation Johnston will remember.

“He’s everything you’d expect from a captain," Johnston admitted. "He’s a top lad. I met him on Monday morning and I can see why he’s one of the fan favourites, for sure. He’s a great guy and I think he represents this club to a top, top level. And, yes, he’s kind of already broken down for me what it means to be a Celtic player and what an absolute honour it is. 

“You can tell this is a guy who just cherishes it. It doesn’t matter what appearance it is right now for him at Celtic, every single one he cherishes. He’s a great leader and someone to look up to. Those kind of guys have such an aura to them. They can really put things into perspective. You can just look at him and you can tell he’s been there and done that. 

“He commands that respect without being intimidating or anything like that. He’s such a guy you feel open to talking to and the ultimate definition of a leader. One of those guys you’d go to war with every day. That’s what I look for in a captain – and he’s just the perfect example of what this club represents. He does a perfect job of representing this club to the entire world. I’m lucky to be his team-mate.”