With frigid winds swirling in off Lake Ontario, Alistair Johnston took his first steps back on to home soil in Toronto on Monday lunchtime. In spite of the freezing conditions, the defender was savouring his return to his native land — in part because he doesn’t have to worry about being followed to the shops. 

The Canadian has been a hugely impressive addition to Ange Postecoglou’s Celtic side since joining the Scottish Premiership champions in January from Major League Soccer. Johnston has slotted in on the right side of the defence and made the loss of Croatian international Josip Juranovic barely felt at times. 

Back in Canada for CONCACAF Nations League duty when John Herdman’s side face Honduras on Tuesday night, Johnston raved about his experiences in Glasgow and how much he is enjoying being part of Postecoglou’s side. The rabid devotion of the locals, however, has taken some getting used to. 

“It’s been everything I’ve wanted and more,” said the 24-year-old. "In terms of the pressure, the pressure to win, the pressure to represent Celtic on and off the field every single moment of the day. I’ve learned to live with that. Going to the grocery store and people are running after you! It’s a bit of a different lifestyle than I had in Montreal and Nashville for example. I’m just enjoying that and understanding that it’s not going to last forever.”

READ MORE: Kieran Tierney urged to use internationals to reignite Arsenal career

Johnston has played 13 times in all competitions since making the switch from Montreal, grabbing his first goal in a 5-1 win over St Mirren earlier this month. However it is February’s League Cup final victory over Rangers at Hampden Park that has been the undoubted highlight.

“It’s been really special so far,” said Johnston, a stand-out performer in that 2-1 victory. “I’ve lifted one trophy and hopefully we’ll lift a couple more in my time there at least. It’s been a good start and I’m hoping to continue it on after the international break. 

“It’s about trying to make that fanbase as proud as possible and also the Canadians back home proud. It’s so important for us as we get more and more guys overseas, playing for big clubs in big leagues, that we do well. That sets the foundation for those European clubs to understand that there are footballers here that can raise the level of your club.”

When Juranovic signalled his desire to leave Celtic Park late prior to the 2022 World Cup, the prospect of the right back position becoming something of an issue for the champions raised its head, Tony Ralston the only other first team option. However the recruitment and rapid settling-in of Johnston has made him already look an absolute snip at £3 million. 

Tigerish and alert at the back, the ultra-versatile Johnston is relishing spreading his attacking wings under Postecoglou, where he described his position as akin to an “inverted midfielder”. 

READ MORE: Callum McGregor on why Scotland need to play Spain at their own game

“I was talking about this with a couple of guys, trying to explain the different position I’ve played. I played as part of a back four, I’ve played as a wing back with Montreal, I play as a right-sided centre back now with Canada and at Celtic I’m almost an inverted centre midfielder. I’ve played pretty much every position a full back can play,” added Johnston, who is eager to show the Toronto crowds plenty of the same attacking intent on Tuesday night at BMO Field. 

The hosts need just a draw against Honduras to qualify for the finals of the CONCACAF Nations League with Johnston ravenous for more silverware having made the Scottish League Cup the first major honour of his professional career. 

“My game has adapted a little bit since the last time I was with the national team. Of course playing in the World Cup as well. It really closes that gap mentally that we do belong on the same pitch,” said Johnston, who played in all three of Canada’s games in Qatar. 

“Once you go across that ridge and understand that, it does fill you with confidence. I have taken that confidence into Celtic. Again, going there and playing in front of 60,000 people week in week out with that pressure, living with it and honestly, kinda loving it, it’s something that I think is innately embedded in us as professional athletes. You want to play at the highest level, you want to be under pressure. You want to see how far you can take it. Once you get your hands on a trophy, it’s addicting, you can’t get enough of it.”