SUCH was the form of Josip Juranovic last season, and the renaissance enjoyed by Anthony Ralston, that the departure of the former and an injury to the latter would at one time have had Celtic fans breaking out in a cold sweat ahead of a crunch game against Rangers.

Not now, and as far as Tom Boyd is concerned, that is because Ange Postecoglou has unearthed a player who possesses the best of both right-backs in the form of Alistair Johnston. The Canadian international was thrown in for his debut at Ibrox back in January and excelled, and he has pretty much done so ever since.

He put in another barnstorming full-back performance in the win over Celtic’s city rivals last weekend that all-but wrapped up a second successive Premiership title, with an uncompromising defensive showing allied to a willingness and capability to get up the right flank and support the attack.

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It was just the latest in a long line of displays that have ensured the Celtic support have gotten over the departure of Juranovic in quick-smart fashion, and have now taken Johnston into their hearts.

“I said to him after the game he was like a mini (Cameron) Carter-Vickers,” Boyd said.

“He’s got such great physique and he just refuses to get pushed around.

“Josip Juranovic was a fantastic player for Celtic, and Tony Ralston is terrific as well. But Johnston is like a mixture of the two of them. He’s got that great mix of strength and ability. 

“I’ve been so impressed with him. What a find he has been. He’s come in at hit the ground running.

“Johnston made his debut at Ibrox. It doesn’t get much tougher than that, but he coped really well and has never looked back. That’s him played in three derbies and he’s not been on the losing side yet.

“You look at the way he handles the physical battle and the pressure, he seems to really enjoy it. 

“He looks made for this fixture. He was terrific at the weekend.”

Despite that win and the 12-point gap that now exists to Rangers, you would have about as much chance of getting Celtic manager Postecoglou to admit he enjoys press conferences as you would of getting him to admit the title is now sealed. Boyd has no such issues.

“The league is done,” he said. “Ange won’t say it – but I can! It’s over.

“Michael Beale will know it as well, the 12 point gap is too big with seven games to go. That’s not saying anything about the form his team is in. It’s more about the form and the consistency shown by Celtic under Ange.

“They are on a long unbeaten run and they just don’t look like dropping points against anyone.

“They’ve only dropped points in two games all season, which is absolutely outstanding, and that will see them through to the end of the season.

“I would say two-in-a-row is in the bag.”

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That as the case may be, there is still another matter to be settled, and that is the destination of the Scottish Cup.

The semi-final defeat to Rangers at Hampden last season remains the one domestic sore point for Postecoglou since his arrival at Celtic, and Boyd knows that will rankle with the Australian.

Given Celtic’s recent record against Rangers, there is justified confidence on his part that his beloved team can gain revenge this time around, with the former Celtic captain not concerned that Postecoglou’s men weren’t at their sparkling best against Beale’s team last weekend.

“The result was the main thing, more than the performance,” he said.

“The pressure was on both teams and it showed at times with the amount of misplaced passes.

“When you look at the scoreline, it looks like a classic, and it was certainly entertaining. But I wouldn’t say it was a classic in terms of the quality.
“The most important thing was getting the victory and it just shows where Celtic are as a team under Ange. They can play fantastic football, but they also know how to get the job done.

“I’m not sure how it will affect the game at Hampden. These games are all different and there are different things at stake.

“It was the last chance for Rangers in the league at the weekend but next time there is a cup final at stake.

“On Saturday it was more about who made the least mistakes. You could say Celtic were not at their best and still got a result.

“Rangers might take some confidence from their performance, but you’d expect Celtic to improve as well.

“It’s another derby and Celtic are on a good run against them at the moment. It’s back at Hampden so we’ll have to wait and see.

“I hope it’s the same outcome!”