THE past five months have been one big baptism of fire for Alistair Johnston.

‘Three of the biggest matches of your life’ at the Qatar World Cup, to be precise, immediately followed by parachuting into a different kind of searing heat in the form of derby day in Glasgow. And yet the Canadian continues to take it all in his stride.

The 24-year-old right-back was named man of the match when Celtic effectively clinched the title in beating Rangers just under a fortnight ago, and so impressive has he been that you won’t hear the name Josip Juranovic being uttered with a sense of longing in and around Parkhead.

Aside from being a headstrong personality who clearly relishes a battle, Johnston suspects already being in ‘sink or swim’ mode from only his nation’s second appearance on the biggest stage of all prepared him for what was to come in Scotland.

“Coming straight from a World Cup doesn’t hurt,” he said. “You play in three of the biggest matches of your life right there. That was my country's second time ever being in a World Cup.

“Everything we'd gone through as a nation qualifying to just get to the World Cup was so difficult then to finally make it and play against some massive nations on the world stage was something that mentally prepared me for what I was about to experience with Celtic and especially with those matches against Rangers.

“At the end of the day, it's football. It's still 11 v 11, the pitch is the same size and the ball is still round, so nothing changes. Once you learn to block out that noise and get through the first couple of minutes, the emotions, the energy, then it kind of dies down, everything goes quiet for you, then you can just focus on your football.

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“I've gotten a lot better at that with age so I'm happy that my first couple of matches of this magnitude was when I was 24-years-old and not 18 so I've got a lot of respect for those young guys that get in there and get thrown to the wolves.”

His Parkhead career remains a fledgling one, but Johnston could find himself inked as one of the swifter entrants into the history books if Celtic smash through the 100 points barrier over the coming weeks.

Ange Postecoglou’s team have won 30 of their 32 Premiership outings this season, and could become only the third side to reach a century in a single season. At the weekend, they took their tally to 91 with 18 points left to play for, ensuring an all-time record of 107 remains a possibility. Surpassing 100 is a feat achieved only by Martin O’Neill, whose squad racked up 103 in 2001/02, and Brendan Rodgers’ Invincibles and their as-yet unmatched haul of 106 in 2016/17.

There’s a consistent theme with this Celtic side – whether it be manager or players – that you very rarely, if at all, find them looking too far ahead. It is an approach Johnston has quickly bought into, and one he hopes could take them to a hugely impressive new record.

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“We haven't really discussed that at all,” he insisted. “It's just been about the next match and how we can get better. One of the interesting parts of our squad is that it is so deep that we are also competing against each other just to be on the pitch in the next match so we have to be so focused on each day at training, just honing in on that stuff, then focusing on the weekend and picking up three points.

“At the end of the day, we know if we take care of business and we play the way we know we can, the results will be a byproduct of that. Of course, if we do that for the remaining part of the season then we have a chance to really break some new ground and set some history.

“That's exciting but at the same time we're just so focused on each day. Taking the baby steps one step a time and wherever it takes us, it does.”

Extending that gap over Rangers to a surely-unassailable 12 points felt like the decisive moment in a title race that hasn’t really been a race for quite some time. Celtic were already nine clear and well into their stride by the time Johnston signed from CF Montreal during the winter transfer window.

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He knows the next few weeks are now all about ticking off victories until the maths confirms a second consecutive league crown. Celtic showed no signs of letting up as they put Kilmarnock to the sword with four goals in under half an hour on Sunday – including an assist for Johnston.

Next up, Motherwell come to Glasgow’s east end on Saturday. Another win for the leaders would keep them on course to clinch the trophy on either May 6 or 7, the first fixture following the Premiership split.

“We just know that if we take care of business it's all in our hands now,” Johnton said. “That's what this group has done so well since the beginning of the year to make sure that they got that lead and not looked to relinquish it at all.

“I was lucky I came in and there was a nine point gap and we've just been focused on taking care of business week in, week out. We know if we do that we don't have to worry about anyone else. Again, that would be a nice feeling, but we're not going to get ahead of ourselves.

“There's still plenty of football to be played. Everyone in the league knows that as well. At the same time, I like our spot. I like where we are as a squad and we've still got a couple of guys to come back from injury to really help push over the line. We're in a good place and we're into the final stretch now.”