Phil Johnston interview
20th November 2011
Two goal-fests in a row; what do you make of how the team are performing just now?
Obviously not great, but very inconsistent since the start of the season. The Albion result was just not acceptable, but I thought last week was a lot better and more encouraging. We got the ball down, we passed it, and we worked hard for each other and created a lot of chances going forward.
Still defensively wasn’t good enough not just as a team but individually. It was a makeshift defence though, we had Craig Hill at left-back and he’s a centre-half; Rhys was in there as well.
Because we’ve got a young side, is that something that should work in our favour or has it been part of our downfall so far?
I don’t think so, it’s good players we’ve got even though they’re young. Like Giggsy, who’s top goal scorer in the league and is young. I think if you work hard and for each other as a team then age doesn’t really come into it. We knew if we kept the tempo up then Forfar couldn’t really deal with us and that showed going forward.
You’ve just come back from injury, haven’t you?
Yeah I’ve had a couple of niggling injuries, silly wee things like my shoulder at the end of the last season. It was recurring but I got a scan and there’s no problem with that now. Then I pulled my hammy and I was out for another week! But I’m back now, fresh, looking forward to keeping myself in the team, and performing well hopefully.
It must be frustrating being out of action for long when you want to prove your worth to the team?
Definitely. I’ve felt sharp in training but I keep getting setbacks. I’ve been working hard, and got my place in the team now so I can keep improving and show everyone what I’m capable of.
You’re one of a number of players to still be here from last season; how do you think the team has changed since then?
Not as such, no. The nucleus of last season is probably still there, but we’ve added on more experience with Lovers at the back, and with Willie (McLaren) coming in it’s given us balance but we needed that – with his left foot. I think he looked good yesterday, with a few more games and match fitness he’ll be very exciting to watch and good to play with.
Has Willie been giving you any tips so far?
Not yet! I didn’t get the chance to speak to him before the game last week. He was only in training on Thursday and I wasn’t. But I was impressed with him and he was positive on the ball. I look forward to seeing what else he’s got.
What were your days at Celtic like?
Not great. When I went I had half a season at U19s, and that was fine, no problems. Then I ended up getting a reserve deal and then I got injured and ended up having to get a double hernia operation which kept me out for nine months.
It was a great experience though, being around top players and a top manager like Neil Lennon. He took the development squad when I was there. But I was struck down by injuries and it wasn’t great for me. One positive for me was getting to play St. Pauli at the end of the season because it was their centenary year. I came on for the last five minutes in front of a large crowd. Also in training with players like Robbie Keane and Aiden McGeady I got to learn lots of things from them.
Do you wish you’d got a loan deal while there?
I never had the chance to be honest, injury killed me. I focussed on getting match fit, and then once I got released I came straight to Airdrie, looking for games to get my fitness back up after having a season of doing absolutely nothing.
Interview by Douglas Barrie