Brendan Rodgers has been an admirer of Alistair Johnston from afar and with that in mind, he is excited to have the Canadian international fit and available for selection in his squad.

Johnston, who moved to Parkhead from MLS outfit CF Montreal in January, was a key performer for Ange Postecoglou in his final few months as Celtic manager after he was snapped up following an impressive showing at the World Cup in Qatar for his country.

Rodgers was equally as impressed by Johnston’s displays for Canada, and he feels the 24-year-old will be a key performer for his side over the course of the campaign.

The right-back has missed the start of the season after receiving surgery on an injured ankle, but now he is back in training and could feature against St Johnstone in the Scottish Premiership this weekend.

Rodgers explained: “I remember seeing him at the World Cup. He was outstanding for Canada. I thought at the time when he arrived in January it was a really good buy for Celtic.

“He’s a talented player and you get the sense from talking to him he’s very ambitious and committed. He wants to do well. It’s just been a real shame with the injury he’s had that he’s been out.

“But Alistair is a really strong boy and speaking to the staff and the players, he’s really highly rated here. I’m looking forward to seeing him more.”

Celtic were stretched in defensive departments on Sunday as they suffered a shock loss against Kilmarnock in the Viaplay Cup.

And it now looks like things could be even worse heading into the first derby fixture of the season against Rangers next month with new signing Maik Nawrocki picking up a hamstring strain.

The Polish defender now looks set for a period on the sidelines alongside Cameron Carter-Vickers and Stephen Welsh, with the latter expected to be out for months.

Albeit not being a central option, Johnston would be a welcome return for Rodgers in defence and on the prospect of the defender featuring this weekend, he continued: “Well, people know his character and his personality. It has never changed. He’s stayed positive and got on with his work.

“He’s back earlier than expected – and that says it all. It shows how hard he has worked.

“He’s very determined to improve and develop as a player. He wants to continue to win. It will be good to work with him.”

Rodgers was impressed by Celtic’s scouting and capture of Johnston, and he feels the MLS is a market that could well be explored more to unearth some hidden gems.

The Northern Irishman knows all too well the struggles of competing in England with mega-money flying around, but he believes Celtic are exploring in the right markets.

He added: “Very. I think that’s why you see the strategy of Mark (Lawell) and the guys, going to markets that were maybe untouched and the deals you can get in.

“You look at the Premier League or even the Championship. It’s a very expensive market for players and wages.

“That is a real challenge for a club like ourselves. Coming back here, that was something I had to understand better, and why I took that time to decide.

“The club has to be sustainable while being successful. But it’s understanding where it is at in terms of what you can and can’t do.

“I’ll always work with the players the club provide me and try to develop them to be best the possibly can. The hopefully makes the club successful and allows them to move on, make money and we go again.”