Alistair Johnston finally met the Montreal press yesterday afternoon, fourteen months and three days after he first appeared on my own personal radar...
Red Bull Arena, 27 October 2020 was the first time I saw him play. Wondered who the eye-catching right-back was in yellow, as Montreal Impact toiled away in another of those unrewarding Covid ‘home’ games down in the Big Apple.
Interest soared after the commentator (I think it was TSN, from memory) happened to mention, “... the Canadian defender...”
Immediately I was... “Did he say Canadian? Where did this guy come from and how does Canada not know about him?”
Yesterday the 23 year-old Manchester United fan explained his progress through college in the US, playing alongside his inspiration and “role model”, Kamal Miller at Vaughan Azzurri, before being selected overall #11 in the 2020 Superdraft.
Johnston is bubbly, enthusiastic, positive and a journo’s dream, as he was when I first faced him in a press conference early in his national team career. I don’t have to rewind the mind too much to remember that occasion. Johnston never played for Canada before this year. He now has the astounding tally of 18 full caps!
If a player has ever shown more delight to be joining CF Montreal, I certainly wasn’t there to see it. As Johnston says, “I’m excited to get going.”
“This team is young and Canadian, and I think John Herdman is happy that I can continue developing chemistry in Montreal with Kamal particularly, and Sam Piette.
“I was generally the youngest starter at Nashville SC and now I will be one of the more experienced in the Montreal back-line. I can’t even grow a beard yet,” he joked, “... but I’m looking forward to a bigger role and taking my own game to the next level.”
Johnston arrives in Montreal in return for $750,000 in General Allocation Money in 2022 and $250,000 in General Allocation Money in 2023. Former club Nashville SC could receive an additional 10% in transfer fees over the initial amount paid of $1M.
It’s a two-season deal at Montreal, including two option years; 2024 and 2025.
He feels he wasn’t on the close-season shopping block and it was simply a matter of Montreal’s persistence paying off that sealed the move.
“Montreal came in with multiple big offers and Nashville couldn’t refuse. Montreal went out and showed they wanted me, that I was their main target for the off-season and they went out and got it done.
“That gives me a lot of faith and excitement that there’s a club out there wanting me that bad and which thought that highly of me. So that really enticed me and makes me excited for 2022.”
Johnston also displayed his awareness of the Montreal fans and gave a little insight into his character... “It’s a big and intense fanbase attached to an historic club. If things go south it can become heated as well, but you got to enjoy that type of pressure if you are a footballer.”
He’s looking forward to a bright 2022 and sets his targets high: a deep run in the Champions League and MLS play-offs and Qatar World Cup qualification with the national team.
Sporting Director Olivier Renard is immensely happy to have landed a prime target. “We are pleased to welcome this young Canadian who had a strong desire to join the club.
“Beyond his footballing qualities, Alistair has demonstrated an exemplary mindset with the Canadian national team. He’s a versatile defender who can play both as a right-back as well as part of a three-man defence.
“We will continue closely working with him to further his progression and are delighted to welcome him to the team.”
Alistair Johnston’s earliest recollections of playing football was with the Lakeshore Club in Montreal’s West Island. Now as a professional and full Canadian international everything has turned full circle. He’s back... with the aim of creating even more special memories with the Bleu, Blanc, Noir...