Johansen and Deila are seasoned veterans for Celtic

STEFAN JOHANSEN'S career is moving forward so quickly, he is in danger of meeting himself coming back.

Loading Comments
Share
Print
Stefan Johansen could face ex-club Stromsgodset with Celtic in Europe
Stefan Johansen could face ex-club Stromsgodset with Celtic in Europe

The midfielder had no sooner won the championship with Stromsgodset in Norway than he was whisked to Glasgow to help Celtic make it three-in-a-row.

Just when the 23-year-old thinks he will be given time to catch his breath, the manager who brought him to Parkhead, Neil Lennon, decides four years in office is enough and quits.

And, before Johansen can produce any beads of sweat over who Lennon's replacement will be, and if he will rate the Norwegian international, than it is announced the new boss is none other than the man credited with making him the player he is, Ronny Deila.

Little wonder Johansen is still trying to take it all in.

But, within the next two weeks, he will be back at Lennoxtown for pre-season training, and sure to be the go-to man in the dressing room as his team-mates try to find out all about the new manager.

Johansen is sure to tell them nothing but positives.

Not because he wants to keep in Deila's good books, but because he owes so much to the man who brought him from obscurity at backwater club, Bodo/Glimt, demanded he raise his fitness levels and improved his attitude, and, with a couple of seasons, not only produced the Norwegian league's Player of the Year, but also a rising star for who Celtic were prepared to pay £2million.

Johansen can empathise with Deila as he attempts to come to terms with just how big a club Celtic is.

The 6,000 who attended games in Drammen, cheering on perennial underdogs Stromsgodset, has been replaced by 60,000 expecting - and demanding - Celtic win every time they take to the field.

The pressure will be on right from the start when Deila takes charge of his first competitive games.

They just happen to be the season-defining Champions League qualifiers, which kick off on July 15 or 16.

The draw for the second qualifying round - Celtic's entry point again this year - takes place a week on Monday.

As usual, Uefa will attempt to help clubs keep their costs down by making this draw geographical, with Celtic in the hat along with champions from the British Isles, Nordic and other northern European countries.

They will be seeded, due to their co-efficient, which is based on results in Europe over the past five seasons.

And, ironically, that means one of the teams they could face is Stromsgodset.

Given how Johansen's career appears to be turning full circle, that would be no huge surprise to the young man who is only too aware of the unique pitfalls which can await clubs at this very early stage of the competition.

Celtic were fortunate to draw Cliftonville in last season's second qualifying round.

Although they play on an artificial surface, the champions from Northern Ireland did not have the fitness advantage of being halfway through their season, something the Scandinavians can bank on, thus making it more of a level playing field if they are pitched against the likes of Celtic.

A 3-0 first leg win in Belfast followed by a 2-0 tidying-up exercise at Parkhead saw Celtic hone their sharpness as they moved safely through to the third qualifying round.

But that's where their troubles started as they were paired with Elfsborg, Mo Bangura et al.

The fact the Swedish champs were midway through their league season showed, and Celtic got through by the tightest of margins with a 1-0 aggregate.

Johansen is only too aware of how players with clubs up and running consider teams coming off their pre-season to be vulnerable.

And, now that he has switched camps, he is eager to avoid being on the wrong end of a shock result.

He said: "Of course that is the big challenge for us, and it is why we had to make sure the matches we had at the end of last season after we had won the title were used to prepare us for our first Champions League qualifiers.

"We are all going to be in shape when we come back from our summer break."

For Johansen, who had to contend with completing a full calendar-year season in Norway, then playing for five months with Celtic, it's been a welcome and necessary holiday.

But he believes he is strong enough and fit enough to cope with back-to-back campaigns, and that this powers of recovery will ensure he is ready and willing to hit the ground running again when everyone reports back to Lennoxtown a week on Tuesday.

"It is not a challenge for me to keep going," said the all-action star.

"It is a new season, and that's what you use your holiday for, to be ready for it.

"It's a new beginning, so you have got to forget what you did last season, come back, and be ready to try to be even better for the season that is about to start."

With a new manager to factor in, which will mean new training regimes and systems to take on board, it will be a step into the unknown for everyone at the club, exacerbated by the fact they are being decamped to Murrayfield for the two qualifying round home ties.

But, what they will all know as they regroup and prepare to head to their training camp in Austria and the series of warm- up games is that the experience gained in last season's qualifiers will be invaluable.

It might all be uncharted waters for the new boss - whose only previous excursions into European competition total a mere six games with Stromsgodset - but Deila can lean heavily on the likes of Scott Brown, Charlie Mulgrew, Kris Commons, Emilio Izaguirre, and Anthony Stokes who have been over the obstacle-strewn course many times before.

They will need no reminding how fraught last season's play- off against Shakhter Karagandy proved to be, the 2-0 first leg defeat in Kazakhstan eventually being overhauled in the last minute of the return at Parkhead, thanks to James Forrest's dramatic goal.

All of which will have been studied comprehensively by Deila, with a view to avoiding any repeat of that unwanted drama.

Football

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on Evening Times on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis. If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

166978

Have you got a story?

Contact the news desk on 0141 302 6520 or email news@eveningtimes.co.uk
A weekly round up of social highlights

A weekly round up of social highlights

Cat's Eyes on Glasgow

SPOTY, Cinderella at the SECC and festive things to do.

Times Out

Entertainment

Lifestyle

TV Advert
Gail’s Gab

Gail’s Gab

Gail Sheridan is a mother-of-one and wife to Tommy and she likes to get political with the hot topic of the week in her column Gail’s Gab.

Michelle McManus

Michelle McManus

Sussed in the City

What a year for me...it’s a wonderful life!

Janice Bell

Janice Bell

You couldn’t make up half the stuff that happens to PA Janice Bell- some of the jams she gets herself into are worth a story or two.