Stefan is in it for the long haul at Celtic

STEFAN JOHANSEN knows the history - and he is very happy to be part of it, having helped Celtic win their third title in a row.

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Johann Mjallby believes the Scandinavian mentality has helped Johansen to settle
Johann Mjallby believes the Scandinavian mentality has helped Johansen to settle

The Norwegian is also aware that, in more recent times, the club has become known as a stepping stone to the English Premiership for players coming to this country from abroad or from lower leagues.

It was the path followed by Victor Wanyama and Ki Sung Yueng, and is expected to be the route taken some time soon by Virgil van Dijk.

But, for Johansen - who has made a big impact since arriving in January from Norwegian champions, Stromsgodset, for £2million - it is not a case of the grass being greener over the border, even if the rewards may be richer, in terms of the money which can be earned.

He has found his Paradise, and is planning to put down roots here. Parkhead and Celtic are providing everything the 23-year-old is looking for as he progresses a career which is still in its formative years.

The fact he has stepped straight into Neil Lennon's side, and, within 12 games, established himself as a first pick in the midfield, has helped him settle and embrace enthusiastically the challenge of switching clubs. Johansen is laying foundations for what he considers to be the chance to build a long career at a top club.

And, while others may look upon joining Celtic as a means to an end - ie, the English Premiership - it's not the driving force behind the Norwegian international.

Johansen is here for the long haul and confirmed: "That's my intention, and that is why I signed for Celtic.

"From my first day here, people have been asking me about the English Premier League and things like that.

"But, I have a two and a half year contract with this club, and I am enjoying Celtic and I am enjoying Glasgow."

What's not to enjoy? Within 10 weeks of arriving here, Johansen was dancing around Firhill, celebrating a title win for his new club, just four months after leading Stromsgodset to the Norwegian equivalent.

That rare success for the small club in his homeland had already ensured a place in the Champions League qualifiers.

Ironically, Stromsgodset will be one of the unseeded clubs Celtic could draw in the qualifiers, which kick off in July.

But, while that would be an emotional challenge for Johansen, he is detached enough to appreciate that, with Celtic, he has much more chance of playing in the Group Stage.

"Celtic are in the Champions League because we won the championship again this year," he said. "So, the expectation for the club is what is intriguing me.

"Winning is what football is all about, and it is what it is all about at Celtic."

That's another clear indication Johansen has quickly bought into the ethos of the club, and aims to pay his dues.

Lennon is only too aware that every signing represents something of a gamble because, while you may have taken a long time to examine every aspect of their ability, it is only when you actually put them in the situation you really discover if they have the mentality to play for a club where the demands are so extreme.

The Hoops boss has watched many falter at this particular hurdle, most recently the very-experienced Miku and Teemu Pukki. But Johansen has never shown the semblance of a stumble, and fellow Scandinavian, Johan Mjallby, believes his background is a big reason for this.

The Celtic assistant boss has watched team-fulls of players come and go during his time as a player and now as a key member of the management team.

The fact the club literally searches around the globe for players of the requisite talent and within their price range means that it is like a meeting of the United Nations in the changing rooms at their Lennoxtown training complex.

But the giant Swede admits, when Celtic go shopping in the Scandinavian market, they are confident they will find players who are a ready fit for the game in this country.

Of course, it is never guaranteed. But Mikael Lustig - the Swedish defender who was signed from Rosenborg in 2011 has joined the list of those who have made the transition and become a big addition to the Hoops - and Johansen is tipped to follow in his footsteps.

Speaking from his own experience, Mjallby said: "As a Scandinavian, it is easy to settle into Glasgow. We have more or less the same mentality. The weather isn't too different, either."

Mjallby has played his part in helping provide the warm welcome which has allowed Johansen to hit the ground running, and predicts the best has yet to come from the rising star.

"Stefan is a young boy, but we hope he is going to improve even more," he said. "That's our job, to make him even better. Stefan is in the squad for Norway, and that is going to be good for him."

MJALLBY continued: "You can see he has already made a mark in the team here. He has got great energy, is a very good passer of the ball, so it shouldn't be a problem for him."

Johansen is a Bhoy home alone as he has left his family behind in Norway. But the Celtic family have done their best to make him feel included, and Mjallby can't emphasise enough how important this support structure is to any new arrival.

He said: "Sometimes you can be a bit unsettled. But the main thing is not to show that on the pitch.

"If you are a footballer, you should love it always to be able to play football.

"Obviously, you can be effected by family situations, or if you are not playing well, confidence-wise, and stuff like that.

"But, if you want to make it at the highest level, it's really important you are strong mentally, and I think Stefan has that in him.

"He has started well enough to show he can become a really good player for Celtic."

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