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Celtic's Stefan Johansen: If you can't handle the pressure you need to find a smaller club

It seems that Stefan Johansen is settling in nicely to the various nod and a wink customs of Glasgow life.

Stefan Johansen joins 13-year-old Jamie Henderson at Ravenscraig yesterday. Picture: SNS
Stefan Johansen joins 13-year-old Jamie Henderson at Ravenscraig yesterday. Picture: SNS

"I got stopped by a car the other day and a guy told me: 'if you need something, call me'," said the Norwegian. Whether the 'guy' in question had a face as hard as a rocky outcrop and the kind of menacing voice that sounded as if he'd been gargling on sharpened drill bits was never confirmed but the encounter appears all above board. "I think it's nice," added Johansen. "Scottish people are very similar to Norwegians. They are very open people and they want to help you."

Being sought out on the bustling streets and thoroughfares of this football daft city comes with the territory for those who put pen to paper on a deal with a club from either side of the Old Firm.

Originally from the remote Norwegian town of Vardo, the sights, sounds and smells of a Glasgow in full cry will be a slightly different kettle of fish for Johansen, but the 23-year-old is revelling in his new environment, both on and off the pitch.

"I knew it was a big club but when you first come here you can feel exactly how big it is," said the midfielder, who won the Norwegian league title with Stromsgodset last season before signing on the dotted line at Parkhead in the January transfer window. "People recognise you away from the pitch, but they have only been good. You can feel that Celtic means a lot to the city and playing for a club like this is what every footballer dreams of.

"It's one of Europe's biggest clubs and you can feel that when you first come here. Towards the end in Norway end I got a little bit of attention when we won the league, even though we were a very small club. It's different here, it's a different pressure."

That pressure is something that Johansen clearly relishes but he does not need 50,000 baying supporters, or a pack of drooling press hounds, to crank it up. The pressure to perform comes from within. "For me, I am the type of guy who puts the pressure on myself to do well," he said. "I don't feel the pressure from the media or fans so much, because I expect so much from myself. I think it is important in football to have self belief.

"If you can't handle the pressure, you are working in the wrong job or maybe you need to find a smaller club. One of the things I like about Celtic is that you can feel the pressure. The club means a lot to people and if we lose, we can expect to hear from the fans. As a footballer, you can't think too much about it because it will affect your game and you will be scared to make mistakes.

"But I believe in myself and I don't care about the people who want to talk s*** to me. Just let them do it because I always put the pressure on myself to do well."

Having made a positive early impression in the Scottish game, an injury picked up against Hearts last month halted the building momentum. Johansen had a 45-minute run about for Norway against the Czech Republic last week and he is champing at the bit to get back into first-team duties at Celtic.

With Nir Biton now nursing an injury picked up on international duty, Johansen may just get his chance away to Kilmarnock on Friday night.

Celtic lost their unbeaten record to Aberdeen a fortnight ago but, with the championship title in the bag, Johansen is eager to finish the campaign with a flourish and continue his development as a player. "A lot of people are saying there's nothing more to play for, but I don't think so," he admitted. "The competition to get into the team is hard and if you want to play, you have to play well every game.

"You have to entertain the fans. The people who watch us have not come to see 11 guys playing in 30 metres of the pitch. They want to see us attacking and I like that style.

"You always dream as a young kid of playing in the Champions League. Celtic have been there and it is important for us as a team to improve and experience the Champions League, especially for me, as a young player. I have never been there, but I'm starting to get some international games now and playing for a club like Celtic will help me a lot."

And if he needs any more help, he can always phone his new best friend . . .

Johansen was speaking at the Scottish Disability Sport's West of Scotland Parasport Festival at Ravenscraig Sports Facility. The Celtic Foundation donated more than £20,000 to SDS.

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