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Johansen is part of the headline act following move to Glasgow

THE more venerable members of the Scottish press corps may believe that the Justin Timberlakes are an MLS franchise.

Stefan Johansen has embraced the new life he has discovered in Scotland and the winning mentality he expected to find at Celtic Park. Picture: SNS
Stefan Johansen has embraced the new life he has discovered in Scotland and the winning mentality he expected to find at Celtic Park. Picture: SNS

However, they can recognise burgeoning potential combined with unrelenting desire.

Stefan Johansen looks out over the walkway to Celtic Park, contemplating the arrival of the Commonwealth Games and reflecting on his nights as a spectator in city concert halls and watching Timberlake, in the specific singular, and Beyonce, a popular singer, M'Lud.

The Norwegian was reflecting on how he has found Glasgow both to be a home and to be a place of excitement. The club has found him a house and provided a car and Johansen feels free to explore.

"You always want to find the good restaurants and you go to concerts like Justin Timberlake and Beyonce. The Commonwealth Games are coming up too. It is a big city and there are a lot of things to do," he says. "Scottish people are very kind. It is a beautiful country."

This is all very gratifying for the national sense of worth but it is Johansen's views on the game and how to make it at the very top that reveal the nature of the midfielder.

His first sally is to buy into a collective sense of grievance at Celtic over the perception of how other teams - particularly Dundee United and Aberdeen - seem to be gaining the praise while the champions forge far clear in the league.

"We want to win the league with style," he says as Celtic show no sign of relaxing as the finishing line to the season approaches with them uncatchable.

Of the 2-0 victory at Tannadice on Saturday, he says: "We went there and I heard a lot of people talking about Dundee and how good they are, blah, blah, blah . . . but we showed them who is the best team in the league.

"I have not been here for long but I have heard everybody talking about how they are a good team with young players, like amazing, but we showed them who is the best."

Johansen, at 23, believes Celtic have a core of good young players, citing the emergence of Liam Henderson, the 17-year-old midfielder. "It is difficult to play for a club like Celtic when you are 17," says the Norwegian internationalist. "But he has handled the pressure very well. His head is in the right place, not in the sky. He scored a goal and played well in matches for us."

There is a word of caution. "You can do it, but you have to do it over time," says the midfielder over the need for consistency from Henderson.

"He has the head to do it and that is what is impressing me the most - that he is very calm for a 17-year-old. I have seen many players being good when they are 17 and having some good matches, but then just disappear. I think he has the head to be a very good player."

Johansen remembers that as a 17-year-old he "had a talent", but adds: "It is different being good in Norway and being good here. You can be good in Scotland also but this is Celtic. The fans expect you to win the league and when you come in to the team you have to play well. But Liam has all of this, so I think he is a future star."

Johansen is sure of purpose, strong in mind. He prospers when he plays with kindred spirits.

"You can feel it immediately," he says of the pressure that comes with donning a hooped jersey. "You can see that losing is never an option and also you have to win with style.

"That is the kind of pressure I think about. If you are not playing well you disappoint your team-mates and your coach. And that is just how it is. At Celtic, it is about winning."

However, Johansen knew what he faced before he arrived in Glasgow in a £2m deal. "My agent and some of my team-mates in the national team told me that Celtic is a fantastic club, but it is a winning club also. You have to get used to that," he says.

He then gives an insight into his character. Johansen has progressed from Bodo/Glimt, a side that was accustomed to playing in the second tier of Norwegian football, to Stromsgodset, who won the national championship, to Celtic, who expect to play in the Champions League.

This climb has had a constant companion. Johansen has moved through the Norwegian national sides from under-16 level to the full squad, where he has earned seven caps.

He has thus embraced the winning mindset at Celtic. "My mentality is always like that. To take an example, I played for a small club at Stromsgodset and we were never supposed to win the league, but we had a lot of guys with the winning mentality and that is what you need when you want to win titles," he says.

Glasgow offers Timberlake and Beyonce, but it also offers him the opportunity to satisfy this ambition.

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