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Jonatan Johansson: “I used to score tap-ins. Hucks scored the beautiful goals!”

29 September 2020

Much has changed since Norwich City’s 2-0 win at home to Derby County in 2006.

Both sides appointed their first manager from overseas, Wayne Rooney swapped the Red Devils for the Rams via Merseyside and Washington, and Jonatan Johansson became a head coach in Finland.

“I have very good memories of Norwich because it was a short time but I really enjoyed living there,” Johansson said, speaking to about his loan spell from Charlton Athletic 14 years ago.

“I lived on the waterfront and the guys were so welcoming and they had such a good team spirit. We did so much socially in those two or three months, so I have loads of memories actually! It was a good time. I had hoped at the time that it would have been longer and more permanent, but it was a good time. It’s a lovely part of the country, so mostly good memories.

“I came from London to a smaller town, so the players did much more together; they were out as a team much more - not just drinking, but playing golf and going out. I stayed in a hotel where we played golf and there were some lovely restaurants we went to. 

“Delia took out the players wives and girlfriends I think twice in those three months to eat, so it was socially a fantastic club to play for. I knew the place because I’d been out a few times in Norwich, so I knew some of the guys before. It was a really good time with a good team spirit, so it was a shame that we didn’t make the play-offs. We had high hopes, but it wasn’t to be.”

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Nigel Worthington’s City finished ninth in the Championship at the end of the 2005/06 season, missing out on the play-offs by 13 points, as Johansson dropped down from the Premier League Addicks to fight in the second tier with the Canaries.

“It was a difficult challenge because it was as competitive as it is now - some good teams and so many games that you need to be really consistent to get enough points to get in the play-offs or go up, as you know from a couple of years ago. 

“Consistency is the key. I came in and started well and felt I was good, but the games come so thick and fast. If you want to be in the top you need to win them all and it’s a tough league. As I said, now the standard has gone up in the 14 years since I’ve been there. There are some really good teams in the Championship.”

Derby became one of the three sides that Johansson scored against for Norwich, though the former forward admits his strikes were rarely going to win any goal of the season awards, not that he was complaining.

“I scored the first goal, if I remember rightly, which was sort of a tap-in, so typical strikers or wingers goals - not very nice! If I remember right, Hucks scored an absolute worldie. I usually scored tap-ins and he scored beautiful goals! They all count and I love the tap-ins because they annoyed the opponents more!”

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Of course, no matter how long or short your stay in Norfolk, there’s no better way to write your name into Norwich City folklore than with a goal against Ipswich Town in an East Anglian Derby.

“That was a better goal actually,” Johansson recalls. “It was my first game and I hit the post in that game as well at 1-1, so we should really have won that game. It was a big game for us and they scored a really late goal.”

Not to mention an 89th minute winner at home to Stoke City!

“That was good because I came in as a sub and that meant a lot, so that was a good goal and it was important to get that win at that point. The team was under a little bit of pressure and the fans were a bit restless, so it was a good goal.”

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Underachievement could be the word used to describe City’s class of 05/06 - one that was full of talent but ultimately failed to return to the topflight of English football.

“There were some really good players,” Johansson said. “Robert Earnshaw came at the same time as me and we had Huckerby there, Youssef Safri in the midfield and Carl Robinson and Gary Doc, and Robby Green was in goal. We had two full-backs - Fleming and Drury - so it was really good. 

“All the players from the Premiership that had played - that’s sometimes a little bit difficult as well when you come down. It’s tough to bounce straight back and all expectations were on us but it doesn’t happen automatically. It’s a tough task and you really have to work for it, but it was a good team in that league. 

“Looking at the players, they should have at least made the play-offs that year, and that was one of the reasons I came along. I had the choice between Wolves and Norwich, I remember, and because I knew the club a little bit and because I knew the players were very good I thought we’d at least make the play-offs, but it wasn’t to be.”

"I hope Teemu will win the Golden Boot again for you!"

Fast forward to 2020, and Johansson is now in the managerial hot seat at Turun Palloseura (TPS) in Finland’s top division, with ten games to go in the fight to avoid relegation.

“It’s a strange season obviously for everybody with a lot of games in a very short space of time. I took over at the bottom of the league as manager and we’ve done alright. We’ve got ten tough games left and it will be a fight right to the wire, but I’m confident we will stay up, so it’s been great to be back in Finland.”

On the subject of Finland, City forward Teemu Pukki is the elephant in the room. What does Johansson think of his Finnish counterpart, and how iconic has he become in his home country?

“I’m so happy for him. I spoke before about him, how when I was still playing in the national team, he came in as a young player and he was so talented, so skilful and had a great touch on the ball. He was quick and a good goalscorer, and he did it the hard way. He went as a young player abroad and came back to Finland and that shows his mental strength to come back. 

“That’s why he’s really enjoying his football now with Norwich and really appreciating the success he’s getting and he really deserves it. He’s one of those players I’m really pleased for and happy for Norwich’s sake that he’s there scoring goals for you this season as well.”

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“I think he scored a good goal last week and had a good assist in the first week, so I think he will be very important for Norwich again.

"You put so much pressure on yourself as a striker to try to score as many goals as you did in the last Championship campaign, but I think he gives so much more for the team as well, so I think he will be a very big player in the Championship again and hopefully he’ll win the Golden Boot again for you!

“[In Finland], he’s obviously the big star. He was one of the biggest reasons that we made it to the Euros, which still hasn’t been played, but he scored so many golden goals at vital stages in games and that’s the difference sometimes between qualifying and not, so he’s had a fantastic few years and he’s obviously made himself a real legend in Finnish football.”

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