STEFAN JOHANSEN admits he might have been on the soccer scrapheap if it hadn’t been for Ronny Deila.
And the midfielder has no hesitation in naming his fellow-Norwegian as his top manager while dismissing Neil Lennon who paid £2million to sign him last season.
Johansen is adamant that his dream move to Celtic would never have materialised if it hadn’t been for Deila, who first brought the player to Stromsgodset from FK Bodo in 2011.
The 24-year-old said: “He helped me and gave me a chance. Back then, it just didn’t mean that much to me. I was young and I didn’t sleep as much as I could or should have.
“When I went there he told me the right things and he turned me into a professional footballer.
“I’m very thankful for the way he told me that and made me. He told me straight: ‘This is what you need to do.’ And I did it.
“That was exactly the help I needed at the time.”
Johansen and Deila, of course, met up again in the summer following Lennon’s departure after leading the Hoops to their third successive SPFL title.
The midfield dynamo played his part in the championship success by turning out 21 times following his January switch. He will miss tonight’s Scottish Cup quarter-final replay against Dundee United through suspension after picking up a yellow card in the 1-1 draw at Tannadice.
However, he has figured in 51 games in all tournaments during this campaign while netting 10 goals to become a mainstay in Deila’s line-up.
Johansen said: “It’s important to have a manager who knows you. Ronny probably knows me better than anyone. To have him here has helped me a lot to develop as a player and I’m thankful to have him as a gaffer.”
The player reckons Deila is the best he has ever worked with. He said: “Yeah, of course, it’s difficult to say anything else.
“I was down when I came to Stromsgodset and he made it clear what I had to do better and he gave me the chance.
“He is an important manager for my career considering where I am now. To have him at Celtic is just great.
“It’s helped me. Like I say, I know him well and he talks to me on what I need to be better at.”
The international ace added: “I think I’m in the best form of my career.
“I feel that my body is responding well to this amount of games. It’s the first season I’ve played over 45 games.
“It’s just great the body is responding this well and I’m scoring goals and getting assists. I’m very happy with my performances, but there is a long way to go.
“However, I also think the team is starting to show that the team is going to get even better as we play the way he wants us to.
“This is the reason why you play football, you want to play in games where you can win titles.
“We won the League Cup on Sunday and have a Scottish Cup quarter-final tonight, it’s much fun. That’s the best thing as a footballer.”