His record at Rangers did not suggest he deserved to be an outcast in Scotland, yet supporters and, more importantly, manager Dick Advocaat simply didn’t have faith in Finnish striker Jonatan Johansson.
It was a mystery to the player who had started his career as a winger with Finland’s TPS Turku and made his name at Flora Tallinn in Estonia. With his mix of pace and ball control, he eventually developed into a striker and made that switch with instant success.
He scored on his debut for Finland in Kuwait in March 1996, appearing as a substitute to grab the only goal. A year later Rangers signed himon the then Finland boss Richard Moller Nielsen’s recommendation.
With an impressive tally of 24 goals in just 37 games for Rangers, Johansson had every right to expect an extended run. Instead, he was left in no doubt that his status was little more than stand-by striker, leaving him with no option but to move on.
More than a few Rangers fans scoffed at the suggestion that he could make the step up and become a success in the more competitive English Premiership, yet Charlton boss Alan Curbishley did not see his œ3.75million signing last summer as a gamble.
His faith has been rewarded with some outstanding performances from the 25-year-old. “I have happy memories from my time at Rangers but never really had a proper chance to succeedthere,” says Johansson. “Every time I got in the side I scored but that didn’t seem to be enough. They said I was taking a step back by moving to Charlton, but I never saw it like that. What has happened this season proves that it was the right move for me. I’m loving it here.”
The fact that Johansson has figuredamong the Premiership’s top goalscorers suggests his doubters may have made an error in letting him slip from their grasp. Charlton may not be one of the big names in English football and were many pundits’ tip to be relegated this season, but with Johansson’s help they seem assured of a continued stay in the top flight. “I knew there was potential here and the manager was in no doubt we had a squad capable of staying in this league,” he says. “We’re looking to do a bit more than just survive.
“Most Scandinavian youngsters dream of playing in England and I was no different. We always used to watch the English matches on TV. I imagine a lot of people in Finland are now looking at me when Charlton games are on.”
Rangers’ loss seems to be Charlton – and Finland’s – gain.
Club Charlton Athletic (Eng)
Born August 16, 1975, in Stockholm
Previous clubs TPS Turku, Flora Tallinn (Est), Rangers (Sco)
International debut March 1996, v Kuwait
International caps 29 (9 goals)
Honours Scottish League 1999, 2000; Scottish Cup 1999, 2000; Scottish League Cup 1999