BY IAIN COLLIN – @CCP_sport
NEW signing Bjørn Johnsen hopes Hearts can build a lasting challenge to Celtic and Rangers this season after growing up watching Old Firm battles from afar.
The 24-year-old, who was born in the United States, holds dual American and Norwegian citizenship and began his career in Norway with Valerenga.
Since then the towering 6’5” striker has played in Spain and Portugal before joining Bulgarian club Litex Lovech.
However, after penning a three-year deal to raise spirits at Tynecastle after Thursday’s shock Europa League exit to Maltese outfit Birkirkara, Johnsen insists he knows plenty about Scottish football.
He said: “I want to to be able to help out, with assists and not just goals, to help the team to win games and try to get up to the top of the league and push for it.
“This league is looking pretty tough right now. I know about Rangers, they’re just coming back, but it’s time for Hearts. We have high expectations and I want to fulfil those.
“I do my research. After I knew I was going to sign for Hearts I did my research, getting to know the team, the players, the coach, how they play, who they’re playing and which teams are better than others.
“But since I was about 14 I’ve been watching Scottish football. We always watched when Rangers were playing Celtic. We all know about Scottish football.
“The problem is Europe is changing, people want to go down south to Turkey and all these places.
“But, people have to know that the real football is here, the real history is here and I want to be here.”
The capture of Johnsen comes just 48 hours after Hearts sealed a loan deal with Charlton Athletic for former Celtic marksman Tony Watt.
With Juanma, Conor Sammon and Robbie Muirhead already on the books, the Gorgie men look to be piecing together a formidable array of striking options.
And Johnsen, born in North Carolina to a Norwegian father and American mother, is confident he will be able to make an impact on Scottish football.
He added to Hearts TV: “It’s a little bit crazy to be here but I’m just worried now about getting on the field, getting to know the guys and starting to play.
“I felt wanted, so I wanted to come here, somewhere I could start afresh and understand that the people want you to be there – family.
“At first, I went to Norway at 18 to Valerenga and played with some big players, who now play in the Bundesliga and other places.
“I bounced around after that and went to Spain and to Portugal and then an offer came to go to Bulgaria, which was a new step for me, playing Europa League and playing in the first division against some big clubs.
“That was a good step for me, to learn, and now I’m ready to come to Hearts.”