BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
BJORN JOHNSEN insists the closest he has come to recognition on the packed streets of Edinburgh is being mistaken for a performer at the Fringe.
However, after finally raising the curtain on his Hearts career with a five-star cameo against Inverness, the affable American is ready to take his place in the spotlight.
Johnson endured a frustrating wait for international clearance after joining the Jambos from CSKA Sofia, who erroneously claimed he had a watertight contract with them, and made his eagerly anticipated debut last weekend – a month after signing.
While Johnsen grew increasingly irked by the delay, it did allow the 24-year-old to get a feel for his new city which, for four weeks every year, is the centre of the cultural world.
He smiled: “I haven’t been recognised by any Hearts supporters yet, everybody just thinks that I am some other guy performing at the festival! It is crazy right now. I have seen some comedies and we see the people on the street all the time.
“Where I am living is really close to all the action, so normally I hear the people throughout the night – so that’s my Fringe. It’s not the perfect introduction but you’ve got to get used to it and throw yourself into it, it’s something new.
“Obviously this is a big thing. I read that the Fringe festival is the third biggest event, for tickets being sold, I think it’s only the World Cup and Olympics that are above it, so that’s unreal!
“My girlfriend is Spanish and I actually haven’t sat down and not heard someone else speaking Spanish. It’s like: ‘where are the Scottish people?’ It is a melting pot, which is lovely.
“It is better when you have a place where people are from different cultures and different places and you are not the only new person here. I am one of about a million here right now . . . I’m not so special at the moment.”
Johnsen’s introduction to the Hearts supporters was, however, something special.
He entered the fray against Inverness and swiftly set up up a goal for Sam Nicholson with a classy back-heel in the 5-1 demolition of the Highlanders.
With a languid gait, decent turn of pace and a maverick style, the hope at Tynecastle is that they have finally found a natural successor to Osman Sow, giving Johnsen plenty to live up to ahead of today’s visit to Partick Thistle.
He continued: “You aspire to always be at your best, so if I set a high bar then I’ll just have to live up to that all the time, which means what? Better results.
“That is what you want so I think it will be fine. I scored this week as well in [development squad Derby against Hibs] so my confidence is high.
“We have the team, we just need the consistency and we need to keep pushing ourselves – me as well. That’s what I’m going to work on this year.
“I want to help to get Hearts into the Europa League again. I was in the Europa League with my last team and I was looking forward to playing there again with Hearts. That is a realistic target with the team we have.”
With Johnsen eligible to represent either Norway or the USA, he also arrives in Scotland with international aspirations.
He has seen Callum Paterson, Jack Hamilton, Faycal Rherras and Arnaud Djoum all receive call-ups to their respective national sides this week and would love to follow in their footsteps.
Johnson added: “Of course everybody wants to play international football and seeing the other guys turn out for their countries can push us.
“It makes us realise that there is publicity on us and if we can play well for our clubs then international recognition can come your way.
“If we do well in the league then those things will come for me when the time is right. As for playing for Norway or the USA, I am open to both. Half my family is in Norway, the other half is in America.
“My family will be split right down the middle but that decision will come down to me in the end!
“I don’t really have a plan, as it will come down to who talks to me first and who shows that they want me to play.”