New academy signing top finn-isher
Published: 22 Mar 2012 12:000 comments
Morton have bolstered the list of coaches for their new youth academy with a marquee appointment in former Rangers and Finland striker Jonatan Johansson, the Tele can reveal.
In a major coup, the 36-year-old, who also played for Charlton, Norwich, Hibs and Malmo, has agreed to coach the academy's transition team, which will bridge the gap between the youth system and the first team.
Johansson, capped 105 times by the Finnish national team, will commence his new role as of next season, and says he is thrilled to have been given the opportunity to pass on his experience to the next generation of footballers in Inverclyde.
He told the Tele: "I have been interested in getting involved in coaching for a while now, so this opportunity with Morton is something new and very exciting for me.
"Through Morton striker Peter MacDonald, who is a friend of mine and who knew I was looking to do some coaching, I was introduced to Warren Hawke, right.
"Warren told me about the new youth academy and we had a couple of meetings to discuss a possible coaching role. The meetings were very positive and I was delighted to accept a position.
"I will be coaching the transition team at the academy. The role will be part-time and involve working with the players three days per week.
"The players will mainly be in their late teens, and this is the age group that I love to work with because they are at a key stage in their development.
"They are making the transition from youth-team football to the first team, and as their coach, you have a very important role in making sure they are ready to do that.
"My main objective is to pass on the experience and knowledge I have gathered over the course of my career. But this is the beginning of something new for me, so I believe I will learn so much also.
"I have my UEFA B licence and will be working on my A licence in Largs this summer before starting coaching with Morton from the beginning of next season."
Since finishing his playing career with TPS in his native Finland last March, Johansson has taken a year out of the game and returned to his home in Skelmorlie.
And while he admits he has affection for Morton because his wife Jean is a local girl from Port Glasgow, he revealed that his links with the Cappielow club go much further back.
Johansson added: "Of course, my wife is from the area and I now live close to Greenock, so I have a soft spot for Morton.
"However, I have had a soft spot for them for a long time, since Janne Lindberg and Marko Rajamaki played here.
"Marko Rajamaki was a big hero of mine. We came from the same town in Finland and he played for the local team.
"He was everyone's favourite because of his long hair and the exciting way he played. He used to take coaching schools which I attended when I was a young boy.
"I was also fortunate to have him as a manager at the end of my career. Sadly, I never managed to play with him or Lindberg as they had retired just before I broke into the national team.
"They were both international players, so when they played here in Scotland, Morton's profile was raised in Finland.
"I also played against Morton when they came to Finland for a pre-season tour and faced TPS, who I was in my first spell with at the time, in a friendly.
"Then when I came to Scotland to play for Rangers, I lived in Houston and was neighbours with Derek McInnes. I used to come down to Cappielow with him to watch Morton play.
"So I know the club and the area, and I believe there is potential for the youth academy to flourish. There is a huge catchment area to attract young players to the club.
"In Finland, we see ourselves as a feeder league. There is a huge emphasis on producing players to sell on.
"I believe that in football today it is important for a club like Morton to also produce a steady stream of young talent, and that's what we are hoping to do.
"Warren has told me all about how the aim is to provide an academy the area can be proud of, and we want to work with the local community to achieve this."