Skip to main content Skip to site footer
League One

Johansson reflects on Rotherham’s record-breaking campaign

5 May 2022

In amongst the sea of red and white packed into the uncovered away end at the MEMS Priestfield Stadium, speckles of blue and yellow could be spotted across the stands, deviating from the traditional colours of Rotherham United.

Those jerseys belonged to the family of Millers keeper Viktor Johansson, who made the journey over from his native Sweden two short weeks ago to see the stopper in action and swapping shirts before boarding a plane back to Scandinavia.

A 2-0 win over Gillingham on their travels not only secured promotion from the Sky Bet League One at the first time of asking but set a new Club record of clean sheets in the process, registering 27 shut-outs over the course of the campaign and only conceding 11 goals away from home.

"It was Josh (Vickers) that told me after the game that we'd done it," he explained. "I said, 'what have we done?' He said, 'we've broke the record.' It's a nice pat on the back for both of us; we work as a team and we are a team, at the end of the day.

"The whole back three, four or five, or whatever we play, have been brilliant. Without those defenders in front of us, we couldn't have done it."

shutterstock_editorial_12916853fe.jpg

And the Swede, who kept 11 clean slates himself in 26 League appearances, could be seen running the length of the pitch to join his team-mates after Irishman Georgie Kelly struck on his debut to all but seal the deal for Rotherham.

“It’s topped my expectations this season,” Johansson gasped. “We just needed to get over the line.

“It’s unbelievable, to be honest. After last season, we knew our goal – we wanted to get up. To do it with these boys is fantastic. I couldn’t be more happy at this moment in time.”

Biding his time was key for Johansson, who was called upon to step into the breach following a hand injury to team-mate Josh Vickers.

And the keeper, who had already turned out over 20 times for the Millers despite acting as Vickers’ understudy for the most part, was more than ready to pick up his gloves, taking up his place between the sticks at Wembley for the Papa Johns Trophy Final.

“When I’m on the bench, I’m a nervous wreck,” he laughed. “I’m more of a supporter when I’m actually on the bench. Me, as a person, I like to get out there and support the boys.”

He added: “Me and Josh get on really well and we support each other, whoever’s in goal,” he explained. “I got the full support of him, and even Josh Chapman as well, our young keeper who has been sitting on the bench and doing really well.

“Andy Warrington as well, our goalkeeping coach – we work day in, day out, and it’s nice to see that it’s all paid off. We push each other every day, especially the goalkeepers. We want the team to do well and for that to happen, we need to do well.”

It was around this time at the start of last season that the 23-year-old was stood by his hotel room sink washing his clothes after touching back down in the UK with nothing but the bare minimum.

He received the call that the South Yorkshire side wanted to take the Swede on trial and, despite struggling with his initial move to the country, jumped on a flight only to find he hadn’t packed enough underwear.

"I didn't have any clothes for six weeks!" he remembered. "I came over with my hand luggage and I don't know what I was thinking. I couldn't go back and get my bags.

"I was stuck in the hotel for two weeks, then when I trained with Rotherham, I couldn't wash my clothes or anything. I was there in my bathtub having a bath and washing my clothes. It felt like I was back in the 1920s!

"I had to go out once every week to buy new clothes, but it worked out well so I can't complain."

Upon signing, the Millers' number one wasn’t introduced to the supporters until the beginning of this season, with games staged behind closed doors as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic - although he admitted it benefitted him to be eased into life in the second-tier.

And even he couldn’t have foreseen what was to come after putting pen to paper with Paul Warne’s side.

shutterstock_editorial_12448739cl.jpg

“Never,” he replied. “I said to my dad last season that I didn’t even expect to play a game. I signed as a second-choice keeper and I didn't have any experience, because we had Jamal Blackman as well on loan.

"It’s just mad. To get this experience has helped me so much, like today teaching me to keep the composure.”

But it's always been in the genes for Johansson. His dad, who enjoyed a career in the lower leagues back home, has helped the keeper along the way, following his move to England to join Aston Villa and, later, Leicester City, briefly standing in as his coach.

“He made me play as a striker and a centre-half when I was a kid to get into the mindset of how they think,” he recalled. “Both my mum and dad never pushed me. They just said, ‘do it because you enjoy it’. They stopped driving me to training practice just to see me take the bus and come home late.”

Whilst this season has superseded even his own hopes, it’s been something of a rollercoaster ride, according to the stopper.

“This season has been up and down,” he continued. “We started off brilliant in the first half. Even two-thirds of the season were really good.

“We’ve gone into a dip, but we managed to get through that and that’s what good teams do. We went back to basics again and we knew what had to be done.”

Johansson has morphed into his nickname of ‘the Viking’ and, at times, quite literally given his blood, sweat and tears for the cause; never more so than when he launched his own beanie hat range in collaboration with his new Club, which he could be seen wearing whilst wandering around the pitch under the arch.

“I only own one, but my dad took it when he came over, so I don’t have one at the moment to put on!” he exclaimed. “I love the fans and I love what they do. It’s nice a little pat on the back.

“It started on the commentary. John Breckin said, ‘he’s like a Swedish Viking’, and it’s just stuck.”

RUFC v Sutton - 373 - In the Dressing room.jpg

Living up to his tag, the stopper was more than ready to do battle for a top two finish to avoid another visit to the National Stadium. The Millers made a double swoop for the Papa Johns Trophy, before coming runners-up in the League standings.

Boss Paul Warne goes down as one of Rotherham’s most successful manager, as the season draws to a close.

“At Wembley, it was different,” he said. “I had nothing to lose and I could just go out and enjoy it.

“This was more pressure, I’d say. Here, it was for all the fans that have been supporting us all season and showing up to games, especially these last six or seven games which have been unbelievable.

“I’m full of emotions. It’s just been crazy.”


Advertisement block