Hearts’ Bjorn Johnsen hopes to earn either Norway or USA call

Bjorn Johnsen, centre, is aiming high as he targets domestic success and an international call-up after finally beginning his Hearts career. Pic: SNS

Bjorn Johnsen, centre, is aiming high as he targets domestic success and an international call-up after finally beginning his Hearts career. Pic: SNS

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INTERNATIONAL honours are high on Bjorn Johnsen’s agenda given he is eligible to represent both the United States of America and Norway. He believes Hearts, in time, will help him fulfil that ambition.

The giant striker isn’t sure how his family might react since half are Norwegian and the other half American. The 24-year-old was born in North Carolina to a Norwegian father and an American mother and, as such, could play for either nation.

He saw Hearts colleagues Callum Paterson, Jack Hamilton, Faycal Rherras and Arnaud Djoum called up by their countries this week and is eager to follow suit in the future.

“Everyone in the dressing-room is happy seeing that because it pushes us to be better,” said Johnsen, who finally made his debut in maroon last week after a month-long wait for FIFA to clear his transfer from Bulgaria.

“It makes us understand that there is publicity around us. We have to play well for these guys to stay in the team. We want to do the same for them so that we’ll get that back.

“It also pushes you for the league. We all know that, if we do well in the league, those things will come. I think those things will come for me as well, when the time is right. I can’t wait.

“Half my family is in Norway, half is in America. I don’t really have a choice who I’d play for, it really just comes down to who talks to me first and who shows that they want me to play for them. Then I’ll sit down with my father and take the decision.

“Of course, my house will be split on where I should go, but the decision will come down to me in the long run. Ultimately, that will come. I don’t need to think about it right now.”

More pressing is the season ahead as he tries to adapt to the frenetic nature of Scottish football. Johnsen is crystal clear on what he wants from his first season at Tynecastle.

“I want to get to the European tournaments again. I was in those before [in Bulgaria, with Litex Lovech] and I want to be in them again. I was looking forward to playing there this year but we went out, which was hard. I think it’s better for us to focus on the league and the Scottish Cup right now.

“It might be something we can aspire to next year. We’ll have a new stadium by then and all these things will come into place. I think it’s better that we focus on two things right now. Europe is a realistic target with the team we have.”

European and international football are the pinnacle of any player’s career and Johnsen viewed Hearts as the vehicle to help him on both fronts.

“That’s probably the reason I came here. I trained for a couple of days before signing and I realised this team is good,” he said. “I got to play in a bounce game and all the players I saw in the lead-up to signing contracts and waiting for the registration to go through were all pros. There were no cons. That helped me make my decision.”

An impressive backheeled assist for Sam Nicholson on his debut helped ingratiate Johnsen with fans. He followed it up with a goal in the midweek under-20 derby against Hibs.

“If I’ve set a high bar, then I have to live up to that all the time. Which means what? Better results. I think I’ll be fine,” he stated. “I scored during the week so my confidence is high. I think we have the team but not the consistency yet. We have to keep pushing ourselves, and that goes for me as well.

“The under-20 games are crazy because they just don’t stop running. My fitness is good, my problem is just getting used to the whole game. It never stops in Scotland, never. There’s a throw-in but it still doesn’t stop. It’s just a little bit stressful for me but, other than that, I feel good.”