Johan Mjallby won seven trophies with Celtic and represented Sweden at two European Championships and a World Cup as player. He recently started his first managerial role after working as an assistant to former-Bhoys teammate Neil Lennon at Parkhead and Bolton. News.bwin catch up with him to discuss goings on in Glasgow and Greater Manchester and his national side’s hopes at Euro 2016.
Johan Mjallby foresees brighter times ahead for both Celtic and Bolton Wanderers thanks to Rangers’ top-flight return and the Whites’ takeover helmed by former player Dean Holdsworth.
The same cannot be said for Sweden at Euro 2016, although the once-rock-solid centre-half has earmarked a young defensive prospect to be the Blagult’s ‘invisible captain’ at this summer’s tournament.
On Bolton’s season and the club’s takeover…
“The financial predicament has made it impossible for Bolton to push for the higher positions.
“At the start of the season, we were heading in a good direction but with the finances being so dire and no money available, it was impossible to strengthen the team and in a competitive league such as the Championship.
“If you don’t have money to strengthen the team, through loan players or full time, then you’re going to struggle.
“The season has been up and down, but they have lacked a striker to score goals and in the league you need a prolific striker.
“It’s going to be really, really difficult to stay afloat. The Reebok is no longer a fortress and their away form has been really poor for a long time now.”
“The takeover is exactly what the club needs to get back to where it should be. They need to put a vision in and go in to the squad and trim the wage bill, which Neil Lennon has done a good job of as it was really high when I first came in.
“It’s a good set up but hopefully the new owners, who will come in with the belief that they can turn it around, can right the ship.”
On his time at Celtic and the current team…
“I was lucky enough to play in one of the great Celtic teams with top players like Chris Sutton, Henrik Larsson, John Hartson, Stiliyan Petrov and Neil Lennon.
“The financial situation was much better when I played and Martin O’Neill was given more money to build a better squad than they have now.
“I think Celtic have not pushed on in recent times and have actually gone backwards because of the fall of Rangers.
“Obviously the Old Firm matches gave the clubs more TV money and I think Celtic have suffered from not having Rangers there to push them.
“If you have a massive rival, where you know you can’t lose any points or hold up, then you perform better.
“Now, with Rangers out of the picture, Celtic have lacked the competition and they have suffered in the Champions League as a result of that because they don’t get punished domestically how they do in European competitions.
“They’ve been disappointing this season, especially in Europe, so they have to look in to the club and with Rangers likely to come back to the Premiership, hopefully they can push on again.”
On Sweden’s chances at Euro 2016…
“I played in two very different tournaments; in 2000 we were very poor, whereas in 2004 we did really well. I’m really looking forward to this one.
“To be honest, it’s a tough group and we’ll do well to get out of it, but I think it’s between us and the Republic of Ireland for that last qualification spot.”
“Belgium and Italy are the clear favourites to top the group and I think Sweden are as good as Ireland, so it will come down to that match to see who progresses.
“Sweden has always been a strong team and they play a very direct style of football.
“During the last year or so, they’ve been playing far more attacking and when we played Denmark in the play-off, we went back to the old Sweden, playing as a team, direct and attacking.
“There’s no denying that Zlatan Ibrahimovic is vital to our chances but he’s become far too important for the team and if we stand any chance, we’ll need to play as a team as we simply don’t have enough stars not to.
“The main question is who is going to take this invisible armband and act like a captain from the back, where we have been weak of late.
“We have some good players at the moment such Albin Ekdal, who is a box-to-box midfielder, but I think the really interesting player to watch out for if he makes the starting team is Victor Lindelof, who is playing for Benfica.
“He’s a young, solid defender and could be a rising star of Swedish football.”
Key Man: Victor Lindelof
Prediction: Group Stages