SCOTS REFUGEE

Johnny Rus­sell on why he’s glad to get away from Scot­land

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Chris Dunlavy

DERBY new­boy Johnny Rus­sell might have been play­ing against AC Mi­lan and Ju­ven­tus this sea­son – but af­ter spend­ing last sea­son watch­ing Celtic can­ter to an­other ti­tle, he’s just happy to be out of the SPL.

Rus­sell, 23, notched 20 goals for Dundee United last sea­son, de­spite miss­ing three months with a bro­ken leg.

And the Glaswe­gian’s hero­ics didn’t go un­no­ticed with Serie A side Cata­nia mak­ing a bid for his ser­vices in Jan­uary.

Celtic boss Neil Len­non also made ten­ta­tive en­quiries but with no Rangers to pro­vide even a glim­mer of com­pe­ti­tion, Rus­sell de­cided to try his luck south of the bor­der.

“The games against the Old Firm are the ones ev­ery player looks for­ward to,” said Rus­sell. “The at­mos­phere, the big crowds in big sta­di­ums.

“But in terms of com­pe­ti­tion, it’s not so great now. Ev­ery now and then, the odd team will beat Celtic. But over the course of a sea­son, I don’t see any­one even push­ing them for the ti­tle.

“I’m quite an am­bi­tious guy and I don’t want to play in any di­vi­sion just to fin­ish sec­ond, or win eas­ily. I wanted to try some­thing new and play in a league that is gen­uinely com­pet­i­tive.”

“In that sense, there’s none bet­ter than the Cham­pi­onship. It’s a great league, very de­mand­ing phys­i­cally. And it’s very com­pet­i­tive, as you saw by how close it was last year.”

Rus­sell – who joined the Rams for £750,000 – is loving life at Derby, es­pe­cially af­ter net­ting a penalty on his de­but in the 1-1 draw with Black­burn.

“I’ve taken a few penal­ties in my time and that’s the most ner­vous I’ve been,” he adds. “My de­but, in front of a big crowd to put us ahead. My heart was rac­ing as I stepped up but thank­fully it went in.

“It’s no fun to join a new club and not score. The longer it goes on, it gets into your head and you put pres­sure on your­self.

“It was bril­liant to get off the mark nice and early. As a striker you’ll take any­thing – a de­flec­tion, a re­bound, or a penalty as I got.”

How­ever, he ad­mits he would have been tempted by an Ital­ian ad­ven­ture had Cata­nia stumped up enough cash.

“There were a few bids from Cata­nia around Jan­uary time, and from what I gather they were se­ri­ously in­ter­ested,” he says.

Bizarre

“It came out of the blue and I thought some­body was wind­ing me up at first. It was just so bizarre that a club in Serie A would be look­ing for play­ers in Dundee.

“It was a weird one but it was good to hear. I’d def­i­nitely have con­sid­ered it be­cause not many play­ers get the chance to play in a league like that.

“But they never came up with the money that United wanted.”

Now that he’s linked up with Nigel Clough at Pride Park, Rus­sell is more than happy that the Ital­ian out­fit didn’t tempt him away.

“I just got a feel­ing as soon as I saw the place,” he says. “Look­ing at the train­ing ground and see­ing the sta­dium, speak­ing to the gaffer and peo­ple at the club – it felt like the right move and I’m hop­ing to stay here for a while.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

OFF THE MARK: Johnny Rus­sell cel­e­brates af­ter scor­ing a penalty for Derby Inset: Rus­sell scores for Dundee United against Celtic

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