Celtic: ‘Cultural’ Erik Sviatchenko says he’s no soft touch

Erik Sviatchenko is unveiled at Celtic's training ground alongside his fianc�e Anne Rudmose. Picture: SNS

Erik Sviatchenko is unveiled at Celtic's training ground alongside his fianc�e Anne Rudmose. Picture: SNS

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Erik Sviatchenko, it’s fair to say, does not fit the stereotype of a Scottish Premiership ­central defender.

As Celtic manager Ronny Deila points out, his latest signing is “a little bit different”. Son of the world-renowned contemporary artist Sergei Sviatchenko, the 24-year-old has inherited plenty of his father’s cultural genes.

He is passionate about fashion, photography and modern art, prompting Deila to mischievously muse that Sviatchenko may not find it easy to find much in common when it comes to training-ground conversation with new team-mates such as Scott Brown and Leigh Griffiths.

But while the Danish international is likely to put Kelvingrove Art Gallery ahead of Kushion nightclub on his list of things to see and do in Glasgow over the next few weeks, he intends to present a very different impression of himself on the pitch.

A personable individual, ­Sviatchenko’s features briefly clenched into a frown during his media duties yesterday when it was suggested some of his forthcoming Scottish opponents may regard him as a potentially soft touch.

“That would be a mistake,” he said. “I will kill them. They should see me play some games first, because they would be surprised.

“I will never be angry with anyone but when I go to the pitch I will tackle and do things that you maybe wouldn’t think as you see me standing here. It’s not like I’m ying and yang or Jekyll and Hyde… but I can switch on and I can switch off.”

Sviatchenko’s quest for self-improvement both on and off the pitch has led him to employ the services of a personal mind coach for the past four years.

It helped him become a key member of the Midtjylland side who were crowned Danish champions for the first time last year and have progressed to the last 32 of this season’s Europa League.

“I will keep in touch with my mental coach,” he added. “He’s coming over here next week. I usually speak to him once a week but it depends.

“When I have some things I want to sort out, I know what to do. I’m 24 now but when I was 19 years old I was struggling with my identity. That’s quite normal for a young guy to work out where you want to play, how you want to play, who is the coach and where are you in the squad.

“I just figured out that I wanted to be even better and to optimise everything I can so I’m optimising my mental awareness and health but still I’m a guy who does everything outside the pitch so I can be as prepared as possible.

“I’m not that special in that sense. But I like to be up to different things. My family means a lot to me and we discuss a lot of things just to be enlightened about things happening around the world. So I try to keep up. I think it’s good to have some brain activities.

“But I have respect for all guys who do other things. If they perform on the pitch, I don’t give a crap. If I’m performing, they will look at me the same way. I will go and visit all the cultural things I can in Glasgow but sometimes I will also enjoy watching a movie or playing a game of ‘FIFA’, even though it’s not that often.

“My father is an artist and architect from Ukraine so both my parents travelled a lot with us as kids. I have a brother three years older and a twin sister who is ten minutes older. We have always been travelling with our family to different museums and galleries.

“So I have been with them since I was a little kid and have seen a lot of things. It is just an interest. Some guys like something else, I like art and fashion. But when I play football I play football, and when I’m out of the dressing room I like to do different things. We have a blog called ‘Close up and private’ where the idea is to bring a different sort of thinking to fashion photography.

“Sometimes we think it might be a bit straightforward where you just stand here, so we want to develop things. My father makes collages so it could be an arm pointed here or someone eating something. Sometimes it is a bit strange but we like to do things a different way. It’s just a fun interest.”

Sviatchenko’s immediate interest will be to establish himself in the Celtic first team. Having only started pre-season training in Denmark two weeks ago after the winter shutdown, he will not go straight into Deila’s squad for tonight’s Premiership fixture against Hamilton at Celtic Park.

He is enthused about a move which has been in the pipeline since Deila registered an interest last summer and is quick to stress he does not see Celtic simply as a stepping-stone to the English Premier League.

“Ronny told me they tried for me last summer but couldn’t connect the dots,” said Sviatchenko. “I could imagine this step was good for me because the interest was there for a long period and it was important to know the club, manager, everything, was settled and they knew who I was, rather than a quick deal.

“I’m a guy who thinks about things. Not too much, but it has to be the right thing. I felt when I talked to Ronny there were some similarities to the way I wanted to play football and develop. We connected the dots and now I’m a Hoop.

“I don’t want to play football for the sake of it. I want to win things and that’s why I chose Celtic. They are a winning team and the guys who play here will be remembered for something. That’s what I want.

“Winning the title in Denmark was a big thing, but now I’m in a new place and I want to win and win trophies. I am quite a dedicated fellow and will do anything I can to improve, but first thing is to become a regular starter.

“I like to live in the present, not making plans too far ahead. I make plans maybe three months ahead, so I’m not thinking of the Premier League at all.

“I want to be the best I can be at Celtic and whatever happens in the future happens. I cannot predict the future, but I can predict three months if I do everything that I can, do my preparations, eat well, sleep well, all of the things that I can do as a footballer.

“Eventually, I might become too good for Celtic, but right now, I’m not nearly at the potential I can be and Celtic can bring me to that potential.”

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