Tattoos can help John Guidetti put mark on Celtic

John Guidetti will don the famous green and white hoops tomorrow. Picture: SNS
John Guidetti will don the famous green and white hoops tomorrow. Picture: SNS
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HIS mother doesn’t approve, but John Guidetti says there is good reason for the myriad tattoos which almost completely cover his right arm.

One of them, in elaborate script, is a line from reggae artist Tarrus Riley’s song Stronger. It reads: “We all cry, but when the tears dry, we get stronger”, and is adjacent to the image of a guardian angel.

The fad of modern footballers for adorning themselves in body art may more often than not simply be an indication of well-paid young men with too much free time on their hands.

But for Guidetti, formally unveiled as a Celtic player yesterday following his beyond last-minute transfer deadline day loan move from Manchester City, there is sincere and deeply felt personal meaning among the ink.

“It’s easy to get addicted to tattoos and my mum’s not very pleased about it,” says the 22-year-old Swedish striker. “But it’s all to do with the injuries I’ve had.

“The lyrics are from a song I listened to in my dark times and the guardian angel is to protect me from any further injuries.”

Those dark times have cast a long shadow over Guidetti. Regarded as a prodigy in Sweden – the country’s next potential football superstar after Henrik Larsson and Zlatan Ibrahimovic – he was signed at the age of 16 for Manchester City by the club’s then manager Sven Goran Eriksson.

A stunning loan spell at Feyenoord three seasons ago, when he scored 20 goals in 23 appearances, earned him a call-up to the Swedish senior squad ahead of the Euro 2012 finals.

But Guidetti missed out on a place at the tournament when he was struck down by a mystery virus which completely debilitated his right leg. Doctors suspected it was caused by eating a piece of infected chicken at a surprise 20th birthday party thrown for him by his girlfriend.

“They say about one in ten million people get that virus,” he says. “It was just unfortunate I got it at such a time. To play with my national team at Euro 2012 would have been amazing.”

Guidetti’s recovery was slow and frustrating, sidelining him for the best part of two years. A loan spell at Stoke City in the second half of last season proved unfulfilling as he made just six substitute appearances for Mark Hughes’ side and failed to score.

But he comes to Celtic rejuvenated by his appearances for Sweden’s under-21 side during the international break, which saw his performances against Greece and Turkey lauded in his homeland as they topped their qualifying group.

“My career was looking bright, to say the least, before the injury came,” he adds. “But those are the things that test you. If you give up, you don’t deserve to be a footballer. It’s the best profession you can have and I wasn’t going to give it up.

“It was the darkest time ever when I couldn’t play but I got great help from City’s medical team and the close people around me. They always believed in me to come back. So for me, playing the two games for Sweden Under-21s in the past week, and to go out and play really well, makes me happy.

“In my head, I always knew I’d come back but I didn’t know how long it would take. I think it’s made me stronger. Maybe when I’m old and wise I’m going to sit there and think it was a great thing that happened to me. You see many of these young players whose careers go from nothing to ‘Wow’ in a matter of seconds, it’s easy to fly away and think you’re better than you are. You maybe forget to go into the gym before training or stay out after for extra minutes.

“Football goes quickly if you don’t keep on top of it. So maybe this was meant to be and I try and stay on top of my game and not fly away. Even if I have a great performance I keep working hard and stay motivated. This was meant to be.

“People talk about me not having fulfilled my potential but it’s difficult to do that when you’re not playing. You can’t just say ‘he’s no good anymore’ when a player has been injured.

“I had an unfortunate spell at Stoke, but I was never really given a chance there. If I started ten games in a row and didn’t score, then fine, that would have been a chance not taken. But to come off the bench six times for ten minutes here and there, that’s difficult.

“Look at the games I’ve played lately – in my last four games for Sweden Under-21s, I’ve scored four goals. That’s not bad.”

Guidetti, who has been allocated the No 9 jersey by Celtic, hopes to make his debut against Aberdeen tomorrow.

The dramatic nature of his signing, with special Fifa dispensation required as some documents were not fully processed before the transfer window closed, has increased his eagerness to make a positive impression in Glasgow.

“When I left Celtic Park that Monday night, I was almost 100 per cent sure the move wasn’t going to happen because of the paperwork problems,” he admits. “But since it got the all-clear, I have been buzzing.

“I won’t be able to play in the Europa League group stage unfortunately, but nothing negative entered my mind about coming to play in Scottish football. I grew up knowing about Celtic, with Henrik Larsson and Johan Mjallby playing here.

“I also made a good connection right away with the manager, Ronny Deila. He really knew who I was, as a player and a person, and that’s a major reason why I chose to come here.”