Thrills and spills of Viktor Johansson, the goalkeeper Rotherherham United fans adore

VIKTOR Johansson emerges from the players' tunnel with a large dark patch staining the front of his khaki-green hoodie.
Goalkeeper Viktor Johansson acknowledges supporters at the end of Rotherham United's 1-1 Championship draw at Southampton. Picture: Jim BrailsfordGoalkeeper Viktor Johansson acknowledges supporters at the end of Rotherham United's 1-1 Championship draw at Southampton. Picture: Jim Brailsford
Goalkeeper Viktor Johansson acknowledges supporters at the end of Rotherham United's 1-1 Championship draw at Southampton. Picture: Jim Brailsford

“What have you been spilling down yourself?” I ask.

“Bottle of water, Mate,” he grins. “It's gone everywhere. Nightmare.”

The Rotherham United goalkeeper has just turned in a man-of-the-match performance - yes, another one - to help his side produce an against-all-odds comeback and earn their first Championship away point of the season at Southampton.

He wanders out, as amiable as ever, to talk to the media on the touchline at St Mary's Stadium. The Swede's English is as flawless as his display has been, there's just a touch of a Scandinavian accent.

Twenty minutes earlier, he'd been leading the revelry with the 1,000-plus away following who'd watched their team get blown away in the first half only to then blow a hole in the Saints' expectations of an easy afternoon with a Jordan Hugill second-half worldie.

Johansson and the fans are often mentioned in the same sentence. Rarely have Millers supporters taken a player to the hearts - and vice versa - in the way they have the 25-year-old.

“For so many people to pay their hard-earned money and show up away from home to support the boys is brilliant,” he says. "We said before the game, the least we can do is give something back.

"Our away form hasn't been the best so full credit to all those fans who made such a long journey. They kept singing, they kept cheering.”

The Millers' second-half response to being ripped apart and going a goal down had been something to behold.

“That was more like an ‘us’ performance,” he says. “We blocked shots, put in tackles. We made it tough for Southampton.

“The result is massive for us. We have been a bit low on confidence away from home. We had a point to prove and I think we proved it.

“We got together as a group. We say all the time. we're like a family. And we really are. We showed belief in each other.

“It's been tough this season. We know we're a good team. We just need that belief.”

Among a multitude of standard saves have been three huge ones, crowned - almost literally - by the 60th-minute intervention to keep out Will Smallbone's whip of a shot that changed direction through a Lee Peltier block.

Johansson chose an unconventional method. “It was a deflection and it came at me very quickly,” he says. “I didn't know a lot about it, to be honest with you. I turned, dived and managed to get hit on the head!”

Not long afterwards, substitute Hugill had his moment in the south-coast October sun, directing a quick-thinking volley from well outside the penalty area over the Southampton keeper into the back of the net.

“We knew if we stayed in the game we'd get a chance,” the keeper says. “Jordan comes on and ... I don't know how he scores. It was a brilliant goal from him.”

The scenes in the away section, at the opposite end of the pitch, that greeted it, well, of course they involved a certain someone. “Amazing,” he says. “I just had to run over to that corner. I was as happy as anything

“We said before the match, the one thing we can do is stay in the game. We had to do that and be compact and hard to beat.

“You see Lee and Hally (Grant Hall) blocking shots left, right and centre. Then Christ (Tiehi) went to centre-half and did a wonderful job. Everyone played really well. All those tackles ... it was so good to see.”

It's a great way for Rotherham to go into the international break during which time Johansson will still be a busy man as he’s earned a fourth consecutive call-up from his country.

“Your gaffer says you're the best goalie in the Champ,” I tell him and he deflects the comment away as if it's an opposition shot speeding towards the top corner.

“We want to win games at the end of the day,” he says. “Today we managed to get a draw which, in my opinion, felt like a win because we'd gone a goal down and been on the back foot. I'm just happy to play.

“I'm there to make saves. If I don't save shots there's no point me being in the team.”

Interview over, he stays to chat for a whole, still clutching the offending bottle with which he's inadvertently adorned his club-issue gear.

It's the only thing he's dropped all day.