Showing posts with label England. Show all posts
Showing posts with label England. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

From England to Finland - changing your national team

Earlier this year, When Saturday Comes published a piece written by a fan who had changed allegiance from (probably) Manchester United to another English club. The author raised several issues about whether he could cheer players he didn't like, pay money to owners he didn't agree with, or put up with supposed managerial mind games.

Club sides are something that are usually either chosen or inherited, forced upon by pushy parents, the subject of peer pressure, and perhaps a lottery based on where you grow up. But are national sides any different? If players can change their nationality for reasons of politics or convenience, surely a fan should be able to?

The Finland players saluting the Finland fans

I was born in, and grew up in, North London. My parents aren't English, and weren't particularly into football so there was no prompt in the direction of their respective nationalities. In the mid 1980s, when I first started watching football, the only international football matches I remember on TV were World Cups (1986) and the Euros (1988). I ended up supporting England because that was the done thing. I got the 1988 home shirt, remember being taunted on family holidays to where my parents hailed, and just got on with it.

But the club I support (Arsenal) changed, not in a bad way, and the days of five or six Gunners in the England squad dwindled into the later 1990s, where half of our squad would end up playing for France or Holland. I found it increasingly difficult to go to an England match (or watch on TV) and support Sheringham, Neville, Shearer or Ince. Suddenly enjoying France winning the 1998 World Cup didn't feel so dirty, or hoping a Bergkamp-inspired Holland would win Euro 2000 would be good for the club.

I don't know if it's part of a general nationwide malaise with the whole England side that led to a drift in support, but meeting and marrying a Finnish woman would no doubt play some part - I'm slowly picking up the language, visiting Finland fairly regularly, and started my very own Finnish football website. Does that mean I support Finland?

You've got to hold and give...

Probably, yes. Not even for the selfish reasons that Finland reaching a World Cup would probably mean plenty of interest in me and the site… Perhaps it's the novelty of supporting the underdog (in most games). I'm not sure how it'd work if the Finland squad had players from Spurs, Manchester United or Liverpool, they may do better after all, but I'd be back to one of the reasons I didn't enjoy watching England. Fickle indeed.

At the recent England v Finland U21 match, I was sat in the miniscule Finland allocation, wearing a Finland jacket generously sent by the Finnish FA, with Mrs ETS wearing a Finland jersey. Despite my obviously Celtic features and London accent, I was called a "Finnish c**t" by some of Milton Keynes' finest minds, but I felt more part of the singing Finns than the grumbling yoof sat behind us.

Milton Keynes, from the Finland end

I still want England to do well in competitive games, and I'll be wearing an old England top in the summer, desperately angling a BBQ for an 11pm kick-off in June. If any Arsenal players get picked, that's a bonus… My mate still sorts me out for the occasional ticket for Wembley, and transport issues permitting, I'd go along with him. I suppose I'm still English by birth, but like a work colleague of Indian descent who said she'd support England in everything except cricket, I'm in a delicate position. At least she admitted supporting India at cricket because they're good at it.

In my case there is a caveat - I've supported my club side through thick and thin, travelled throughout Europe to see them play, spent thousands of pounds watching, and brainwashed family members in the process. I've travelled from South to North London to watch England, bought a couple of jerseys, and queued to get in pubs. 

But I know full well that if myself and Mrs ETS ever have kids, they'll be bi-lingual, as proficient with YLE's child output as CBeebies, and hopefully preferring Dumle to Mars. If Finland get drawn with England in any qualifiers soon, I'll be in the Finland end, with my white and blue Adidas trainers, Suomi jacket, and perhaps a minor split loyalty. 

Until Ashley Cole's name is read out...

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Interview with Carl Jenkinson

Ahead of England's U21 games against San Marino and Lithuania, friend of the blog Simon Peach spoke to Carl Jenkinson on behalf of the Press Association. Simon has very generously allowed me to host the interview here, while some of the text will have been seen elsewhere in the British Press.

Carl in Finland action

How is the season going for you?
"On the team front it has been great so far. I'm really pleased with how we're doing as a team and personally I have played quite a lot of games, which has been good for me.
"I think Bac's out for two to three weeks so hopefully I'll have a couple of games here and then maybe get a little run of games.
"That's good for me because I always play my best football when I've had a little run. So it's so far so good."

Is it good to drop down to the England Under-21s then?
"Yes. Hopefully I'll get games and playing for England at any level is an honour.
"When I was given this opportunity it was a no brainer for me.
"At the end of the day I want to play for England and this is a very close step to the senior side. "Of course you have to be doing well for your club, but if you're impressing for the Under-21s I am sure the message gets back to Roy Hodgson.
"So it's good for me all round. It's good to get games and they're not friendlies either, they're qualifiers. It's going to be good for me and I'm really looking forward to it."

Not many have won Under-21s caps for different countries?
"I know. It's really strange. And it's mad to think I could be playing against Finland next month. It's crazy, but football's a strange game.
"It's weird how things work out, but it would be a nice experience for me to play against some of the Finnish lads I played with before. It would be good."

Have you still got friends in the Finland team?
"Yes. They are in my age group so I've played with not all of them but a fair few of them. I've got quite a few friends there and I know the manager as well.
"I played under him, he's a guy I've always spoken very highly of so it would be a great experience and I'd really look forward to it."

You got a good reception in Finland on the pre-season tour with Arsenal?
"It was amazing and something I really didn't expect.
"I was worried I might get booed and I was prepared for that. Then to go out there and get the response I did when I went on, it blew me away to be honest with you. It was a day I will always look back on very fondly. I wasn't expecting it and it was a great feeling.
"Playing at a club like Arsenal I know I am never going to be the lad fans are always cheering. "That will always be a Walcott or a Giroud or an Ozil, but on that occasion I was the main man and it was quite a nice experience to be honest."

Carl soaking up the ovation in Helsinki (August 2013)

What is it like facing the likes of Raheem Sterling, Ravel Morrison and Wilfried Zaha in training?
"They're fantastic. They were the ones who stood out in my first session, Sterling scored loads of goal but they were all fantastic. They showed why they are at the clubs they're at.
"I didn't kick them. I didn't face them in the games at the end. We need to keep them fit for the games. I would have got a few stern words off the gaffer had I kicked them.
"They're fantastic players and an asset to any side, especially at under-21 level.

What are your memories of Finland?
"I look back on it as a fantastic experience. I played for England Under-17s and I was third choice at the time. I then had the opportunity to play for Finland. At the time I went there and was playing regularly.
"I was in Charlton's reserve and youth teams and playing international football and there weren't many people in my team getting the experience I was.
"In terms of my career at the time it was great for me. I enjoyed my time there but at the same time when England came knocking, I had to follow my heart. I've always felt English at the end of the day."

Did Mum or Dad try to sway you?
"I was lucky. I have a supportive family so there weren't too many digs or trying to sway me one way or another. My mum was very supportive of my decision which was nice.
"I am sure she would have loved me to play for Finland but she was very supportive and I'm grateful for that."

Carl in Finland kit

Finland U21s will be playing at Milton Keynes next month. Last I heard, MK had only sold three tickets in the away end. Feel free to come and join us, and make some noise.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

England v Finland, October 1976 - the programme

As part of a new series, we're looking at some classic programmes between British and Finnish sides. It's pretty dependent on which programmes I can get from eBay though...

As part of qualification for the 1978 World Cup in Argentina, England and Finland were both drawn in qualifying group 2 along with Italy and Luxembourg. Remember when groups only had four teams? The opening game of group 2 took place in Helsinki, between Finland and England, and ended 1-4 to the visitors.

So the return fixture took place on October 1976 at Wembley Stadium, and here is the match programme. It was Finland's first full visit to the Empire Stadium.

Having been to recent England internationals at Wembley, one of the first things you notice is the price. 20p! It's at least £5 for a programme for games these days. Taking inflation into account, 20p is now the equivalent of just under a pound. But, this is only twenty pages long. A penny per page (including adverts) is probably not that bad I guess.

The front cover shows a photo taken from the previous fixture in Helsinki, a goal scored by Kevin Keegan in the 30th minute to put England 1-2 ahead. Inside is a photo (and caption) for the goal, describing a delighted Keegan signalling his pleasure. A strange choice of phrase for someone in such short shorts.

England kit fans will appreciate the Admiral effort in the photo, along with Keegan's dapper wristbands.

Legendary football statistician Jack Rollins (author of the Rothman's Football Yearbook) has put some facts and figures about the two sides. A couple of them here: England are seeking their 300th win in full internationals, and that this fixture was the fifth time that England and Finland have met, England having won the previous four.

Jack Rollin goes on to give a history of England's previous World Cup qualifying campaigns. Only two short paragraphs catalogue 1966 (as England didn't have to qualify, being hosts), but a lot was made of the failure to qualify for the 1974 World Cup. There was some minor reminiscing over a pre-World Cup friendly in 1966 where England beat Finland 3-0.

The first set of pen pics shows the England squad, with brief descriptions and four photos - of Peter Shilton, Paul Madeley, a splendid photo of a young Ray Wilkins and Joe Royle. The summaries basically include the club, sum of their most recent transfer and their age.

Check out the hair on Butch

We see photos of England in action against Ireland from September, and a squad list.

Excuse the fold...

No match programme would be complete without an article on the opposition - and apparently FINLAND MUST NOT BE TREATED LIGHTLY!

Some mildly patronising comments such as "Naturally for Finland to compete at all so well at this level is a splendid advertisement for their enterprise and willingness to succeed" are quite entertaining in this more enlightened age, and then we're reminded that England gave football to Finland in 1890.

A brief history of Finnish football follows, touching on the 1912 Olympic side, and various failures to qualify for World Cups. There was a brief mention of the UEFA Youth Tournament final in Switzerland, where England narrowly won 1-0. Coach Aulis Rytkonen gets name-checked, that he was a former international himself.

We also get a bonus advert for previous match programmes, including the 1966 World Cup final, the 1962 European Cup final, and the 1976/77 Rothman's book for a bargain £2.50...

We gave them football!!

After some more adverts, for Zetters treble chances and the inter-varsity match between Oxford and Cambridge (35p for a standing ticket), we meet some of the Finnish players.

The photographs are of Göran Enckelman  of TPS (father of former Aston Villa keeper Peter), Erkki Vihtilä of Ilves, Ari Mäkynen of VPS, Ramio Vierikko of MiPK Mikkeli and Matti Paatelainen of Haka, the captain of the side and father of current coach Mixu.

Like an FA Cup match of today, the programme likes to remind us of the day jobs of the Finns, most of whom were amateurs. Vihtela was an electrician, Makynen was a fireman, Vierrikko a student, Jouko Suomalainen an insurance agent, Aki and Esa Heiskanen were also firemen, and Jyrki Nieminen a computer operator on the railway. I'd love to know what puns the British tabloid press had prepared for them if they scored...

Meet the Finns

So that is the programme. The game itself finished 2-1 to England - Man City's Dennis Tueart scored after four minutes, before the computer operator (and HJK forward) Nieminen replied for Finland. Joe Royle scored the winner after 51 minutes. England finished second in the group, on goal difference behind Italy. Finland ended up third, only taking points from two wins over Luxembourg.

Highlights of England 2-1 Finland in 1976

I'll be giving this programme away as a competition prize in the near future. Follow my Twitter for more information, and you can get your hands on a piece of history.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Finland U21s discover the road to the Czech Republic

After all the chat, explanations and stilted humour of a morning in Nyon, Finland finally learned who they will have to face in order to get to the Euro 2015 tournament in the Czech Republic.

Finland U21s, picture from Suomen Palloliitto

Let's have a quick look at who they'll have to face, if they want a summer holiday in a couple of years...


Finland played Stuart Pearce's England U21 in the opening game of the 2009 finals in Sweden. Lee Cattermole gave England an early lead, before Tim Sparv scored a penalty. A second half goal from Manchester City's Micah Richards gave England the win. England went on to the final, where they lost 4-0 to Germany. Finland lost all three matches in the group stage. The two teams also played in qualification for Euro 2002, the first match was 2-2 in Finland, England won the return 4-0.

Kasper Hämäläinen vs England in 2009


Wales were the opponents in qualification for Euro 2004 (group 9), and Finland opened with a 2-1 win - goals from Pekka Lagerblom and a late winner by (then Liverpool forward) Daniel Sjölund ensured three points, despite an equaliser by Adam Burchill. The return tie in Merthyr Tydfil saw a goalless draw. Italy won the group, Finland third and Wales fourth.

Mathias Lindström gets stuck in

The teams faced off in qualification for Euro 2013, and saw away wins in both ties, starting with a shock in Turku - Finland were 3-1 up at half-time, only for the visitors to score twice, then a last minute winner. They met again four weeks later, and while Lithuania went ahead early, three second half goals won it for the Finns. Finland ended the group fourth, Lithuania fifth.

Finland trudge off after losing at home to Lithuania

Moldova and San Marino

Finland have never faced either team in UEFA u21 competition.

Depending on fixtures (yet to be announced), and locations, ETS will be hoping to attend the matches in England and Wales. Watch this space!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Far-flung Finns - Jussi Jääskeläinen

The second part of our series on Finns plying their trade abroad focuses on Jussi Jääskeläinen of West Ham United, the longest-serving foreign player currently in the Premier League.

That Bolton survived in English football's top division for so long was quite a surprise, they were a true definition of a yo-yo club in the late 1990s. But after returning in 2001 under Sam Allardyce, they became long-serving members and even qualified for Europe in 2005. The one constant in their stay in the top flight was Finnish goalkeeper Jussi Jääskeläinen, signed in 1997 for just £100,000 (approx €125000) from VPS.

Jussi Jääskeläinen in his VPS days

Jääskeläinen made over 500 appearances for Bolton, once one of England's great clubs (they won the first FA Cup final to be held at Wembley). They were finally relegated in 2012, but the Finn didn't feature as much in the second half of the season due to the emergence of Hungarian keeper Ádám Bogdán. His contract expired, and opted to re-join Allardyce at newly-promoted West Ham, back in the Premier League. Early signs are that he's made the right move.

Jääskeläinen vs Manchester United, voted third best Premier League save (third clip on video)

West Ham were relegated from the Premier League in 2011 with a whimper, but came back up at the first attempt, and after eleven matches are sitting a surprising sixth place, above Arsenal, Liverpool and Newcastle. They've conceded eleven goals, fewer than Manchester United. It is perhaps indicative of how important their new keeper is that he is currently the top-scoring goalkeeper in the official Fantasy League.

Denying Papiss Demba Cisse in Sunday's 1-0 win at Newcastle

Winner of 56 international caps for Finland, he's showing at 37 that he can still perform at the top level. While several rumoured moves to Arsenal never happened, he's showing perhaps why they have missed out.

He was typically blunt when giving an interview to the official West Ham website after their opening day win against Aston Villa, but even a top-half finish would be a fantastic achievement. While he stated he won't consider a return to international football, coach Mixu Paatelainen must wish he had such options to choose from.

On international duty

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Carl Jenkinson - stick or twist?

Arsenal right-back Carl Jenkinson is at something of a crossroads in his young footballing career. A year after his big move from Charlton, there have been several noises made about whether he will declare a full desire to play for England at full international level. Despite his appearances at England U-17, and Finland's U-19 and U-21 teams, it's believed that he wants to represent England at senior level.

Jenkinson trains with Finland

With a Finnish mother (Swedish-speaking), of course he is eligible for both - but would he risk a potential career with the Finns for the prospect of England? England seem to have a vast reserve of right-backs these days, with Kyle Walker, Glen Johnson and Martin Kelly in contention, as well as Micah Richards, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones with recent international appearances. Jenkinson isn't even a regular starter, being the understudy to France's superb Bacary Sagna.

The likely option would need to be a loan move to a top club - but he'd need a monumental season, like Walker had in 2011/12 when he was voted young player of the year. There is potential there, but he'd need to take huge leaps to get into Roy Hodgson's plans. He's a good crosser of the ball, maybe don't rule out a right-sided midfield role.

If he were to go down the Finnish route, perhaps he would have more of a chance. Exposure to Premier League and Champions League (he played four games in Europe last season) would enhance his profile and experience, while benefitting from learning from one of Europe's best right backs. Of course he wouldn't expect to walk into the Finnish defence either, with Petri Pasanen and Ari Nyman already there.

Carl in his old bedroom

My prediction? I have a feeling he'll turn his back on Finland in the hope he'll get a shot with England. It's not like he grew up in Finland, he's an Essex boy really. But he'll need to get himself a good run with the Gunners (or on loan) to have a decent shot with either. If it's true that he rejected a call-up for last year's Finland match against San Marino, that may already be the answer.