Here is a guest post by my Finnish Football Show co-host Mark Hayton from www.FCSuomi.com - talking about one of Finland's brightest prospects - defender Jere Uronen.
It's not easy being a full back. Usually, you face the opposition's fastest or most skillful player. Your immediate support are centre backs and wingers (translated: guys barking orders and guys ignoring orders), and the role has little to no recognition - noticed only when there's a gap or a mistake and even for the best full backs in history such from Roberto Carlos to Philip Lahm often had the ignominious "...for a full-back" suffix added to their list of accolades.
In the modern game this is magnified as the role of the full back has evolved. In the 1990s, full-back and wing-back were two different roles, yet in the last decade someone decided to merge those two roles and not tell anyone. Modern wingers are essentially wing-forwards (in old money) and it's rare these days to see defences set up with high lines or offside traps so basically intrepid full backs cover byline to byline.
One of our own currently mastering this tactical evolution is Jere Uronen, who has also managed to quietly navigate another of modern football's tricky areas: game time. When Genk came knocking in 2016, the then 20 year old had already racked up 100 career games in the Swedish league and game time in European competition. During this time he garnered recognition from the national set up, but little fuss was made in the media about the young Turkulainen blessed with pace, good control and positional sense. Focus, as usual, fell not on the players covering grass, but on those in fancy track suits on exotic training pitches nearing first team considerations but not what we called back in the 90s "learning the trade".
Genk's Europa League run this year took them to within a hair's breath of a semi-final round jam packed with Europe's elite. Against a strong Celta Vigo, the Belgians, our man ever-present of course, were competitive, threatening and were it not for (former KuPS defender) Omar Colley's off-night in the first leg, could have returned from Spain with more than just the two away goals. Semi-finalists in the Belgian Cup and currently on track to return to European competition next season, Genk and Jere are an improving side and have made themselves a comfortable reputation for being a testing ground for players heading to the big leagues.
So, as the Sima cracks open this Vappu and the discussions around the plight of Finnish players rev up, remember Jere. A young man with talent and determination not taking a fast track to the subs bench but working his way up the football pyramid, who earned his Vappu through graft, through competition, through silverware and continental experience. Raise a glass and give him some recognition to his achievements, he's worked hard for them... even for a full back.
Many thanks to Mark for this - you can catch up with his regular updates on the national team and players at www.fcsuomi.com