Showing posts with label Honka. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Honka. Show all posts

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Interview with PK-35 Vantaa's Shefki Kuqi (video)

In the latest ETS interview, PK-35 have again been one step ahead of the game and recorded the answers - this time it's manager Shefki Kuqi answering the question. Kuqi has been one of the most popular foreign imports to Britain, playing for numerous clubs. Here he talks with great love for Ipswich Town, some of the managers he has worked for, the situation of Kosovo (his birthplace) and his opinions on Finnish football.





My thanks again to Samu at the football club, and of course Shefki for giving up some of his valuable time. Wish them well for 2015.

As ever, if you have any feedback or suggestions, let me know.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Interview with JPY's Tero Koskela

The latest interview for ETS is with Tero Koskela, who works for the Finnish player's union JPY (Jalkapallon Pelaajayhdistys). The work that the JPY do is crucial to maintain confidence and the integrity of the sport in Finland, and they do a fine job of it. 


What is your role with the JPY? 
Well, my title is an account manager but I'm doing everything what is needed to do in our small organisation. We only have two full time employees so we have a lots of tasks to do and of course we try to serve all of our 1200 members. At the moment, I'm focusing more on meeting and educating players. For us it is important to physically be where the players are, in the locker room. When they let us to come to their “holy place”, we know we have earned their trust.

What are the challenges that the JPY now and in the future? 
For our organization, we should get one or two employees more but that´s more of an economic issue. When it comes to the individuals (players) we need be active in open discussion about what kind of status the professional players have in our society. Our players doesn’t earn big money so they should have the same employee benefits that normal workers have. We still have too many players whose insurance doesn’t cover much if a bad injury happens.

The JPY appear to be very forward thinking with the match fixing app, the player CV database etc. Are there many more projects in the pipeline?
Of course we are open to any new ideas, but at the moment implementing these projects to our members takes big part of our time.


SJK's Juho Lähde talks about the match-fixing app

In England there is a lot of talk about young players earning big money and not perhaps having the hunger to succeed that those from Africa or South America - do you see changes in motivation for young Finns?
Big money is really not a big problem for young Finns. Earnings are often below the poverty line so being a footballer it is not very desired profession. At the same time, we have very high level of school education which ensures that everyone could retrain for another profession. We need to make our domestic football more interesting so that we do not lose our young talents to foreign leagues.

What support services do the JPY provide to foreign players moving to Finland?
We are giving them the Welcome to Finland magazine, where they can read some important facts in our culture and how the things are done here in Finland. We have a good relationship with some foreign players who have been here for a number of years and they are ready to help us if needed.

The Welcome to Finland magazine

The FIFPro tournaments in Oslo provide an excellent opportunity for free agents to try to earn new deals - do you get a lot of players trying to get involved?
In this economic climate it has become a lot more interesting for free agents. Teams in Finland often drag out their contract negotiations to sign players who participate in these FIFPro tournaments. This is one of the important services we need to develop, to help our unemployed players to find a club and give them chance to train professionally.  


After the match-fixing problems at RoPS in the past, and the large betting interest in Finnish football, has the JPY app made a big difference?
Awareness around the match-fixing issue is the best thing that has happened. We have been able to give players a thorough education through this application and to discuss openly about the risks surrounding match fixing. 
 
With MYPA and Honka having such public financial problems, what could clubs do differently/better to support players? 
These two cases have similar problems. The players have been unaware of the situation because the club´s internal communications have been very poor. Telling the truth might not have saved the clubs, but it could have helped the players prepare for what is coming and maybe give them more time to change their plans.

Various Finnish clubs have been working with JYP to promote anti-racism and anti-discrimination campaigns - which countries do you think have done well with this? 
In Scandinavia, Denmark and Norway have done a lot of really good work to promote this issue. I also have a feeling that in England, they do quite a lot of work through the Show Racism the Red Card campaign. I haven’t met any player who doesn’t support this. 

JJK players show racism the red card last week

Some players I've met talk passionately about education and having a qualification to "fall back on" - is this a culture that's promoted to young players?
This is very important for our players. Players can’t live on their savings when they finish their career, if they've been playing in a big football country that´s a totally different situation. I don’t think it's necessary for a young player whose goal is to play abroad but when they see that the Finnish Premier League is the highest level where they are playing, then it's important to have a Plan B.

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Many thanks again to Tero for his answers. You can follow the JPY on Twitter and Facebook, while Tero is also on Twitter here.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Interview with KuPS defender Dani Hatakka

Yet another interview, this time with Finland U21 defender Dani Hatakka, who has recently signed for KuPS after leaving Honka. Enjoy.

Dani in his new KuPS colours - photo via KuPS.fi

You were the second highest scorer at the recent Commonwealth Cup with four goals - is that something you've worked on over the summer?
To be honest I've been focusing on different kind of things during the pre-season other than scoring goals, but I've always been quite strong in set pieces. In the ComCup, I guess I was just in a right place at the right time four times! Unfortunately I couldn't reach the top scorer title which was only one goal away!

Dani celebrating his four goals - photo via the Commonwealth Cup website

One of your goals was a fifty metre shot from a free kick - was that the best goal you've scored?
Well at least it was the most memorable goal so far but I'd like to think that my best goal is still coming somewhere in the future..

Hatakka from the half-way line - Vine via Oskari Karppinen

You were at Honka until recently, under difficult times. Did the uncertainty about the debts and future affect the players?
As crazy as it sounds, I think the players at Honka were used to our salaries not being paid on time. Of course we worried what will happen to our club and for us players. One thing we can proud of was that when it was time to go train we trained 100% professionally and there was no space for uncertainty.

You were the first team to be managed by Shefki Kuqi, was he as passionate behind the scenes? Did he encourage the players to swan dive after goals?
Shefki is very passionate when it comes to football. Behind the scenes, he is a very warm and kind person.

After a bad start last year, KuPS improved hugely under the new coach - how well do you think KuPS will do in 2015?
So far we've had a really good pre-season and I really feel there's a purpose, whatever we do in training. We haven't played well in the LiigaCup but I feel very confident and I can't wait for the season to start!

Which players do you watch closely to learn from?
I watch Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic and John Terry very closely.

Dani in action for Honka against KuPS - photo via Heikki Saukkomaa

A lot of Finns have a favourite English team to follow, which do you support?
I don't really have a team of my own. Because I watch Ivanovic and Terry playing that way, I kind of cheer for Chelsea.

You spent some time with Udinese in 2012, did you get to meet any of their big names? Did it give you a taste for playing abroad?
Yes, I had the honour to meet some first team players such as Antonio Di Natale. It was a great experience for me to see a big organisation like Udinese so closely. I spent the week with Sulley Muntari's younger brother who also trained there at the same time. I still speak with him every now and then.

What's your favourite bit about Kuopio? Have you been up the Puijo Tower yet?
It's hard to choose one favourite bit, although I like living here. I have a good group of friends, a nice apartment with a view over the harbour and Lake Kallavesi. Kuopio is quite a small city but still there's quite a lot going on. Unfortunately, I haven't had a chance to visit Puijo Tower yet. I think I'm gonna wait for some nice day in the middle of summer to go there.

Nikolai Alho and Jesse Joronen have both told me about their 325 Media project - have they tried to get you to join in as well?
Haha, no, but I wonder why?! I think we've had so many national team trips together so they know that I wouldn't add any value to their music haha! It's great that they have a good thing going on outside of football and I'm impressed every time Niko releases a new song.

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So there's another interview - I've had a couple of messages with suggestions, I'm working on those!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Licences, cold money and Christmas

It's been an eventful December for a nation with a summer league system. The rarity of a Finnish team still in European competition, the sorting out of league licences for 2015 and some ups and downs for the Finns spread across Europe. In the absence of the usual weekly reviews, I've decided to do a recap of what has gone on recently.

Santa is an HJK fan?!

The 2015 season

Last week, Honka were denied a licence to play in Veikkausliiga in 2015. I've made several mentions over the last year or so relating to the money problems which have plagued the club. Despite new owners taking control of the club, they also assumed the debts, issues and promises. In a roundabout way to appease reformists, the eleventh-placed team was replaced by the club that came second in Ykkönen - FC KTP, who only formed a year ago in their current form due to a merger between KTP and FC KooTeePee.

In a less expected twist, MYPA have been given a deadline of January 8th to prove themselves worthy of a place in the top flight next season. They too have been cutting back on their finances, while they're looking to make up an estimated shortfall of 200k Euros, or else their place in the 2015 season will be taken by either TPS or Ilves, who have been asked to submit potential applications. MYPA are also in danger of potentially missing out on the Europa League - they were the highest eligible side in the Fair Play table, which could mean a spot for KuPS... Banzai!

Mixed fortunes

The most widely told story is that of Sami Hyypiä resigning as Brighton manager on Monday. It had been predicted for a number of weeks in lieu of their form over the season, but still a shame to see a young manager fail for a second time - his spell at Leverkusen was very much a case of Jekyll and Hyde.

In other news, Finland U21 midfielder Glen Kamara made the bench for Arsenal (but didn't come on) in the Champions League match against Galatasaray and spent a fair bit of time training with the first team ahead of the Liverpool league match. Lauri Dalla Valle returned to his former club Crewe Alexandra on a free transfer. Tim Väyrynen received an E grade in In Bed With Maradona's review of their 100 young players in 2014.

HJK finished third in their Europa League group, ending in a 2-1 defeat to Club Brugge. Niklas Moisander (Ajax), Markus Halsti (Malmö) and Roman Eremenko (CSKA Moscow) were eliminated from the Champions League.

Christmas

As the song goes, it's the most wonderful time of the year... So FC Santa Claus come out to play, Saint Nick visits pretty much every club in the country, while things tend to shut down a little bit. I've been a little guilty of over-promoting FC Santa Claus, I'll certainly cut that down. To be honest, if they ever replied to their emails, I'd be feeling a bit more festive.

If I don't blog again, hyvää joulua!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Veikkausliiga week 32 - Au revoir TPS

They made it to the penultimate weekend, but ultimately drop. TPS had prepared for a season of struggle by cutting their financial cloth accordingly, releasing/selling several first team players while blooding youngsters and (cheaper) alternatives.


Their closest rivals Honka, who were in money problems of a different kind, managed to claim a point at home to KuPS which condemned the Turku club to relegation. They drop to the Ykkönen in 2015, where they will be joined by EIF and PS Kemi, who won their promotion play-offs from Kakkonen.

The weekend's top division games were spread over Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday:

RoPS - SJK 1-2
FF Jaro - IFK Mariehamn 1-0
FC Honka - KuPS 2-2
TPS - FC Lahti 0-1


Sunday:

MYPA - FC Inter 2-2
VPS - HJK 1-1

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Veikkausliiga week 31 - Honka deliver fatal blow

After 31 rounds of football, it took one injury time goal from Honka to essentially condemn TPS to relegation. Honka were trailing 1-0 to champions HJK, while TPS were losing by the same score at KuPS. With two games left, it gave TPS at least some chance of salvation, but Antti Mäkijärvi's equaliser meant that they are six points ahead of TPS with two games to play, with a goal difference of eleven more.

Photo by Jussi Eskola

So Honka, despite a shambolic season led by Shefki Kuqi, will remain in the Veikkausliiga for another season, unless their awful financial state goes against them when applying for a 2015 licence. TPS spent the early part of 2014 preparing for a year of difficulty, and cut their cloth accordingly. Hopefully their foundations will give them plenty to build on, should they end up in next year's Ykkönen. I'm looking forward to visiting them next summer.

Below are the highlights of Sunday's matches, which also saw Lahti and SJK confirm their places in the early qualifying rounds of next year's Europa League. The remaining guaranteed place will be decided on November 1st, when HJK face Inter in the Suomen Cup final. An Inter win will give them the last berth, but UEFA's recent rule changes mean that an HJK win would ensure a place for the team finishing fourth, either IFK Mariehamn, VPS or KuPS.

SJK - VPS 0-3
FC Inter - RoPS 4-1
KuPS - TPS 1-0
FC Lahti - IFK Mariehamn 1-1
HJK - FC Honka 1-1
MYPA - FF Jaro 2-1


Highlights of Sunday's matches

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Veikkausliiga week 27 - Kuqi the clown

Not too many movers or shakers this weekend, although plenty of interesting developments as usual. Comedy defending, some lively fan behaviour and Shefki Kuqi showing off what he learned from Alan Pardew at Newcastle.


Anyway, with six weeks left of the league season, here are the scores and highlights of what's gone on...

Friday

HJK 2-2 KuPS

Highlights of Friday's match

Saturday

SJK 1-1 Lahti
Inter 0-2 IFK Mariehamn

Highlights of Saturday's matches

Sunday

VPS 3-3 Jaro
MYPA 2-1 TPS
RoPS 2-1 Honka

Highlights of Sunday's matches

Monday, July 21, 2014

Veikkausliiga week 20 - Jaro spank Kuqi

One game on Saturday (HJK v SJK) and the rest on Sunday. Most of the headlines were taken by Shefki Kuqi and Irakli Sirbiladze. Honka coach Kuqi was sent to the stands again for swearing at the ref, while Sirbiladze was sent off for also swearing, this time at KuPS fans (although he was also reported to swear at the referee). Meanwhile HJK were gifted a penalty, and RoPS won despite making eight changes.


Saturday

HJK 2-0 SJK

Highlights of Saturday's match


Sunday

TPS 0-0 VPS
Honka 0-5 Jaro
KuPS 4-2 Inter
Lahti 3-0 MYPA
IFK Mariehamn 2-4 RoPS


Highlights of Sunday's games

Friday, May 09, 2014

Veikkausliiga week 6 - Sliced fingers and sexism


Highlights of Thursday's games

HJK 1-0 IFK Mariehamn


In Mika Lehkosuo's first home game in charge of the champions, they left it incredibly late. So late in fact, that it was nearly eight minutes into the (minimum) seven added minutes before Demba Savage scored the only goal, aided by a hefty deflection. Mariehamn had played well, and were good value for at least a point, their dynamic attack creating a number of chances while HJK had plenty of the ball. Three wins out of three now for Bana, while their visitors make the journey home wondering how it all happened.

Jaro 1-0 VPS



After a high-profile launch in the week of a mini-league for the Ostrabothnia clubs (Jaro, VPS and SJK), the first match ended with Jaro keeping up their impressive recent form with a hard-fought win. Jonas Emet's 68th minute goal made the difference, assisted by the superb Hendrik Helmke. VPS are now winless in three games, and are struggling for goals in the absence of Steven Morrissey, although they did have a late penalty saved.

SJK 0-0 Honka



A niggly game, with very little in the way of talking points on the pitch. Afterwards however, Honka coach Shefki Kuqi of crying to the referee, saying "I thought I was at a women's game" before taking to Twitter to apologise. Honka gave a debut to on-loan Crystal Palace midfielder Ghassimu Sow as a second half substitute, but that's about it.

KuPS 1-0 RoPS


Another solid result for new KuPS manager Marko Rajamäki, taking his side off the bottom. Gambian defender Omar Colley got the only goal on 65 minutes, volleying in a corner, but the game will unfortunately be remembered for the wrong reasons by RoPS - they lost both Juuso Majava and Petteri Pennanen to serious injuries in the first half, and both are unlikely to play again this season. Their lengthy injury list grows, and they face HJK in their next game.

MYPA 4-1 TPS

High-flying MYPA continue their impressive start, putting four past bottom side TPS. Denis Abdulahi headed the opener before half-time (41'), and Pekka Sihvola made it two with a neat place on 57 minutes. TPS pulled one back through Englishman Wayne Brown's fine effort, but then Brazilian ace Stéfano Pinho grabbed two goals (69' and 86') to round off a fine win. Antti Muurinen's side had their Europa League place confirmed in the morning, and celebrated in style. TPS meanwhile have only the win at HJK to enjoy this year, and are in danger of losing touch with the rest of the table.

Lahti 0-0 Inter


Played on an agricultural potato field in a decaying stadium, the game didn't promise much. Both sides had some chances, but again, something else took centre stage. Joining the 'hilarious' injuries hall of fame was Inter goalkeeper Magnus Bahne, who after warming up and changing his jersey in the locker room, sliced his finger open on a fluourescent light and ruled himself out. Youngster Jere Koponen was an able deputy while the gruesome finger was stitched up. I've been assured that it was a laughing matter, perhaps not for Bahne...

Lahti's pitch on Thursday (taken by the official Inter Turku Twitter)

Monday, May 05, 2014

Veikkausliiga week 5(?) - KuPS get first point

Apologies for the confusion with the week number, the splitting of the first week threw me. Anyway, it makes sense for all if I fall in line with Player's Lehti, provider of the highlights...

Veikkausliiga top scorer Roni Porokara (photo via Sami Kilpio for HS)

TPS 0-2 RoPS

Saturday's match looked tough to call. TPS had picked up their first win away to HJK the week before, while RoPS had looked out of sorts and rarely travel well. TPS dominated the first half, with RoPS barely getting a sniff at the goal, but managed to get to half-time at 0-0. The visitors made a couple of changes, and earned a valuable three points with goals from former TPS star Petteri Pennanen (62') and Mika Mäkitalo (90').

Highlights of TPS 0-2 RoPS

VPS 0-2 HJK

HJK are under new management now, Mika Lehkosuo taking the reins after the board made an early decision. After a cup win over Haka, a stiffer test was expected at VPS. But with the influential Demba Savage returning, goals in each half from Sebastian Mannström (43' and 57') secured an important win. VPS meanwhile suffer their first league defeat of the season, and also lost Keithy Simpson and Jarno Parikka to injury.

IFK Mariehamn 2-1 MYPA

Leaders MYPA also suffered their first defeat, after the long trip to Åland. They did take an early lead, a second minute goal from Aleksi Ristola when Mariehamn failed to clear a corner. On 56 minutes, Petteri Forsell equalised from close range, before Luis Solignac made it 2-1 after 70mins, converting Östlind's cross. Without Mariehamn's points deduction, they'd be top, but they're showing why they were tipped by many as HJK's closest rivals this year.

Honka 1-1 Jaro

Who had Roni Porokara to be top scorer after five rounds? Me neither. He opened the scoring for Honka after 48 minutes, getting on the end of a deep cross which somehow made it towards the far post. He now has five league goals already. The lead only lasted for seven minutes though, as a ludicrous cross-field pass in the Honka defence was pounced upon by April's player of the month Hendrik Helmke, who scored his fourth of the season, and secured another point for Jaro. I dread to think of what swear words Shefki Kuqi used after seeing that.

Inter 1-1 KuPS

KuPS recruited former TPS coach Marko Rajamäki in the week, and he promptly earned his new side a point at Inter. Inter had knocked KuPS out of the Suomen Cup in midweek, and it looked like a repeat when Irakli Sirbiladze scored the opener after 50 minutes, after good play from Lehtonen. Estonian international Ats Purje headed in KuPS's equaliser on 71 minutes, his first of the season. KuPS remain bottom, but at least they have something to show now.

Lahti 1-1 SJK

SJK continue to pick up points in their debut season, and took the lead (against the run of play) when Juho Lähde slotted home just before half time. Lahti's pitch provided a lot of awkward bounces and bobbles, but the hosts got themselves a point when substitute Mikael Salimäki stabbed in on 74 minutes, just five minutes after coming on. Lahti are three points off the top, while SJK have five points from four games.

Highlights of Sunday's games

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Veikkausliiga week 4 - 100% Mariehamn

I've decided to do these blogs in the order of the highlights in order to make it easier to follow... Enjoy.

Jani Lyyski celebrates

HJK 2-2 Honka

Billed as "the Derby", albeit disputed by many, this match attracted the biggest attendance of the season so far (7363). HJK opened the scoring after six minutes through Mikael Forssell, before a 45th minute goal from Honka's Roni Porokara equalled the scores. Mehmet Hetemaj scored a long range effort on 53 minutes, but HJK levelled three minutes later through Nikolai Alho's header. HJK looked lethargic at times, and their sluggish start to the season doesn't bode well.

Highlights of HJK 2-2 Honka (Tuesday)

Jaro 2-1 Lahti

A second successive win for Jaro, and a first defeat for the visitors. After a goalless first half, the hosts scored twice in six minutes - a lovely curled finish from Helmke (51mins) and a penalty converted by Emet (57mins) before Lahti's "Tuco" Ngueukam got a goal back on 65 minutes. Jaro's matchday squad had seven different nationalities, but coach Eremenko seems to be getting results from them.

SJK 2-0 KuPS

A debut Veikkausliiga victory for SJK, and they won't get many easier games against a lacklustre KuPS side who remain pointless. First half goals from Spaniard Carlos Lopez (19' penalty, 32') proved the difference, and sent the vast majority of the 1747 paying customers away happy. KuPS had Ebrima Sohna sent off in the first half, and started with 41-year-old marketing manager Tero Taipale in defence. Worrying.

TPS 0-1 IFK Mariehamn

A goal on the hour from Jani Lyyski settled it, and makes a big difference at both ends of the table, even at this early stage. The result means that IFK Mariehamn have won all three matches so far, without conceding a goal. The young TPS side meanwhile have lost all three of their games by 0-1, and are weighted to the bottom with KuPS.

MYPA 1-1 VPS

An early goal for MYPA set things going, Denis Abdulahi broke the deadlock after just two minutes. But Jamaican Keithy Simpson equalised nine minutes later, and the game eventually ended 1-1. MYPA are unbeaten with two wins and two draws, with VPS a point behind.

RoPS 1-0 Inter

A first league win for Juha Malinen came at a vital time, and stopped Inter's decent form in it's tracks. An early goal from former TPS midfielder Petteri Pennanen (15mins) was the only strike, and RoPS held on in a feisty game, which saw Inter's Juho Salminen dismissed in injury time.

Highlights of Wednesday's Veikkausliiga matches

Friday, March 28, 2014

Veikkausliiga 2014 season preview

It's been a long winter since the end of the last Finnish football season. Saturday 26th October saw the final round of fixtures, which had little bearing on the final outcome. HJK had sewn up the title, the silver and bronze medal positions were already decided, while JJK were long since relegated (they finished twelve points behind eleventh placed RoPS).

So this season starts on Sunday April 6th 2014, with a staggered schedule. Six teams get their seasons started, the three matches being played at grounds with artificial pitches. HJK host Jaro, RoPS play VPS and MYPA take on Honka. In fact HJK start with four home games in their first five... The rest of the sides join in a week later. The teams that finished in the top six last year will play seventeen home matches in 2014, while those in the bottom half will play sixteen.

The 2013 Veikkausliiga champions

The pre-season Liigacup (league cup) was won by newcomers SJK after a 1-0 win against VPS, who had been drawn together in group four, both matches ending in a 2-3 away win. HJK fielded a youth side in their semi-final against SJK and were beaten 1-0, while Inter Turku had the best group stage record with three wins out of four.

The European contenders this year will be HJK in the second qualifying round of the Champions League, while Honka, VPS and RoPS will enter the Europa League at qualifying round one. MYPA were elected as the Fair Play representative, and are also set to enter in round one, and will find out in May. Honka's entry isn't confirmed yet, as their ongoing financial problems have led to IFK Mariehamn being invited to apply to take their place. After last year's abysmal showing, where every participant was eliminated at the first stage, the Finnish clubs will need to pull their fingers out to improve the co-efficient.

For any UK-based Veikkausliiga fans, there was good news this week with the news that VeikkausTV, the Finnish betting site, will be showing fifty live matches this season, starting with the opening day match between HJK and Jaro. I'm not aware yet of pricing or whether the site is viewable in the UK. If not, I'll recommend some sites that allow your computer to think it's in Finland... Don't forget that ETS is the only English language site authorised to show match highlights!

New boys SJK celebrate their Liigacup victory

Last year, I did a page looking at all the new kits for the season. Unfortunately, some of the clubs are yet to release any decent photos of their wardrobes, while some appear to be using the same kits as last season. I'll try and put a page together at some point as plenty of clubs have moved onto new kit manufacturers.

So what can we expect this year? Some of the young talent has moved abroad, there have been plenty of managerial changes and new faces could make big names for themselves. Below we'll look at the twelve teams taking part, along with a brief update on the changes at each club. The teams are listed in order of their final position in 2013.



HJK

A fifth consecutive title came, but it was fairly underwhelming in the end. Rumours that manager Sixten Boström would be replaced subsided, but the question remains if whether HJK can push on in Europe after feebly falling to Estonians Nomme Kalju. Zeneli, Pohjanpalo and Sumusalo have gone, but Baah, Lampi and Heikkinen will shore up the rear. Mikael Forssell and Demba Savage are likely to remain the key threats up front, and they have signed Danish goalkeeper Michael Tørnes. Something has to go horribly wrong to prevent another championship.




 Honka

Another winter of financial troubles with talk of big debts, but this time they lost their manager too. Finland legend Shefki Kuqi has taken his first manager job, but will be taking over a much different side to the one that challenged for the title. Väyrynen,Yaghoubi, Palazuelos, Meite and Baah have left - it's hard to see any real challenge. They have some decent young players, and may survive by virtue of teams in bigger struggle... If they are granted a licence to compete in 2014.



VPS

A surprising (but well deserved) third place finish brings Europa League football, and perhaps an outside bet for a higher finish this season. They have retained key players Sillanpää, Strandvall and Morrissey, and signed Timi Lahti from HJK. They reached the Liigacup final, with captain Strandvall the key man, and if Morrissey can score like he did in 2012, they'll have a good league season.




IFK Mariehamn

Possibly the side with the most exciting attacking options, if they stay fit... Petteri Forsell is back, Luis Solignac and Josef Ibrahim ended 2013 scoring hatloads, and they were the second top scorers in the division (with the second worst defence). Red card magnet Darren Purse has left, Duarte Tammilehto has joined, and at the time of writing, they're second favourites for the title.




FC Lahti

After a poor start to 2013, Lahti recovered with a great run including seven wins in nine games under Juha Malinen. They're now under the guidance of former MYPA coach Toni Korkeakunnas, and with a mostly unchanged squad, they'll do fine. Elder statesman Rafael (35) scored sixteen goals last year, and could well carry the burden again.




MYPA

Sexy football is back! Former Finland manager Antti Muurinen has taken the reins, and will be trying to bring a Brazilian flavour to the league after signing a partnership deal with Fluminense (borrowing three young players). Several squad members have signed new deals, but Muurinen will need to work hard to inspire more than a top-six finish.





KuPS

Surprisingly ended 2013 in seventh after a mediocre season, with rare highlights including a win at HJK and reaching the Suomen Cup final. The retirement of top scorer Ilja Venäläinen will hit hard, while various attempts to recruit replacements have fallen through. There's a decent crop of youth players, but the club will be hoping not to have to rely on them too heavily. Also heavily in debt, but it's unlikely to affect league status.




TPS

A major budget shortfall after poor performance in Europe and over-extending the wage bill has led to mass player departures and uncertainty. Wayne Brown has remained, but several youngsters and untested imports will fill out the squad. A good win over AC Oulu in the Suomen Cup will need to be built on in order to avoid a year of struggle on the pitch as well as off it.




Inter Turku

Another turbulent year, with poor performances, a lack of goals and little creativity. But the return of Mika Ojala and Joni Aho will make Inter resemble their 2012 silver medallist position. Irakli Sirbiladze can be dangerous on his day, but last year seemed disinterested while the signing of Tamas Gruborovics didn't create as much as was expected. Unlikely to trouble either end of the table.




FF Jaro

2013 started well, with Hendrik Helmke on top form and Shahdon Winchester settling in well, but it tailed off dangerously in the autumn. Now Alexei Eremenko's side have those two players back, but they have lost others (Banner, Skrabb, Jonke). Goalkeeper Jesse Öst can be superb on the right day, but will be very busy. Will struggle.




RoPS

The Cup winners are now managed by the well-travelled (and well-respected) Juha Malinen and are looking to build on a solid defence. They will need to improve the forwards, after only scoring 25 goals in 33 games last year. Their home form was decent, but hopefully Europe won't prove too much of a distraction, where home games are likely to be played in Oulu.


SJK

Their first season in the top division in their current guise, SJK have recruited well ahead of the campaign, signing several experienced players with top flight experience. Winnig the Liigacup final is a grand start, but they'll face far greater challenges. They have a large British influence on the staff, and are coached by former Derby midfielder Simo Valakari.




So that's the line-up for 2014 - don't forget to check back every week for updates. Day job depending, I still plan to do weekly round-ups with highlights. Follow us on Twitter for the latest updates and scores as well. For those of you who like a bet, good luck!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Veikkausliiga week 33 - over for another year

Six months on, everything is sorted. While last week confirmed the final major issue of who would get a medal, there were still farewells, trophies and places to deliver. Several managers move onto new clubs, HJK received the championship trophy, and several clubs still had places to play for.

Ahead of the loooooooooong winter break, there'll be posts looking at the best bits of 2013, statistical trends, and plenty of other things related to Finnish football - some will be appearing on other websites (follow Twitter/Facebook for more info). Meanwhile, here is the summary of the final round of fixtures.

HJK 4-2 KuPS

A fifth consecutive title had been confirmed a couple of weeks ago - but they finally got their hands on the trophy after a pretty open game against KuPS. The teams had previously faced each other in Helsinki in June, and KuPS came away with a 1-2 win. This time, Mikael Forssell's hat trick (6, 54, 89 mins) was decisive, although goals from Hakola and Paananen had given KuPS the lead. Mannström had scored the other (39').

Ville Wallen with the trophy - don't drop it!

HJK were unbeaten in their final twenty league matches after an indifferent start, including ten wins in the last eleven. It's lazy to assume the European exit was a kickstarter, as Honka were providing a solid challenge at the time. The key match was HJK's 4-2 win over Honka in August, from which Honka never recovered. KuPS meanwhile say goodbye to a mixed 2013 - inconsistent league form, a third cup final defeat in a row, and more financial loss. But with decent young players in the wings, some of the pieces are already there.

Highlights of HJK 4-2 KuPS

HJK finish the season top with 73 points (average 2.21 points per game). KuPS came seventh, with 41 points (1.24pts).

MYPA 3-0 JJK

JJK say farewell to the Veikkausliiga with a comprehensive defeat at MYPA - who ensured a top flight finish and an extra home game for 2014. Goals from Sihvola (62'), Sesay (66') and Anttilainen (76') sentenced JJK's young side to a fifteenth game without a win, and a fitting send-off into the second tier.

Highlights of MYPA 3-0 JJK

MYPA end in sixth place with 47 points (average 1.42pts). JJK were last with 22 points (0.67pts).

Inter 1-2 Honka

Tim Väyrynen's late winner ensured a winning finale to a good season for Honka, with a golden boot as the top scorer in the division. His seventeen goal of the season (86mins) delivered a thrilling comeback, after Guy Gnabouyou had given Inter the lead on 55mins, only to be equalised by Väisänen on 81mins. It was probably Tim's final game for Honka, whose silver medal was their highest finish since 2009.

Highlights of Inter 1-2 Honka

Inter end the season with 40 points (average 1.21 per game). Honka came second with 61 points (1.85pts).

IFK Mariehamn 4-1 VPS

VPS's bronze medal party was brought down to Earth, but they won't be too fussed in the grand scheme. Goals from Trafford, Wiklöf and Hradecký gave Mariehamn a 3-0 lead, before Tomi Ameobi's ninth of the season made it 3-1. Byskata's injury time penalty made it 4-1 - good for Åland, which sees a historic season for the club end on a high note. VPS head into Europe next summer, but will remember the day for the bronze, not the result.

Highlights of IFK Mariehamn 4-1 VPS

IFK Mariehamn end the season in fourth place with 49 points (1.48pts per game). VPS were third, with 51 points (1.55pts).

Lahti 3-2 TPS

A fantastic second half of the season for Lahti ended with a win over TPS, who will be glad the season is over... Lahti's goals were scored by Hertsi, Rafael and Nganbe Nganbe. The TPS goalscorers were Riski and Lehtonen. A tremendous push from Lahti under RoPS-bound Juha Malinen, who took over a team destined for a relegation struggle. TPS meanwhile failed to live up to pre-season medal hopes, although injuries did take their toll - and budget cuts mean that 2014 could be just as challenging.

Highlights of Lahti 3-2 TPS

Lahti end the season in fifth place with 48 points (average 1.45pts). TPS ended in eighth, with 41 points (1.24pts).

Jaro 2-0 RoPS

The meeting of the teams in 11th and 10th was resolved early in favour of Jaro - Banner (6') and an Emet penalty (19') provided their first win in 13 games, after eight straight defeats. If you'd offered RoPS 11th and the Suomen Cup in March, I guess that would have been a good result... They only won one of their final ten games, and rumours of several player changes for their new coach could make things interesting - although I'm a big fan of Malinen. Watch this space.

(pending)
Highlights of Jaro 2-0 RoPS

Jaro's win took them to tenth, ending with 37 points (1.12pt average). RoPS finish in eleventh place with 34 points (average 1.03pts).

Monday, September 30, 2013

Veikkausliiga week 30 - Honka choke, HJK almost there

I'm not in a position to actually write anything this week, other than there were four games (two were postponed due to the Suomen Cup final), lots of goals and the videos do the talking. I promise I'll do some proper bits soon, probably after the season's end... Enjoy.

VPS 1-1 HJK


Lahti 5-2 Jaro


IFK Mariehamn 3-2 Honka


TPS 2-1 MYPA

Monday, September 02, 2013

Veikkausliiga week 26 - HJK thump Jaro, Honka blank

A full weekend of fixtures, and it looks more and more like confirming the top and bottom of the table. Meanwhile, the group of teams between third and eleventh are still just as close... A quick summary.

Jaro 1-5 HJK

Since beating Honka a fortnight ago, HJK's task was clear - win their remaining games, they win the title. They kicked off on a wet Sunday at the same time as Honka, but they went about their business in style, taking four minutes to open the scoring - Mikael Forssell with his first goal in seven league games, but he then slammed a 22nd minute penalty against the post... They eventually doubled the lead before the break, Zeneli finding space at the edge of the box and firing in the bottom corner.

Forssell challenging Jaro keeper Öst

The second half had barely started when Nikolai Alho lashed in a third goal after Jaro threw away possession. Jaro lost Funicello for a second yellow after a wild challenge on 53 minutes, then Sakari Mattila made it 0-4 on 58'. Forssell scored his second on 76', meeting a cross for his eighth goal of the season. An own goal with ten minutes left made it 1-5, but it was a comprehensive win.

Highlights of Jaro 1-5 HJK

HJK return to the top of the table, with 51 points from 25 matches (their game in hand is against TPS later in the month). Jaro are sixth, with 34 points from 26 games.

Lahti 2-0 KuPS

Friday's game was a feisty affair, but was settled by two goals inside twenty minutes. The first was a slight blooper, Mäkitalo slipped while taking a corner in the 11th minute, but the ball found it's way to Pyry Kärkkäinen who finished nicely. Six minutes later, Tommi Kari met a cross in front of the goal, and Mika Hilander could only push it back out via the bar, and a goal given.

After that, a few yellow cards were brandished, and league top scorer Rafael saw red for an elbow in the second half. There were some tasty challenges, but Lahti saw the game out and it ended 2-0.

Highlights of Lahti 2-0 KuPS

Lahti, having spent nearly the whole season in the bottom two, go up to seventh, with 33 points from 26 matches. KuPS drop to 10th, with 31 points from 26 games.

TPS 2-2 JJK

Saturday's match was crucial for both sides, but the result did little to help either. Hilska gave JJK the lead after 30', but TPS equalised just 3 minutes later with a goal from Lehtonen. In the second half, Eero Markkanen said farewell (he signed on loan for HJK later) with another goal on 50', but Juho Lähde salvaged a point on 69'.

Highlights of TPS 2-2 JJK

TPS are eighth in the table, with 32 points from 25 matches. JJK remain bottom, 20 points from 26 games, ten points from safety with seven games left.

MYPA 0-0 Honka

No goals. One red card (MYPA's Ramadingaye was sent off for a second yellow in the last minute). Honka lose ground. Enjoy!

Highlights of MYPA 0-0 Honka

MYPA are third in the table, with 37 points from 26 games. Honka drop to second, with 50 from 26.

VPS 1-1 RoPS

With both teams in the huddle for the race for third, but another draw didn't help either. The goals didn't come until late, but the first was special - Jamaican midfielder Akeem Priestly picked up the ball on the halfway line and fired in from 25 yards out (82mins). A rare away win was on the cards, but VPS equalised on 86mins, Scotsman Grant Kerr with a crucial goal to save a point.

Highlights of VPS 1-1 RoPS

VPS are fourth in the table, with 37 points from 26 games. RoPS are 9th, with 32 points from their 26 matches.

IFK Mariehamn 1-1 Inter

Inter opened the scoring through Irakli Sirbiladze (65mins), his eighth of the season, but a curling 87th minute equaliser from Alonzo Adlam secured a point for Mariehamn. I don't think I've written more than a paragraph about any Inter match this season.

Highlights of IFK Mariehamn 1-1 Inter

IFK Mariehamn are fifth, with 36 points from 26 matches. Inter are eleventh, with 30 points from 26 games.