Showing posts with label IFK Mariehamn. Show all posts
Showing posts with label IFK Mariehamn. Show all posts

Friday, April 14, 2017

Veikkausliiga kits 2017

Every year, I start the season by looking at the kits to be worn in the upcoming Veikkausliiga season. I'm a big fan of football kits, although sometimes they do get a bit boring... This year, we're looking at a variety - some awesome, some incredibly dull. Make your own mind up!

IFK Mariehamn - Puma

HJK - Adidas

SJK - Adidas

VPS - Puma

 Ilves - Adidas

RoPS - Puma

KuPS - Puma

Lahti - Umbro 

PS Kemi - Stanno

HIFK - Puma

Inter Turku - Nike

JJK - Nike

If you fancy getting your hand on these, click on the club shop tab at the top - most are readily available...

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Veikkausliiga predictions 2017

Last year, during my Lumi-related hiatus, some of the Finnish Football Show extended family did some predictions ahead of the 2016 Veikkausliiga season. No-one called IFK Mariehamn's title. Now I'm back, and while it's lumi of a different kind which is having an effect, let's see what we can see.

Your name:  Henry Hakamäki
Twitter handle/Website: @Huck1995 Finnish Football Show and Shorts Contributor

Title Winners:  HJK.  And unfortunately, I don’t see the title race coming down to the last day of the season, as we’ve been blessed with the last two seasons.  After the past two seasons of (comparative) failure, at least according to HJK standards, they’ve really reloaded this summer and have looked really strong in the Suomen Cup this pre-season.  Last season’s title winners IFK Mariehamn have a lot of their title winning side, and SJK has through injury and transfers lost a lot of their team’s spine, so it’s hard to see them playing to the standard they set last season.  If Tanaka manages to finally stay healthy this season, Morelos continues to play to his incredible level from last year, and the incoming Demba Savage, Mosa Yaghoubi, Faith Obilor, Juha Pirinen, Hannu Patronen, et al. make an impact as soon as they come in, watch out.  The rest of the league will have trouble keeping pace, and HJK could even do a bit of damage in Europe this year if they get a decent draw.

Bottom two:  Kemi Kings and JJK.  Kemi was lucky to avoid relegation last season, which was mainly due to the dumpster fire that was PK35, and the sheer incompetence of Inter Turku despite having quality players.  Needless to say, Kemi had one bright spot last year, Billy Ions, who left halfway through last season to join SJK, and they haven’t really done anything big in the transfer market to expect better from them this year.  If the young players they picked up can make a big impact right away, they might have hope, otherwise it could be a long season for our friends from Kemi.  Meanwhile, as much as I hate to say it, JJK looked absolutely abysmal in the Suomen Cup, finishing with 7 goals for (4 were in one game against Kakkonen side Mikkelin) and 19 goals against (including a 9-1 thumping against KuPS) in only 5 games.  Their side is basically the same side that won the Ykkönen last year, but their only additions were the midfield additions from KuPS, Patrick Poutiainen and Saku Leppänen.  If the Suomen Cup was any indication, expect them to ship in a crapload (scientific measurement) of goals and struggle this season.  

Player of the Year:  I always tend to see the Player of the Year as the player most responsible for a team winning a title or over-performing dramatically.  Therefore, I am going to cheat a little in this category and say that if HJK win the title in a landslide, the MVP will be Alfredo Morelos, who will likely be the league’s leading scorer as long as he doesn’t get transferred out to a bigger team halfway through the season, with Mosa Yaghoubi coming in second in the PotY race.  However, if Ilves push HJK whatsoever, or possibly even do the unthinkable and snatch the title, Emile Paul Tendeng will almost certainly be the Player of the Year.  Seeing as the former scenario is more likely at this point, I’m going to give the odds to Morelos.  

Dark Horse (Team that will do better than expected):  Ilves.  Ilves and Inter Turku both look like they could challenge, though with Inter something always seems to go wrong and they under-perform, so I’ll go with Ilves.  Jarkko Wiss did an incredible job last year of taking an Ilves team that was widely expected to be one of the teams that would be fending off relegation and turning them into a legitimate decent team.  With another off-season under his belt at the helm, holding onto Emile Paul Tendeng (one of last season’s best players), and adding more experience in the backline with the incoming Jani Tanska and Teemu Penninkangas, as well as an exciting attacking player (what they lacked last year outside of Tendeng) Tuco, and a few promising youngsters in Youness Rahimi, Eero Tamminen, and Iiro Järvinen, Ilves could be posed to at least make things interesting for HJK, and a European place is a reasonable minimum goal for them.

Biggest Disappointment:  IFK Mariehamn.  Until this past week, it would have been (unfortunately, as I love them) RoPS. They lost a lot of big players in the off-season and didn’t really replace anyone, and they had a pretty horrific financial report come out which didn’t instil confidence that they would remain a mid to upper table Veikkausliiga team.  However, within the last week they picked up Ivan Tatomirovic and David Addy to shore up their back line, and Sani Kaita to join captain Antti Okkonen, freshly back from injury, to close up shop and keep their goals conceded figure low.  Keeping Robert Taylor and picking up Sakari Tukiainen (who bossed the Estonian league) in the offseason at least gives some signs of life.  Meanwhile, IFK Mariehamn lost their best two attacking players in Dever Orgill and Diego Assis, promising young midfielder Thomas Mäkinen, and reigning Veikkausliiga goalkeeper of the year Walter Viitala, and haven’t sufficiently replaced them this offseason.  Robbin Sellin comes in to fill in the midfield, and Lucky Mkosana arrives from the New York Cosmos to try to get the goals for the side, but that’s pretty much it.  Their main hope for not having a disastrous season is that they are still run by last year’s miracle workers Peter Lundberg and Kari Virtanen, and Jani Lyyski (who was my personal Veikkausliiga MVP last year) will still be in the heart of the defense and acting as a coach on the field.

Most important signing of the year:  Mosa.  If Mosa keeps his head down and keeps working hard all season, he could be the piece that’s been missing for the last two years for HJK.  Perhaps his recent call ups to the Huuhkajat will help him refocus himself, and if so, his addition makes HJK’s attack terrifying.  Mosa could be the player to bring the most out of Tanaka, Akseli Pelvas, Demba Savage, and Morelos.  If he can be the glue that helps these guys gel together, there’s no team in the league that won’t struggle to stop HJK from putting up goals.  And as much as I’m hoping for the title race to come down to the wire, I’m hoping for a great season for Mosa to help get him back on track, even though a great season for him most likely means a non-competitive league.  Timo Furuholm for Inter could also play himself into contention here, he’s a proven quality Veikkausliiga player, and Inter could rely on him to fire them into European places, which would be big after the past couple seasons.

Young Player of the Season (22 or younger):  Rob Taylor.  So, Mosa is 22, but if I have him listed as #2 for Player of the Year if HJK win in a landslide, and as the most important signing, I’m going to spread the love a bit to another fantastic young attacking talent in the Veikkausliiga.  Rob Taylor was great last season with RoPS, and looked decent at the international level as well when he got to trot out for the Huuhkajat (missing sitters notwithstanding), and I expect that he will continue to grow as a player and have a big season.  As I said, RoPS had a questionable off-season until they picked up some defensive players, but they are still lacking in the firepower department, so I anticipate that manager Juha Malinen will give young Rob the keys to the car and let him run the show a little higher up the pitch than he maybe did last year.  Expect him to bag a decent amount of goals and assists, and have most of their attacking moves run through him.

Manager of the Year:  Jarkko Wiss.  Gotta give it to Wiss, he did a tremendous job last year with Ilves, and I expect them to be one of the strongest challengers this season.  For a team that two years ago got into the Veikkausliiga on luck alone and managed to cling onto their league status despite losing former manager Keke Armstrong partway through the season, Wiss has done an incredible job of stabilizing the club since he’s come in and getting his squad to overperform.  Plus, he seems like a genuinely good guy, and that’s got to count for something, right?

What are you most excited for in this season?:  The past two years we’ve been spoiled with incredible title races, but that’s not likely to happen this year.  And I would have said the return of JJK to the Veikkausliiga, but if their Suomen Cup results were any indication, it will be more trainwreck than triumphant return.  So I guess I’ll have to go with Inter Turku games.  Their team is looking strong, and while they likely will underperform (as is the norm), they should at the very least score a lot of goals, and that always makes for fun viewing.

What are you least excited for?:  Kind of the theme of my whole set of predictions, HJK should run away with the league, and with the amazing finishes we had to the title races for the last two years, culminating in two first time Veikkausliiga Champions (SJK and IFK Mariehamn, respectively), this year looks like we will go back to the theme from the five straight years before that, where HJK just crushed everyone in their path to the title.

(As a brief aside, if anyone wants to give me something to be happy about, has had detailed stats and player ratings for the Swedish and Norwegian leagues for the past few seasons, and I’ve been trying to get them to cover the Veikkausliiga as well. Would be great to have some analytical based player ratings for the league, so if you want to help me out, tweet to @whoscored and tell them to get player ratings for the Veikkausliiga this year! Every tweet to them is extra incentive for them to do it!)
Your name: Mark Hayton
Twitter handle &/or website: @FCSuomi / / The Finnish Football Show

Title Winners: HJK - Mariehamn and SJK are weaker this season, Hannu Patronen, Moshtagh Yaghoubi, the return of Demba Savage and retaining Alfredo Morelos should see Klubi take it at a canter.

Bottom 2: JJK and PS Kemi, a shame because it's another damn fine shirt from Kemi this season.

Player of the Year: If he stays and keeps his head Moshtagh Yaghoubi, if not it usually falls to Antony Annan to keep HJK together.

Dark Horse (Team that will do better than expected): Are Ilves a dark horse? They look like HJK's strongest challengers, you also have to mention Inter Turku. 

Biggest Disappointment: Probably RoPS, who didn't pull up any trees in Suomen Cup and have had a quiet pre-season. 

Most important signing of the year: Timo Furuholm. He is nailed on gonna get 20 goals for Inter at least.

Young Player of the Season (22 or younger):  Mosa is still 22, but if and if, I'm hoping Robert Taylor will push on also keep an eye out for Irfan Sadik at Lahti Berat's younger bro.

Manager of the Year: Jarkko Wiss. 

What are you most excited for in this season?: Shefki. On paper that team could win the league, but it never seems to work like that... there will be fireworks on the west coast this season though, that's for sure.

What are you least excited for?:  the final two months of the season when HJK have it in the bag... but then they can't all be like last season.

Name: Juhavaltteri Salminen
Twitter: @jvsalminen

Title winners:  HJK have looked very good in pre-season, and anyway, they screwed up badly to not win the title the last two years. I'm not sure their decision to stick with Mika Lehkosuo was an ideal one, but the way they've been playing and the sheer quality of their players should make sure the season doesn't end in another disaster.
As far as challengers go, KuPS look very strong. SJK's pre-season has been quite ridiculous off the pitch, but I expect them to find form sooner or later and challenge at the top.

Bottom 2: It's not looking bright for JJK, is it? They've got a few quality players, but to me they just seem to be lacking the necessary depth. It's weird how they couldn't keep the promotion-winning side together, and pre-season hasn't showed much signs of improvement. In my head it's a tight race for the other spot between HIFK and PS Kemi. I'd say HIFK will just edge it with their experience and slightly better playing squad. Losing Ryan Gilligan right before the start of the season is a blow for PS Kemi.

Dark horse: Well, I have no clue what to make of FC Inter. They've made some good signings and, provided their foreign acquisitions prove to be good players, their starting 11 is very impressive. Two of their strikers have every chance to be the league's top scorer! That being said, with a disaster of a season in fresh memory and the still-unproven Shefki Kuqi as head coach, who knows. Anything can happen, quite literally.

Biggest disappointment: I was very impressed with VPS last year. For many years VPS were just another Veikkausliiga team with no real edge or talking point about them, but under Petri Vuorinen they've found an identity. I see a lot of potential in VPS, but with that said, they haven't looked very good in pre-season. I love how they try and keep the ball on the ground and go about their play, but it's looked quite ineffective to me so far. So I'm afraid VPS will disappoint me. As for IFK Mariehamn, I expect them to slide back to mid-table, but I'm not sure that counts as a disappointment? For them to win the title last year was exceptional, for them to finish mid-table this year would be in line with expectations.

Most important signing of the year: Important as in best? I'll go for Timo Furuholm at FC Inter. Everybody knows how dangerous he can be in this league, but his off-the-pitch influence should also be kept in high regard. Inter fell into complacency over the last few years and that almost resulted in a catastrophe. Furuholm has the attitude, he won't stand anybody not putting in the required effort. An important signing for a team that's seemed to suffer from a leadership void, and the captain's armband should tell you something about his influence.

Young player of the season: Ilves' Tatu Miettunen played really well last year, I'm eager to see if he can keep it up. As for up and coming names, FC Lahti's Paavo Voutilainen has gathered some experience in pre-season and done well, I'd love to see him get some minutes once the league kicks off. Also keep an eye out for Mikko Kuningas and Santeri Hostikka at the same club. And here's hoping Nnaemeka Anyamele and Fredik Lassas finally manage to take the next step at HIFK...

Manager of the year: Now that's a difficult question. I think Ilves' Jarkko Wiss had been very deserving of the award last year, but obviously there was no way you could overlook IFK Mariehamn's Peter Lundberg and Kari Virtanen. If Ilves keep it up this year, I think it's time for Wiss to receive the award.

What are you most excited for in this season? Once again the league seems very evenly-matched for me, so that's my pick! HJK might win by some margin, but there will be tight competition for the other important spots. KuPS, Inter and Ilves look promising, VPS might improve as the season progresses, and you never know about Juha Malinen and RoPS. I'm probably going to laugh at my predictions when we do our recap in October, and that's what I love about Veikkausliiga!

What are you least excited for? Just hoping clubs keep their income and expenditure in balance. We've had more than enough bad news in that regard over the last few years. For example RoPS' financial situation is looking rather bleak, but I'm sure they have enough money in the bank to at least buy a calculator?

Name: Keke Mylläri
Twitter: @kekemyllari

Title Winners: Despite the heroics of IFK Mariehamn last year I cannot see another team achieving that success and beating Klubi to the title so I am going with a boring predictable HJK as title winners

Bottom 2: This is a really contentious category for me, my head says our JJK team may struggle my heart lives in hope that we can avoid the bottom 2. So I’ll go with my heart and predict a bottom 2 of PS Kemi and VPS

Player of the Year: I was really looking forward to seeing Mikael Soisalo tear it up in Veikkausliiga this season but as he is now plying his trade in the PL2 with Middleborough’s U23 squad I am going to go for another player who I have mentioned before in Robert Taylor. We in Jyvaskyla have known about Taylor for a long time and I think he can really make his mark on veikkausliiga this season with RoPS. Another player I am excited about is JJK striker Toni Tahvanainen, JJK will certainly need goals from him to stay in the League. 

Dark Horse: Going with SJK for this category, which may seem strange given they were champions not so long ago but they have gone through some well documented upheaval of late and so expectations are not as high as they once were. I can however see Sixten Bostrom getting it together and SJK possibly reaching their previous lofty heights.

Biggest Disappointment: This will have to be IFK Mariehamn’s title defence, their team has been decimated and I cannot see them mounting a serious defence which will be disappointing following the fairy tale of last season.

Most important signing: Saku Leppanen. Another selfish JJK prediction. Saku is home after some time with that yellow mob and will hopefully be the midfield general that JJK will need to help keep us in the league. 

Young Player of the Year: Fredrik Lassas, still only 20 it seems as though Freddi has been around for a while, he has attracted interest from Germany but is still with HIFK and I can see him really coming of age this season. 

Manager of the Year: Another I have previously mentioned but I think the enigma that is Shefki Kuqi can do good things at Inter. The man is certainly is a maverick but I can see him getting his act together this season and Inter doing Ok under his stewardship.

Most excited: A personal one this but I am most excited about JJK’s away game at Ilves. I’ll be in Finland in summer time and as always will take in as many fixtures as time allows and Ilves away is one I am certainly looking forward to. It will be my first visit to Tamela and I hope that Harjun Pojat will take some good numbers down and it will be good to go at it with some of my Niilon Pojat mates who I know from the National Team support! As always, I am also excited to see Finnish teams in European competition. Club loyalties go to one side when the Veikkausliiga is represented in Europe and I always support any Finnish team in Europe.

Least excited: the lack of a title race…. As I said I can’t see any particular club mounting a serious challenge to HJK, having said that who expected IFK Mariehamn to be crowned champions last season and we can live in hope of a meaningful title race! 

Your name:   Rich Nelson 
Twitter handle &/or website:  @escapetosuomi 

Title Winners:   HJK. Their closest rivals last season have weakened, while they have significantly strengthened. Players with lots of experience have come in, an apparent departure from recent experiments in signing up and coming prospects or mercenary journeymen. Keeping Morelos was vital, despite the significant financial outlay of around half a million Euros - either they'll sell him on for profit or keep him and potentially get 20-25 goals. Pirinen, Obilor and Patronen will be solid and consistent, with yellow card collector Lum Rexhepi now in Holland. See below for a look at the forwards...

Bottom two:  Kemi and JJK. Kemi were so reliant on goals from Billy Ions (now SJK) and Erik Törnros (now in Sweden) that it masked various issues at the back. Hard to see many of their new signings making a difference at either end, while their away form was awful, with their only two wins at the two teams below them, PK-35 and Inter. JJK won a tough Ykkonen division last year but haven't looked good in pre-season and again have made some very low-key signings. They do have some very experienced players which should at least provide some spirit, unlike the mutiny at Vantaa last season. Again I don't see many goals.

Player of the Year:   Mehmet Hetemaj. Strange how he hasn't been called up to the national team, carried SJK on his own through several games last season and has scored a few in the cup run already. Makes the team tick and vital in the spine of the side - too early to see how much changes on pitch with new manager but losing Riski (to Germany) and Matej Hradecky (season-long injury) will require his guile.

Dark Horse (Team that will do better than expected): KuPS showed both Jekyll and Hyde in the Suomen Cup. Scored goals for fun in the early games, then lost when they really needs to against bogey sides Ilves and Honka. Gbolahan Salami is a dangerous centre-forward but off-field issues may play a part in whether he stays focused. Sebastian Sorsa and Ville Saxman will provide a more professional head in the dressing room, with KuPS keen to blood plenty of youngsters. Otso Virtanen in goal is a great signing. Top three will be a push but they look a lot more prepared than under the previous regime.

Biggest Disappointment:    IFK Mariehamn. To be expected - losing Viitala, Assis and Orgill after winning the title was likely but painful nonetheless. Don't know enough about the replacements yet - pre-season has been tough and it will be hard to replicate the atmosphere of last season, the buzz and anticipation was clearly running through the side. They were lucky to keep key players at the back fit, although at least the (best performing) defence remains largely untouched... If disappointment is a (probable) top half finish.

Most important signing of the year:  Timo Furuholm. Well established goal-scorer returns to Inter where he won all domestic trophies... Timo and Njazi Kuqi up front will be a nightmare for defenders, although Kuqi Jr spent plenty of last season out with suspension. Still only 29.

Young Player of the Season (22 or younger):   Alfredo Morelos. Shone in a mediocre HJK side last season, and this year will be ably supported with a more solid team which should both remove the pressure from him and also provide more opportunities. No longer a surprise, but he showed a range of goalscoring last season which will at least keep opposition on their toes, and will now have a chance to be more creative to assist his able teammates.     

Manager of the Year:   Jani Honkavaara. Struggled to inspire HIFK last season but perhaps his replacement will find similar issues. KuPS gave the impression that they were treading water under Marko Rajamäki and again needed some new ideas. There is a promising group of young players at the club who will benefit from older heads in the dressing room. Only recently became a full-time football manager, having previously combined it with work as a teacher.  

What are you most excited for in this season?:   HJK's forward line clicking. Morelos. Atom Tanaka returning from injury. Mosa Yaghoubi back in Finland. Demba Savage. Evans Mensah. Atom's injury last season left a huge creative hole, and he has already shown glimpses of his vision and passing in pre-season. Yaghoubi is less subtle but equally effective. If Savage can remain fit, he provides both goals and assists as well as plenty of experience. Mensah could prove fierce competition for Morelos in the goalscoring charts and is only 19.

What are you least excited for?:   Poor showing in European club competitions - only HJK presently look set to have a decent run in Europe, but it's hard to gauge relative strength against other nations until afterwards. Other than their group stage appearance in 2014, there has been little to shout about from any side other than perhaps KuPS in 2012. Mariehamn will be unseeded in their Champions League draw and face an uphill battle, without the safety net of a Europa League spot.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Veikkausliiga 2016 predictions reviewed

Back at the start of the season, some friends of ETS, led by Henry, made some predictions before the first ball was kicked (you can have a gander here). Now, with the snow falling and the trophy safely secured in Mariehamn, the guys reminisce about how it all went - with gratitude that little money was invested on the results...

Henry Hakamäki - Twitter @huck1995

Key to the Title:  Defence, defence, defence, and preparation. Mariehamn kept 18 clean sheets in 33 Veikkausliiga games and only conceded 25 goals all season. This is despite having the second lowest possession share in the Veikkausliiga.  All of the players, even the strikers, worked tirelessly off the ball and when not in possession, constantly harassing the opponents and then bunkering down once they took the lead.  Keeper Walter Viitala and defenders Albin Granlund, Kristian Kojola, Philip Mantilla, Bobbie Friberg da Cruz and particularly Captain Jani Lyyski need to be particularly commended for their incredible work this season.  Also, worth noting is that the new coaching staff of Kari Virtanen and Peter Lundberg had the team looking extremely prepared and organised for every single fixture of the season.

Why PK-35 and Inter Turku Were the Bottom Two: The cynical side of me wants to say that the common thread between the PK-35 and Inter Turku is Shefki Kuqi, but he wasn’t entirely the problem with either team.  In reality though, it was mainly what was going on higher up.  PK-35 were run horrifically, and it’s no surprise that they finished so far down at the bottom that they had less than half the points of the second worst team. It’s hard to come into the season with little finances, have the coaching staff revolt and resign, lose a manager, have all the best players pack up and leave, and still have to play games. With Turku, there was a lack of cohesion between players.  Look at the roster and you’ll see enough talent that they should have been easily safe, but they did not work together well at all, leading to scoring the least goals in the league and giving up the fourth most goals. Shefki’s appointment certainly didn’t help with the cohesion, and due to this, their results actually got worse once he took the job.

Player of the Year:  Jani Lyyski (IFK Mariehamn), with Alfredo Morelos (HJK) and Roope Riski (SJK) being runners up.  Mariehamn’s defence was practically impenetrable throughout the whole year, in no small part to Captain Lyyski.  Ferocious in defence, calm and collected in organising those around him into seemingly always the right spots, and even chipping in five goals and an assist to his name, he virtually did it all.  Pretty much impeccable all season. Meanwhile, Morelos was the main reason that HJK finished second, without him it’s doubtful they would have made the top four or even five, and Roope as usual was the driving force behind SJK for the majority of the season and rightfully collected the Golden Boot for the league.

Dark Horse (obviously Mariehamn, but another is…):  What Mariehamn accomplished cannot be overstated.  And to be pretty much at the top of the table from beginning to end of the season is a testament to their stability and consistency.  Beyond the obvious, Ilves and VPS were both hugely surprising this season. VPS did an incredible job of succeeding despite losing Juho Mäkela after last season, and gave up the second least amount of goals of any team (behind Mariehamn).  Ilves, meanwhile, seemingly won every time they were in a close game, and to finish fifth in the league with the budget that they have was incredible.  Special shoutout to Ilves keeper Mika Hilander, who looked like the best goalkeeper in the league for big chunks of the season.  Their midfield actually was really solid, scoring 29 goals.  If they had a big time striker, they could’ve even won the league (their strikers only accounted for 8 goals…).

Biggest Disappointment:  PK-35, whom I picked to surprise a lot of people this season, certainly surprised, but it was the surprise of being worse than I could have even imagined. The season started badly and progressively got worse and worse, with the sole happy moment being their final game of the season where they got revenge on Shefki, who had basically abandoned them mid-season, by beating Inter Turku and ensuring that Inter would play in the promotion/relegation playoff.  Also worth noting is HJK. Outside of their young loanee, Alfredo Morelos, Atomu Tanaka (who got injured once again), and Taye Taiwo (also injured), there was very little explosiveness, and without them their season could have been very, very bad by their standards. For a club with their resources to have to rely on three players as heavily as they did and to not run away with the title is an indictment of the lack of focus on domestic fixtures by the club.

Most important signing of the year: Probably Morelos, but since I’ve written about him several times already, I’ll spend some time talking about Emile Paul Tendeng (Ilves) and Rob Taylor (RoPS). With 7 goals and 9 assists, Tendeng was behind a significant amount of Ilves’ goals this season, and he was key to them surprising nearly everyone and finishing 5th in the league.  With the lack of finishing by the strikers of Ilves, Tendeng could have had many more assists as well. Meanwhile Taylor pretty much did it all for RoPS, leading them in goals and tied for the team lead in assists, all while playing attacking, center, and defensive mid over the course of the season.

Young Player of the Season:  I can’t choose between Alfredo Morelos (HJK) and Rob Taylor (RoPS). Morelos was one of the only reasons HJK were in a position to win the title through the season.  He was second in the league in goals, and seemingly half of them to either put HJK in the lead or draw them level.  He did underperform in their “must-win” games, but without him, HJK would likely have not even been in the top 4.  Rob Taylor also was vital, driving most of RoPS’s attacks throughout the season.  He’s already looking like he could be a part of the Huuhkajat lineup moving forward.

Manager of the Year: Clearly the dynamic duo of Peter Lundberg and Kari Virtanen. To do what they did with the resources that they had was nothing short of miraculous. Theoretically the Huuhkajat should have a managerial vacancy soon, and while there are lots of managers out there that we would be delighted to have, these two would almost certainly have more success than he-shall-not-be-named (his surname rhymes with “Sacke”…).  Beyond them, Jarkko Wiss (Ilves) and Petri Vuorinen (VPS) deserve a shout for what they did with their respective sides.

What was the most exciting part about this season?:  Could it be anything other than the title race? For the second year running, we’ve come into the last round of fixtures not knowing who would win the title, and again we have a new first time champion. The Veikkausliiga was tight all season, and after the previous dominance of HJK over everyone else, these last two years have been wonderful for the fans.  The excitement and suspense have been incredible, and I’m hoping next year is more of the same!

What was the least exciting part of the season?:  PK-35 were painful to watch, and after losing Billy Ions to SJK, so were Kemi.  Despite the title race being close the last two seasons, the resource gap for the majority of teams is still plain to see.  Furthermore, no one likes to see retrospective point penalties, such as PK-35 and SJK were subject to this season.  Finnish football still has a long way to go in terms of running leagues smoothly and clubs need to spend more time ensuring all paperwork is in order and things such as player eligibilities are taken care of.  It’s the little things that are holding back Finnish football at this point.  The sooner they can be taken care of, the sooner we can move forward.

Juhavaltteri Salminen - Twitter @jvsalminen

Key to the Title: Certainly there's a great surprise element involved, but you have to give credit to IFK Mariehamn for the way they run the club. They're not paying the highest salaries and Åland in itself isn't a huge attraction for players, but boy do they take good care of their employees. They're excellent at finding potential players who have yet to make a breakthrough. They create a very family-like atmosphere in and around the club and have been consistenly developing over the past few years. So while their title was inarguably a shock, that doesn't mean it wasn't also a great reward for doing a terrific, consistent job over the long run. Last year's Finnish Cup title was a sign of things to come, but I definitely didn't see them doing quite as well as they did.

Why PK-35 and Inter Turku Were the Bottom Two: Well, as far as PK-35 are short answer here won't begin to adequately answer this question. The club was in turmoil before they ever got promoted, and the ownership changes that were supposed to stabilise the club worked for the exact opposite. Horrible leadership, terrible financial awareness, what have you. Finnish football has had enough of these kinds of stories, but somehow we never seem to learn. 
As for FC Inter, the answer is simpler. While Job Dragtsma will always remembered as the coach who took Inter to glory, there were signs of weariness on both sides. The club had fallen into a feeling of routine and complacency, and while there have been warning signs in the past few years, this was the year things finally came to a head.
It's not just about the coach, it's about the way the club is run in general. It's Stefan Håkans' work of passion rather than your ordinary, success-driven and ambitious football club. Håkans' heart beats for Inter and football, but a sense of being too well-off has emerged at Inter. They have no financial concerns, no real pressure to succeed because it's a thing of passion more than anything else. Inter have become complacent, fallen into the routine of doing things the way they've been doing them for ages, when what they really needed to do long ago was shuffle the pack to keep things interesting. Now it's been same faces, same routines, the same stuff for too long and the club has stagnated to the point where it's starting to cost them massively on the pitch.
As far as this particular year is concerned...Well, Dragtsma seemed to have lost his spark some time ago and didn't seem like the right man to change the club's fortunes anymore. Then they put their faith in a rookie head coach who was just as much a face of the club's stagnation as Dragtsma, so the first change of coach didn't really change anything. Finally, they got Shefki Kuqi, which, given Kuqi's recent history, was a huge risk to take. On the pitch Inter were a mess most of the time, and somehow the club thought they could save their ass in the transfer market. While they signed good players (on paper), that's just not how you turn things around if you can't play decent football. There's countless examples of that. So it was a summer of amateur mistakes from Inter, and a year in which their lack of ambition finally caught up with them. Maybe a relegation play-off spot and a possible relegation is exactly the alarm clock they needed. The club really needs somebody to take responsibility of everything that has to do with the actual football in that organisation. Inter are a huge fiasco. With the players they have the club should have been in the running for silverware. This is a total disaster, even if they stay up.

Player of the Year: I hate it when the awards always go to those who record the most goals or assists, but this time I just have to go for Alfredo Morelos of HJK because of his overall value to his team. HJK were hideous by their standards, and if it wasn't for Morelos, they would've missed the top 3 entirely. What little success HJK had, they owed it to Morelos' goals, so I just can't overlook him. A shout out has to go for Emile Paul Tendeng of Ilves, what a great signing.

Dark Horse: This has to be Ilves, even if they were unlucky to narrowly miss out on a Europa League spot. While many expected the classic "difficult second season" problem to catch up with them, what happened was the complete opposite. Jarkko Wiss proved his credentials as a coach, and they made some fantastic additions (Tendeng, Soisalo) while keeping faith in the players they had. I also wanna name VPS. I didn't expect much of them, but for me, VPS were the team that showed the most improvement over the season. It's a club with a new football philosophy, and I can see them becoming a force in the next couple of years (if they aren't one already).

Biggest Disappointment:  I can't pick one over the other, so HJK and Inter will have to share the prize. For HJK to miss out on the title for the second year running is a disaster that can't be overstated, given their resources. There's just no excuses, and I'm interested to see who carries the responsibility and how. Their form dipped remarkably after their UEL qualifiers, just like last year. That clearly suggests the club is too obsessed with Europe, no matter what they say. They've lost their focus and it's cost them. European fixtures are a great opportunity, but how can you build an entire football season around a few European fixtures? To concentrate so fully on Europe is to underestimate the league and the other clubs. They've been arrogant and not in a good way. It is also very much a coaching issue. A Veikkausliiga coach can't ask for more than Mika Lehkosuo was given, and for HJK not to win the title with the players they had is an unacceptable failure. Inter share the top spot in this category for reasons mentioned earlier. It's baffling they haven't even secured their Veikkausliiga status with the players they have.

Most important signing of the year:  My both player of the year nominees happen to be new signings, so it has to be Morelos or Tendeng. But a shout out has to go to Gabriel Petrovic, who returned to IFK Mariehamn and was an unsung hero in their success. While he doesn't provide too many goals or assists, he's an extremely important balancing factor in IFK's midfield and a key player in their fantastic defensive record.

Young Player of the Season: Mikael Soisalo (Ilves). His move to Ilves went very much under the radar, but what an exciting prospect he turned out to be. Ilves also deserve a lot of credit for finding such a gem of a player.

Manager of the Year:  It just has to be Peter Lundberg hasn't it? To replace a club legend after a 13-year tenure and take a mid-table side to an unlikely title is really remarkable. I don't want to understate Kari Virtanen's role as a mentor either, but Lundberg has done a fantastic job at the training ground. Jarkko Wiss (Ilves) and Petri Vuorinen (VPS) are well worth a mention as well.

What was the most exciting part about this season? Almost everything! Finnish football has badly missed a title race, but now we had one for the ages. The relegation battle was also a three-way contest right until the end. Not a single one of the last round's games was a dead rubber. What more can you ask for? So the most exciting thing for me was the general competitiveness of the league. It has boosted interest and attendances, so I hope the trend continues even if it's not realistic to expect a similar ending every year. I also want to mention the opening of new stadia in Vaasa and Seinäjoki, Finnish football is in dire need of proper grounds.

What was the least exciting part of the season?: The whole PK-35 situation was just catastrophic, and it's time the Finnish football community sat down and started thinking how we can put and end to the recurring theme of badly-led clubs and financial worries. Something also needs to be done about the fixture list sooner rather than later, although this is more of a recurring discussion than anything that has to do with this particular season. This will continue to be a problem until there are enough top-flight teams with proper stadia. For Christ's sake, Veikkausliiga doesn't even have a concept called "a round of matches". While all European leagues primarily run on weekends with a settled format, Veikkausliiga continues to be played on all imaginable weekdays. Teams don't even have a similar rhythm, it's not unusual to see a league table with two or three games separating teams. Some improvements were made this year, but all in all the fixture list is a mess that shows a total lack of football culture. Either we have to admit that 33 games is too much or we just need to make the season longer by whatever means possible.

Mark Hayton - Twitter @fcsuomi

Key to the Title: Jani Lyyski, mainly Mariehamn's defence it was the meanest in the league, Albin Granlund at right back also did well connecting the play, he justified his call up.

Why PK-35 and Inter Turku Were the Bottom Two: PK-35 hit a fork in the road back in May and with the coaching staff revolt and finger pointing, they decided to self implode... I wouldn't put that on Shefki, the problem was higher up. Inter, that was Shefki. By bringing in so many of his own players (Njazi, Garcia, Zeneli etc.) he created a rift in an already fragmented dressing room. The players have the quality to survive the play off, it's just a question of whether they can work together.

Player of the Year:  Roope Riski, golden boot, without him SJK would've been mid table. HJK's Alfredo Morelos is in the same category, but he tended to go missing in big games.

Dark Horse (obviously Mariehamn, but another is…): Ilves, the job Jarkko Wiss has done is phenomenal. 

Biggest Disappointment: Inter Turku. That club just seems to romp from shambles to shambles. Oddly if they survive I think Shefki might be a good fit, they both need success now.

Most important signing of the year: Arguably, Alexei Eremenko for SJK, who crippled the champions and created the vacuum for Mariehamn to march into. On a positive side, probably Ville Jalasto for HJK, imperious at Centre back.

Young Player of the Season:  Robert Taylor best thing since Santa, Pyry Soiri also looks tasty.

Manager of the Year: The obvious (IFK’s Duo), with special mention to both Jarkko Wiss at Ilves and Muurinen for keeping HIFK out of trouble (on the pitch).

What was the most exciting part about this season?:  The last Stadin Derby had everything and meant so much at both ends of the table... A proper footballing experience... Oh and the hilarious head scratching from anyone that was brave enough to make a prediction.

What was the least exciting part of the season?:  Kemi, but for a filing error they'd have finished 2nd bottom. No win since August, Billy Ions departure made them really tough on the eye

Keke Myllari - Twitter handle & Website @kekemyllari

Key to the Title: IFK Mariehamn’s team spirit... maybe it’s an island mentality!!! Also Klubi’s inability to turn draws into wins!

Why PK-35 and Inter Turku Were the Bottom Two: Errmmmm Shefki.....?

Player of the Year: Sticking with my prediction, Roope Riski, top scorer whose goals almost won the league for SJK

Dark Horse (obviously Mariehamn, but another is…): Sticking with my prediction of VPS, for those guys to finish in fourth is a great result for them, also a mention for Ilves who were predicted a tough season by many and ended the season in a very respectable fifth above established Veikkausliiga sides like RoPS and KuPS.

Biggest Disappointment: HIFK, I was expecting better things from HIFK this season but was surprised that they struggled and only just avoided a dangerous relegation play-off.

Most important signing of the year: Well my prediction of Eremenko to SJK didn’t quite work out so I’ve gone for my young player of the year Robert Taylor, despite the name he is Finnish and he proved to be a great signing for RoPS also a mention for young Mikael Soisalo picked up by Ilves from Klubi 04 for nothing, he is definitely one for the future!

Young Player of the Season: I’m sticking with my prediction Robert Taylor, had a great season chipping in with 11 goals from midfield this season finishing 7th on the top scorers list .

Manager of the Year: Shefki Kuqi for almost relegating two teams in one season!!!

What was the most exciting part about this season?: Ykkönen title race, culminating in JJK being crowned champions on the last day of the season followed closely by Veikkausliiga title race!!

What was the least exciting part of the season?: PK-35 giving up their Veikkausliiga existence without a whimper....

Monday, October 24, 2016

IFK Mariehamn - Finnish champions

In many ways, 2016 was a pretty typical year in Veikkausliiga. Points deductions for financial mis-management (PK-35 Vantaa), wins annulled due to incorrect paperwork (SJK) and police overreactions to football fans (too many to list).

But for IFK Mariehamn, from the autonomous Åland Islands, lifted their first league title - just one year after their only major honour (the 2015 Suomen Cup). Champions League football is now on the menu, IFK will enter next season's competition at the second qualifying round. They clinched the title with a 2-1 win at home to Ilves, scoring the opener after just 52 seconds.

Their season was based primarily on a solid defence - keeping 18 clean sheets in their 33 matches with keeper Viitala and defender Kojola playing in every match. Albin Granlund received his first call-up to the Finland squad thanks to his performances, while captain Jani Lyyski was superb, weighing in with five goals as well.

Up front, the main source of goals (12) came from Jamaican striker Dever Orgill, who has already confirmed that he'll be leaving in the winter. Diego Assis, scorer of the winning goal on Sunday, has also hinted at his own departure but the two of those have been at the core of Mariehamn's attack for the last three seasons. They will be missed.

Mariehamn itself is a small town, with a population of just 11,000 people. To put it in perspective, that's the same population of the local area I work in (Kew in South-West London) and roughly the number of people in each of the 624 electoral wards of London. Åland issues it's own stamps, it's in demilitarised zone and even Vladimir Putin owns land there, to the bemusement of locals. 4335 people squeezed into the Wiklöf Holding Arena on Sunday to witness the title decider - over a third of the population of the town. 
Over the winter, I'll be speaking to various people involved in the club to get a richer picture of the magnificent achievement. I'm sure there are a number of sore heads this morning - all well deserved.

Monday, April 04, 2016

Interview with HJK fan Aachi

In a slight change from my usual interview subjects, I've spoken to Arto "Aachi" Ihatsu, who is one of the most well known football fans in Finland, who follows HJK home and away. He has given some great and impassioned answers, well worth the wait.

As one of HJK's biggest fans, how did you get into supporting the club?
It all began on August 12, 2004, when I was twelve years old. I went to see HJK v Inter with my father. HJK lost the game 0-1, but I was hooked and I got a season ticket for the 2006 season. The first match was in Kotka, I had just turned 14 and it was my first away trip alone, although Klubi lost 2-1 (to KooTeePee) and I continued from there. As soon as I knew I was part of the fellow supporters, they became my a family.

What was it like being in an away end on your own in Kazakhstan?
I wasn't in there by myself, as two HJK senior supporters were there as well and I spent a lot of time with them. It was slightly scary when I was there moving about in the stadium by myself, such as when I went to get some beers, and also in the stand when the sound was coming from all directions and I was missing my fellow Klubipääty crowd. It was such a shame we didn't get into the group stage that we were supposed to end up in, but luckily there were still fans greeting us at the airport and supporting the team in a weak moment.

A photo posted by @akiriihilahti on

Have HJK looked after you (and other away travellers) on European trips?
Not really, I've done it myself and organised things including away tickets. Everything has always been sorted by ringing Markku Peltoniemi. For the Besiktas game in Turkey there was some confusion as I couldn't at first find him and get the tickets. I think Klubi should have a controlled amount of tickets at their office for each Euro away game to be sold, whether it be in Andorra in the first round or one of the group stage matches.

What job do you have which gives you such flexibility for travel? Do they enjoy seeing where you go?
I work at a port terminal. My boss is a keen HJK supporter as well as another colleague of mine who is also a member of the Klubi family. We take most of the match days off. You wouldn't necessarily always have the energy to go to every game but one of the perks of the job is being able to go to the games so I wouldn't change this for anything.

2015 saw HIFK return to Veikkausliiga - was the atmosphere at derby games the best you've been to in Finland?
Derby days have always had special atmosphere, whether it's a friendly being played in the hall or at the Sonera stadion, which is very special, especially for the players and the supporters.

What more can clubs do to make fans feel more involved in their clubs?
Perhaps a bit more involvement in the day to day business - co-operating to build a community between players, the staff (coaches etc) who are working at the club, along with the fans.

The image of you falling out of the stand in 2013 was shared all over the world - what exactly happened?
I was celebrating a goal scored against FC Lahti and I flew over the railing in style. Fortunately, I was sober so it didn't hurt too much!

Aachi taking a tumble (thanks to Mika Laakso for the photo)

Video of the HJK goal referenced above - go to 09:20 for the fall

How did you feel when HJK postponed the IFK Mariehamn game to play Liverpool last summer? Had you already booked travel?
It was really bad because everyone was waiting for that match in Åland. The news of the Liverpool game came while I was in Tallinn on a cruise - I was full of anger and the cruise was ruined. I genuinely think my blood pressure rose from zero to one hundred. I can honestly say I was pretty shocked. I think these matches should not take priority over competitive domestic matches, especially on a Saturday ahead of Mariehamn away. Fortunately we were away to IFK Mariehamn in the Suomen Cup two weeks later and the club sorted us out. When the league game was moved to October, only eleven fans made the trip, but it warmed the heart because it was HJK's first away win for months.

What do you think of HJK's chances in Veikkausliiga this year?
We have a truly superior team compared to last year, some extremely interesting names arriving such as (Anthony) Annan, (Alfredo) Morelos, (Vincent) Onovo, (Ivan) Tatomirovic and Medo will all be a big help for the coming season. We hope the results of each game go well, and the title is settled in before the start of the Europa League - we can focus on the end of autumn and spring, knowing the final is being played in Stockholm (Friends Arena). There is a possibility, at least in my imagination...

Which club would you most like to see HJK play in Europe? Or is there anywhere you wouldn't go?
I would love to see HJK play against Arsenal, they are my favourite team in England. I could never go to Dubai - there are only a few places where you can get alcohol, not in the stadiums...

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Veikkausliiga 2016 kits

With a new season of Veikkausliiga beginning, it's usually a time to marvel at some of the kits that will be on display - with the obligatory large number of sponsors. I didn't do a kit blog at the start of last season, which is just as well as some of the kits remain the same. I've included last season's kits by way of a comparison... Most of the photos are official Veikkausliiga profiles.

Most of the clubs have a webshop, the details of which are on a tab at the top of the page.


The champions will play in the same Adidas kit as last season, as modelled by new signing Abdoulaye Méïté. Special mention though to the jackets worn by the coaching staff, classic Adidas Originals gear with the trefoil logo. Magnificent.


Last year's silver medallists are again decked out in Puma, this time the same template as the current Arsenal home jersey.


Looking to regain their crown, the club have made several signings but keep the same shirt as last season. Perhaps they still have some remaining from last year that they didn't sell in Japan?

Inter Turku

Inter remain with Nike jerseys, but they've moved onto a more subdued template. Less identifiable, but far more attractive.
FC Lahti

Same Umbro jersey as last year, but with... A bigger main sponsor? Was there a bit too much black left? I do hope Halton have paid more for the privilege.
IFK Mariehamn

Same Puma kit as last season... Same official profile photos too!


Very little change other than an updated template - nice to see Kappa still doing kits, shame about the lack of shoulder trim like the Man City kit of the 90s.


A change in template, little else. A shame, I loved the 2015 design but it's not a bad replacement.

Same kit as last season (the 2015 official photographs were of the previous kit). All that's missing is a copy of today's newspaper being held by the obvious hostage.


Same Puma kit as last season, clearly found in a basement bin somewhere in Vaasa.

PS Kemi

It's putting it mildly to say that I'm heartbroken. This is the biggest shame of all. One of last year's finest kits, a custom made Adidas abstract effort (underneath the sponsors) has been replaced by a budget plain red Stanno rag I wouldn't clean my car with. Such a shame.
PK-35 Vantaa

Shefki's boys are following the Inter Turku model, replacing red and black stripes with a low-key number. Nice. I've got one already...
So that's the fashion parade for the upcoming season. As I said before, most clubs have a shop online - check the tab at the top. I'm not on commission, but don't forget that every penny counts for most of these clubs.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

2016 Veikkausliiga season preview

Last season's Veikkausliiga was very similar to the 2015-16 Premier League season. The established sides struggled, allowing a financially well-off relative newcomer a chance to seize the title. It is too early to say whether England will see a similar outcome, but in 2016 the Finnish football landscape is in a much different place from previous seasons.

SJK's winning points total of sixty was the lowest since the introduction of the 33-match season, only one point more than 2014's silver medal. Runners-up RoPS meanwhile improved by twenty-one points, to ensure HJK's bronze medal and their lowest position since 2008.

So what can we expect from the new season? I'll preview each team individually below, but first a summary of the changes that have been made over the long winter.

Jaro and KTP were relegated last season, the latter in the new play-off to spice up the bottom. They have been replaced by Ykkönen champions PS Kemi and play-off winners PK-35 Vantaa. The division continues in the same vein as before with 12 teams playing each other side three times. An extra home match is the reward for the teams who finished in the top six last year. One team is automatically relegated, while the team finishing eleventh face a two-legged play-off against the team who come second in Ykkönen.

Each side will use the new Select Elite matchball, replacing the Brillant Super. Elite is dimpled like a golf ball, ensuring a more steady flight. HIFK forward Pekka Sihvola has already praised the ball and also the fact that each match will be played with the same ball.

Matches will be continue to be streamed live on ISTV (Ilta Sanomat) but now also on multi-channel broadcaster Ruutu+. One match per month will be shown free-to-air on TV channel Nelonen. I'm not aware of the status of international rights so probably on the usual betting websites. It is unlikely again that highlights will be available on ETS - but connect with the Twitter and Facebook pages for the latest news etc.

For European competition, SJK will enter the Champions League in the second qualifying round. RoPS, HJK and Suomen Cup winners IFK Mariehamn start their Europa League campaigns in qualifying round one. There is no longer a UEFA Fair Play place, that would have gone to VPS...

While a few sides are yet to unveil their kits for the new season, I've listed every club shop on the tab at the top of the page - to most clubs, every penny makes a difference so dig deep and stand out on your five-a-side pitch.

So, on to the club-by-club previews. The clubs are organised by last season's placings. While I try not to make predictions, don't put your money on them if I do!


A club riding the crest of a wave. They move into the purpose-built OmaSp stadium with Champions League football on the agenda. It's been a busy pre-season in Seinäjoki with lots of player transfers, but the biggest signing was securing coach Simo Valakari on a four-year contract, after interest from clubs in Scotland. He is assisted by English coach Brian Page, taking over from Chris Cleaver.

New arrivals on the pitch include Abdoulaye Méïté, Alexei Eremenko Jr, Roope Riski and Matej Hradecky. A fully-fit Eremenko combining with Riski will be a big danger up front, while Méïté should prove a decent replacement at centre-half for the departed Cédric Gogoua. Riski was a big success on loan at SJK last season, subsequently becoming the first player actually bought by the club.


Over-performed hugely in 2015 under Juha Malinen, only just missing out on being the most Northern side in the world to win a league title. The veteran Malinen remains, but the spine of the team has undergone large changes. The club's finances are improving, helped by an updated home stadium and now Europa League football.

Keeper Tomer Chencinski, defender Faith Obilor and playmaker Moshtagh Yaghoubi have all left, although striker Aleksandr Kokko's transfer to Switzerland fell through. Janne Saksela has become a surprise recent addition to the Finland squad, while U20 World Cup winner Ransford Osei is expected to provide more goals.


Not many people predicted such a limp campaign from Klubi - especially those in charge. Poor signings, a horrific injury list and too much focus on business was critical. The club are trying to avoid the same mistakes, but time will tell. Promising financial results and strong infrastructure need to equate to points and trophies. The ill-thought friendly with Liverpool seemed a step too far, where an away fixture at Mariehamn was postponed, with 150 fans having already booked their travel.

Defenders Baah, Heikkilä and Heikkinen have all left, but re-signing Mikael Forssell, Anthony Annan and Medo will provide experience, allied with promising Colombian Alfredo Morelos up front and Taye Taiwo providing steel at the back. Atom Tanaka will need more consistency to add to the shirt sales he generates. HJK "should" be more competitive this year.

Inter Turku

Another solid but uninspiring 2015 in Turku. Despite an improvement on previous campaigns (49 points compared to 36 the season before), the club seem content with their lot. Coach Job Dragtsma continues to lead, but remains the steady ship. The man needs a trophy, the 2008 title seems a long time ago.

Their exciting midfield prospect Kaan Kairinen eventually moved to Midtjylland, having been linked with Juventus and Tottenham. Central defender Obilor has signed from RoPS, in front of another former TPS goalkeeper Henrik Moisander. Experienced internationals Tamboura (left-back, Mali) and Nicolaou (midfield, Cyprus) join to increase solidity. Scoring goals will be the big problem - no player scored more than six league goals last season.

FC Lahti

Links with exotic football clubs Fluminense and Hartlepool have been made, while Kuningas is emerging as a promising talent... An odd introduction to Lahti, but they continue to perform. The King is not the man whose statue sits next to their Kisapuisto home, but Finland U19 midfielder Mikko Kuningas.

Brazilian Matheus Alves and his twelve goals have left, but veteran Rafael remains despite his waning minutes. Two more Fluminense loan signings Bonilha and Euller will hope to take a similar road into Europe. Liigacup winners after defeating SJK in the final.

IFK Mariehamn

After the Lord Mayor's Show. Their first major trophy (the Suomen Cup) followed by the departure of coach Pekka Lyyski after thirteen years in charge. Peter Lundberg and Kari Virtanen now manage this cosmopolitan side into a new era. Another European adventure awaits, with the added attention and pressures that come with it.

Talisman Petteri Forsell has left again, but Aleksei Kangaskolkka is fit again and the dangerous Dever Orgill should ensure more goals - only 30 in 33 league games last season, having scored 30 alone in their cup run. Keeper Otso Virtanen has moved to Scotland, but the rest of the defence remains.


They brought more to the league than three passionate derby matches with HJK. Their 100% Finnish squad performed solidly, with Pekka Sihvola adding vital goals. Coach Jani Honkavaara quit his teaching job midway through the season to concentrate on the role full-time and remains in post. It's hard to see them struggling this season, but a top-half finish would be deemed a success.

There haven't been many transfers, Fredrik Lassas and Youness Rahimi have been replaced by Xhevdet Gela and veteran striker Juho Mäkelä. He and Sihvola up front will be a dangerous pair.


Despite only being promoted because of MYPA's demise, a poor start to the season slowly lifted and resulted in an eighth-place finish - but it was overshadowed by manager Keke Armstrong's sacking for punditing on live TV while his team lost at SJK.

Jarkko Wiss is now in charge, looking to keep the club in the top flight. Matrone and Milosavljević come in from SJK to provide experience. Striker Mika Lahtinen scored ten goals in 2015, they will need a repeat performance from him to add danger to solidity. With an upgraded stadium slowly looking likely, Ilves are another club with a vocal fan-base on the verge of a permanent place in Veikkausliiga.


The Freddy Adu circus of last year masked another poor season - two wins in their final 14 games saw them skirting just above the relegation spots. Marko Rajamäki remains in charge, but off the pitch the club needs a direction. Poor finances, yet talk of a new stadium, while a strange transfer policy doesn't seem to complement a decent crop of youngsters.

Defender Hamed Coulibaby has already been ruled out for the season, while the signings of Nigerians Egwuekwe, Onobi and Salami were shambolic at times. Yet the return of Petteri Pennanen from injury and the exciting midfielder Urho Nissilä provide hope at least. A large weight on the shoulders of the nomadic Championship Manager stalwart Mika Ääritalo for goals. I fear for KuPS this season...


Phew, that was close. Losing their first six games, but surviving after a rare mid-season managerial change. Olli Huttunen left the club in June, his replacement Petri Vuorinen oversaw a fine run in August/September which proved crucial. The club move into their new Elisa Stadion home this year (hosting a Tom Jones concert) and can regroup with another year of top division football.

Experienced defender Veli Lampi comes in from HJK, joined by Juho Lähde. The main departure was Juho Mäkelä, who scored sixteen league goals last year, nearly half of the team's total. Jamaican Steven Morrissey, who has been so unfortunate with injury, will help lessen that burden, if he can stay fit.

PS Kemi

A year ago, I couldn't have anticipated writing about PS Kemi in a 2016 Veikkausliiga preview, having just been promoted from Kakkonen. They led Ykkönen throughout the season, to reach the top division for the first time in their history. I'll be honest, I didn't see much of them last year... One bit of sad news - their magnificent Adidas kit has been replaced by a generic Stanno teamwear effort. Shame.

After being granted a license for 2016, the small club have been busy making numerous signings, with the ultimate intention of remaining in the division. Key goalscorers Billy Ions (17 in 2015) and Saša Jovović remain, with Matias Ojala coming from AC Oulu and Zeljko Savic joins from SJK. A recent article spoke to their various foreign signings and their integration into living in Finland - it's a fascinating read that goes beyond football.

PK-35 Vantaa

Promotion play-off winners PK-35 are back in the top division for the first time since reforming. They are led by the charismatic Shefki Kuqi, returning after his debut coaching season in 2014 where he led Honka to survival. His new club are very much in his image, including signing his brother Njazi and boasting his former Ipswich teammate Pablo Couñago, who scored seventeen goals in 25 games last season.

Despite being linked with Emmanuel Eboue and John Arne Riise, PK-35 still have some financial clouds and appear to have a very confrontational style, never far from scuffles. There will be fireworks. Brazilian midfielder Lucas Kaufmann impressed in the Liigacup and could be a wildcard in the league season.

So that is my season preview - it's as up-to-date as I can manage... Always welcome debate and comment below the line or on social media. I plan on a lighter look at the 2016 kits soon...