I've been following Finnish football for a while now, it's provided me with an awful lot. Friends, excitement and some very odd stories which have to be seen to be believed. But one of the strangest events I can recall from Finland (or anywhere else for that matter) occurred on Sunday 4th October...
Ilves in Tampere are one of my favourite clubs in the country. The atmosphere at their ground is fantastic and I've enjoyed myself each time I've visited. They were promoted last season into Veikkausliiga after the demise of MYPA, they had a small budget and have performed well throughout. Their new manager was the Englishman Keith Armstrong, who has been involved in numerous clubs throughout the country and coaching HJK to three titles at the turn of the century.
Sunday saw them visit the league leaders SJK in Seinäjoki, Ilves still not mathematically safe from a relegation play-off. A big game affecting both ends of the table, so of course the players would need a Braveheart-style rousing speech before the match to inspire. So how did the coach motivate his team?
He appeared on television as a pundit for the English Premier League matches being played at the same time.
Admittedly these are huge games, Everton v Liverpool and Arsenal v Manchester United... The broadcaster clearly wanted an English perspective, but did it have to be Keke? Anyway, as Ilves said in a statement on Monday, his absence was a big surprise to the CEO and that his TV appearance had not been authorised.
Armstrong on TV, during his side's defeat at SJK
As a supervisor in my day job, I'd be severely concerned if one of my employees failed to turn up for work. What had happened to them? Were they ok? Could I do anything to help? Nah, they bunked off to dick about. Book thrown at him.
Ilves announced on Wednesday afternoon that Armstrong's contract would be terminated. The players had lost confidence in their coach, such behaviour was unacceptable. What next for Ilves? They go into the final three matches of the season without the man who led them to (probable) safety.
Meanwhile, K€k€ will go onto something else. His video diary with IS:TV earlier in the season was reminiscent of Brendan Rodgers on Being: Liverpool.
A sorry, amateur affair all round.