Showing posts with label PK35. Show all posts
Showing posts with label PK35. Show all posts

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....

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...

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Henry's transfer preview of Veikkausliiga

Friend of the blog Henry Hakamäki has written a lengthy look at the various transfers made by Veikkausliiga sides this winter. Feel free to debate, correct or moan at Henry on Twitter or in the comments below.


With the Liigacup final on the 19th of March betweem SJK and FC Lahti, we are at a point in the pre-season where Veikkausliiga news is slow. The one thing going on currently, which we are in the midst of, is transfers and new signings. While there’s still more movement of players to be expected, now is a decent time to recap the biggest moves into and out of each Veikkausliiga club so far. I encourage all of you to let me know if you agree or disagree with my choices, which will help me when the time comes for my season predictions.

Several players on the way out for HIFK, highlighted by Youness Rahimi (SJK) and Fredrik Lassas (FC Köln II). The biggest loss is Rahimi, a young player with a lot of potential who already has versatility and good from set pieces. The biggest in-coming name is Juho Mäkelä (VPS), a Veikkausliiga veteran and proven goalscorer.  His record over the years has been prolific and consistent, though he is getting on in years.  If he can keep the goals coming and remain fit all season, this was a tremendous move for HIFK. Also coming in are midfielder Xhevdet Gela (FC Lahti) and promising defender Juho Pirttijoki (unknown transfer from Haka).
Juho Mäkelä

It’s hard to pick just one player for HJK, since they have so many coming in and out. In terms of departures, Erfan Zeneli (Shakhtar Karagandy) with other big names leaving being Gideon Baah (New York Red Bulls), Demba Savage (BK Häcken), Rasmus Schüller (also BK Häcken) and Tapio Heikkila (SJK, then IK Start). HJK are currently swimming in quality defenders. However, attacking players is what they’re short on now and Zeneli will be missed. As for signings, the most important so far is Alfredo Morelos (Independiente Medellín). While Mikael Forssell is making his return to the team, Morelos will be counted on. The team’s best moves, however, were for defensive players to replace Baah and Heikkila. They’ve picked up Ivan Tatomirović (FK Sarajevo), Anthony Annan (Stabaek IF), and Medo.
Ivan Tatomirović

After their impressive season last year, staying in the Veikkausliiga, Ilves have had a quiet transfer window so far. The team stayed up playing with tremendous heart and intensity, but lack players that can really turn a game on its head by themselves. The biggest loss is Antti Mäkijärvi (VfB Oldenburg). While he didn’t spend much time with Ilves, he’s a Finnish U21 international and plays left wing, a position that Ilves has lost multiple players from. They also lost Mohamad Kdouh (Vllaznia Shkodër) and Eminike Mbachu Epeleze. Coming in are Pavle Milosavljević (SJK), Antto Hilska (JJK), and Felipe Aspegren. Milosavljevic is the player that will aid in keeping Ilves in games this year. He’s a tough defender, a proven leader and has the experience of winning the Veikkausliiga title with SJK. Very good pickup for them, but I’m still hoping for some more.
Pavle Milosavljević

Inter Turku
During the season last year, Inter lost two big players in Vahid Hambo (Brighton) and Mika Ojala (VfR Aalen). They also have since lost Vincent Onovo (HJK) and Juuso Hämäläinen (RoPS), but the biggest move of all was Kaan Kairinen (FC Midtjylland), who has been the poster child since he was brought up from Inter’s youth team at the age of 16. Kairinen is a player with excellent technical abilities and reads the game very well for his age. Inter have brought in some big names to replace these players, including Pape Sow, Sebastian Mannström (SV Elversberg) and Henrik Moisander (FC Lahti). The name that I thought would make the biggest impact on the team is Faith Obilor (RoPS). Big, strong and a proven defender in the Veikkausliiga, Obilor and Sow should help the center of the defence and keep most opposition at bay.
Faith Friday Obilor

PS Kemi
Newly promoted Kemi are coming into the Veikkausliiga for the first time after winning the Ykkönen. The squad is full of young players and the team will need to find the balance between using the squad that won their league last year and incorporating new players into that cohesive group. Outgoing players include Daniel Kollar (PK-35) and Miguel Cid (BFC Daugava). Several players including come in - Aliu Djaló (Gaz Metan Medias), Muller (GD Tourizense), Joona Veteli (FF Jaro) and Ryan Gilligan (Umeå FC). Kemi needs to look for another defender though before the season starts.
Zeljko Savic (signed from SJK)

KuPS loses a lot of defensive players this year and the replacements could make or break the season for the team. Outgoing players include Ebrima Sohna (Al-Arabi SC), Toni Markic (Zawisza) and Dani Hatakka (SK Brann). Incoming players for the year include Mika Ääritalo (Lahti), Johannes Kreidl (Hamburg) and Azubuike Egwuekwe (Warri Wolves FC). Admittedly, I do not know a whole lot about Egwuekwe. What I have seen though is that he’s a strong defender that isn’t afraid to go into challenges. He’ll need to have a good season, partnered with Babacar Diallo in the centre of the defense, because there’s not much defensive depth as it stands.
Mika Ääritalo

FC Lahti
Lahti has been relatively busy in the off season, which has lead to a place in the Liigacup final after a fairly impressive group stage. Petri Pasanen has hung up his boots after a tremendous career and Henri Toivomäki (Sarpsborg 08), Pekka Lagerblom (Jacksonville Armada), Mika Ääritalo (KuPS), and Henrik Moisander (Inter Turku) are a few of the players that have gone. Sesay will be missed particularly, as a player who had manned the left side of the defence, his departure leaves no natural left backs.  Jani Tanska, Kalle Multanen (FC Haka), Tomi Maanoja (KuPS) and Duarte Tammilehto (IFK Mariehamn) all come into the team for this season. Multanen will be the key man as he’s the only established goalscorer on the squad. Drilon Shala is a capable secondary striker, but other than those two, there’s just youth up top for Lahti.
Tomi Maanoja

IFK Mariehamn
The Suomen Cup winners have had a very quiet off-season thus far, at least in terms of players coming in. Going out, however, are three big names that were integral in the team winning the Cup. Midfielder Duarte Tammilehto (Lahti), goalkeeper Otso Virtanen (Hibernian) and midfielder Petteri Forsell (Miedz Legnica) all leave for this season. Forsell was one of the best wingers in Veikkausliiga last year in my opinion, attacking with pace, skill, and good passing to the strikers. Coming in are 16 year old Joel Mattson (Mariehamn U19) and Gabriel Petrovic (Brommapojkarna). Petrovic was a highly regarded central midfielder a couple years ago and played for Mariehamn in 2006, but I’ve not heard what he’s been up to in a several years, it appears as if he’s been languishing in the third division in Sweden for some time, so for both his and Mariehamn’s sake, they need him to resurrect his career in a way.

Gabriel Petrovic

PK-35 Vantaa
The immensely entertaining PK-35 (or is it manager Shefki Kuqi that’s entertaining? I guess a bit of both) join the Veikkausliiga this year after finishing second in the Ykkönen last year and winning the promotion play-off.  The majority of the squad remains the same, with the exceptions of defenders Sakir Redzepi and Biran Jeng, a couple of Kuqis (Albert and Daut) and youngster Daniel Rantanen (free transfer to HIFK), who I think is a promising young player who can distribute the ball well, and hopefully has many, many more years at the top level.  Coming in are Ilari Äijälä (KTP), Lucas Kaufman (Ekenäs), Daniel Kollar (PS Kemi) and Njazi Kuqi. Kollar is a young, promising goalkeeper whom I think the team will enjoy success with, but the pick for highlight coming in was between Äijälä and Kuqi.  I went with Äijälå because he is a great fullback that will help shore up the defence and provide some experience in the back. Kuqi will help bring in the goals, but he’s not going to be quite as leaned on as Äijälä by the team because he’s joined in the attack by Lucas Garcia, Masar Ömer, and the ageless Pablo Couñago, so this team has a multitude of attacking options.
Ilari Äijälä

The Veikkausliiga runners-up have had quite the off-season, with most of last year’s backbone moving elsewhere. Going out are Eero Markkanen (AIK), Mosa Yaghoubi (Spartaks Jurmala), Faith Obilor (Inter Turku), Tomas Hradecky (Bohemians 1905) and Tomer Chencinski (Helsingborgs). Yaghoubi is the one that will be missed the most. He was one of the best young players in Veikkausliiga and really should be called up to the Huuhkajat anytime now. Replacements for these players include Juuso Hämäläinen (Inter Turku), Rob Taylor (JJK) and Ransford Osei. Osei is the player that can make or break this team this season. A solid secondary striker who a couple years ago was on the up and up, even making it to the Eredivisie with Twente, he will be counted on to take some of the scoring burden off of Aleksandr Kokko, last season’s top Veikkausliiga scorer. In all honesty, Kokko not leaving would make him the highlight player of the transfer season if I could do that.
Juuso Hämäläinen

What an off-season for the champions. While a couple of key pieces from the championship team moved on, the team is fully reloaded for the upcoming season and it’s hard to decide what move was the best for them. Heading out from Seinäjoki include Allan Souza (back to Liverpool), Wayne Brown, Akseli Pelvas (Falkenbergs), Pavle Milosavljevic (Ilves) and Cédric Gogoua (Partizan Belgrade). Coming in are players of fabulous quality. Highlighted by Finland international Alexei Eremenko Jr (Jaro), he is joined by players including defender El-Hadji Gana Kane (Ferriolense), young midfielder Matej Hradecky (TPS), Estonian international Tarmo Kink (Levadia), winger Youness Rahimi (HIFK), Finnish international defender Jarkko Hurme (Odds), Roope Riski on a permanent basis (Haugesund), and former Honka defender Abdoulaye Méïté. The team is not short of depth in most positions. I highlight Eremenko as my key, because unlike most of the players listed coming in, how he does this season could vary wildly. If motivated and he regains past form, he could be towards the top of league assist charts. If he remains in the form he has been in for a couple years…Allan would be missed.
Youness Rahimi

After a disappointing 2015 in which they only finished one point ahead of KTP, they also lose their top scorer, Juho Mäkelä (HIFK), who scored 16 of the team’s 36 goals last season. In addition, they also are losing midfielder Tony Björk, holding midfielder Denis Abdulahi and defender Teemu Honkaniemi. Coming into the team this season are Finnish international defender Veli Lampi (HJK), Nikko Boxall (Zweibrücken), Juho Lähde (SJK) and striker Andre Clennon on a permanent basis (Arnett Gardens). Lampi must lead the defence to perform solidly in order to make up for the lack of scoring threats.  There are just not many attacking options as it stands, so that must be something the club must look at.
Veli Lampi

So let me know if there’s something I missed, stupid mistakes in judgement or you disagree with my assessment of what players will be important for each team. I’m always up for differing opinions. Until next time, which I’m hoping will be my predictions for how the league table will look at the end of this Veikkausliiga season, thanks for slogging through this article with me.

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.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Interview with PK-35 Vantaa's Pablo Couñago (video)

It's been a while since my last interview, so here is another - with a twist. I sent some questions to PK-35 striker Pablo Couñago, formerly of Ipswich Town and Crystal Palace. With many thanks to Samu Liski at the club, he has made a video of Pablo's answers for you to see. I'll write the answers up at some point, but for now, sit back and enjoy.

Makes me feel a little bad about the Roy Keane question, sounds like that's about it for the subject - thanks Pablo for taking the time. Also, thanks again to Samu, while we also have an interview with Pablo's manager Shefki Kuqi in the works...

Saturday, February 09, 2013

The Vantaa Tournament 13th-16th February

With the Liigacup now in full swing, and everyone having played, what better time to have a break, and allow the Veikkausliiga clubs a chance to play some different opposition…

Two tournaments are taking place this week, in Vantaa and Seinäjoki, which see several familiar faces take on opponents from beyond the shores of Finland.

We'll start with the Vantaa Tournament, and have a brief look at the teams involved, and where to get tickets should you be inclined to go watch...


Champions of Finland for the last four years, HJK have already started 2013 well with 3 out of 3 Liigacup wins, and playing well in Spain against FC Twente and Strømsgodset. Have added experience to the side in Mikael Forssell and Teemu Tainio, and retained forward Joel Pohjanpalo, until August at least.


The 2012 bronze medallists in the Veikkausliiga, and are unbeaten in four Liigacup matches so far (they won it in 2012). Look to have strengthened over the winter with English midfielder Wayne Brown returning and Honka's midfielder Duarte Tammilehto likely to sign soon.

Djurgårdens IF

Recently the strongest team in Sweden but have gone throughdifficult times and finished 9th in 2012. Captained by Finn Joona Toivio, and until recently, home to international Kasper Hämäläinen (now at Lech Poznan of Poland).

FC Flora
Bronze medallists in the Estonian league in 2012, they knocked Haka out of the 1996/97 UEFA Cup. Now under a new coach in former international Marko Lelov. Former team of Mart Poom and Jonatan Johansson.

Hønefoss BK

13th in the 2012 Norwegian Tippeligaen, and home to former TPS striker Riku Riski (and midfielder Toni Kolehmainen). Promoted back to the top division after relegation in 2010.

 FC Lahti
Surprised many on their return to the Veikkausliiga by finishing strongly to come 5th in 2012. Have brought in defenders Markus Joenmäki and Pyry Kärkkäinen from KuPS, and surprised many by signing young Inter midfielder Joni Kauko (until the summer at least). Formed in 1996 by the merger of Reipas and Kuusysi.

Finished a reasonable 6th in 2012, and made it through the first qualifying round of the Europa League but lost in Romania. No such distractions in 2013, and look set to keep last season's top scorer Pekka Sihvola, who was busy trying to get a move over the winter. Played three Liigacup fixtures so far, won one, drawn one, lost one.

Finished a poor 9th in 2012, again got to the second qualifying round of the Europa League. A porous defence was the main cause for the low finish, but have not yet made any changes to the squad. Eero Markkanen looks the likely dangerman for 2013. One win and two draws from five Liigacup matches.

Skonto Rīga
One time permanent champions of Latvia, finished 2nd in 2012 under guidance of Marian Pahars, and won the Latvian Cup as well. Lost to Hadjuk Split in the Europa League, will return to the competition in the summer. Once the home of Arsenal 'legend' Igors Stepanovs.

PK-35 Vantaa

Finished fourth in the Ykkönen in 2012. The local team in the tournament, and have already defeated MYPA this pre-season, but lost to Haka last week. Will be challenging the top half of the table at the end of the season.

If you want tickets, they're available through Lippupalvelu.

We'll be looking at the IV-KOMIA tournament soon, watch this space.