A risk-free alternative

I’m just going to link to a couple of articles from Helsingin Sanomat before I head off to Germany to support Bochum against Werder Bremen. I’ll be sure to pass on Nokia’s kindest regards, don’t you worry.

First up is Erkka V Lehtola’s take on the Baxter appointment. It’s a good read, and hints at some unease over the emphasis placed on the old fellas and what they thought of the appointment.

Then there is a piece on the return of natural grass to Finnair Stadium. This is a great move, but it will probably die quite quickly. A few renovations are being made to Finnish stadia for the 2009 women’s European Championships, ranging from the silly (grass in Töölö, more seats at ratina) to the excellent and necessary (end stands at Veritas Stadium in Turku). I’ll try to write something on these soon.

It’s Baxter

Stuart Baxter has signed a two year contract to manage Finland, and will start his tenure with the senior squad’s trip to Cyprus next month. There was a bit of doubt over that, but I suppose once he decided to take the job there was no point in not going. It’s a first chance to impress Hyypiä and Litmanen, which sounds like a ridiculously arse-over-tit way to go about things. International football has certainly changed ‘since I were a lad’.

Here’s film of his press conference. Very impressive, I’ll say. He clearly sees the problem, that Finland made huge strides under Hodgson but couldn’t quite trouble the opposition enough, and he’s honest enough to say that his priority is to keep the resilience and it may not be possible to ‘open up more’. He’ll make that decision after working with the players.

According to Helsingin Sanomat he will live in Finland, which to my mind is a massive thing. Hodgson was here frequently enough, but if Baxter moves with the wife (and kids, apparently) , the chances of him getting a bit bored watching telly at home and heading out to a PK-35 game just for the sake of it increase somewhat. And he will therefore share that little bit more with the rest of the sad bastard population of Finland…

EDIT: According to Aftonbladet, he’s staying in Helsingborg. Never mind.

Given that Baxter’s Dad is Scottish, it is a little bit unfortunate that Perparim Hetemaj has declared he doesn’t want to play football in that fine, violent, heart disease-ridden land right now. Way to shoot yourself in the foot there, Perpa, but who knows? Baxter has already said he will talk to Hyypiä and Litmanen about their futures ASAP, maybe a word with Hetemaj could yield a change of heart.

He voiced no opinions on individual players, apart from the two big names who ‘exert a massive influence on the squad’, so it’s a good opportunity for the players who are going to Cyprus for games against Poland next Saturday and greece on the Wednesday. Here is the squad (those with a # will only play against Greece, Mika Äaritalo has pulled out due to injury):

Henri Sillanpää, VPS

# Peter Enckelman, Cardiff City

Jani Viander, HJK

Toni Kallio, BSC Young Boys

# Toni Kuivasto, Djurgårdens IF

Juha Pasoja, Ham Kam

# Ari Nyman, FC Thun

Toni Järvinen, Tampere United

Markus Halsti, GAIS

Hannu Patronen, FC Honka

Heikki Pulkkinen, FC MyPa

# Teemu Tainio, Tottenham Hotspur FC

# Mika Väyrynen, PSV Eindhoven

# Markus Heikkinen, SK Rapid Wien

# Daniel Sjölund, Djurgårdens IF

# Roman Eremenko, Udinese Calcio

Mika Ääritalo, TPS

# Alexei Eremenko jr, FC Saturn Moskovskaya Oblast

# Mikael Forssell, Birmingham City FC

# Jonatan Johansson, Malmö FF

# Jari Litmanen, –

Tuomo Könönen, Odd Grenland

Kari Arkivuo, Sandefjord Fotball

Roni Porokara, FC Honka

Jussi Kujala, Tampere United

Tuomas Haapala, HJK

Ville Taulo, HJK

Juho Mäkelä, Heart of Midlothian FC

# Veli Lampi, FC Zürich

Toni Lehtinen, FC Haka

Mikko Innanen, FC Haka

Tainio: A very tactical player

Teemu Tainio got some rare praise from Patrick Barclay in the Telegraph today. He’s been out of the side and struggling for form when playing with the national team (he’s been fresh, so full of running, but lacking a bit of sharpness), so it’s good to see him starting to play a key role for Spurs in their cup games this week. He seems to have tempted fate though, and Tottenham got panned at Old Trafford today.

Tainio is a ‘front sweeper’

Not for the first time, we are talking – yes, you’ve guessed it – holding midfielders. For me, there was no brighter star of last week’s show than Teemu Tainio. Not even King or the indefatigably brilliant Robbie Keane, whose instant short pass to set up Lennon’s goal came from the very soul of football (you could envisage Ron Greenwood, say, beaming at its deft selflessness). Or Jermaine Jenas, who not only scored but helped Tainio to seal the fringes of Spurs’ penalty area. The Finn, acting as what used to be called a “front sweeper”, was fundamental in the frustration of an Arsenal side enhanced (though they did not wish it thus) by the appearance of Cesc Fabregas as an early substitute for the injured Denilson. This was tactically clever and you wonder what Ramos will have in store for Sir Alex Ferguson today as he seeks to preserve a personal record of no defeats in cup ties for the best part of two years.

Poyet paid tribute to Tainio when the Uruguayan, a very different type in that almost all his efforts were concerned with attack when he bestrode the midfields of Chelsea and Tottenham, spoke to the press on Friday. “He’s very clever,” said Poyet. “He understands what the manager wants and the needs of the team. Positionally he is different class. He knows when to play it simple – and when to make a foul sometimes! All these ingredients make for a very tactical player. He is very important for us.”

Now I know we are not supposed to condone tactical fouling – and, for what it is worth, I thought almost all of Tainio’s interventions against Arsenal were clean anyway – but it can be a vital part of the holding role in the modern game and there could be no complaints from Wenger because, in this respect, he is no purist, as scrutiny of the habits of, say, Gilberto Silva, or before him Patrick Vieira would confirm. Even at Arsenal, no one mistakes football for a beauty contest and you can be sure that their great rivals’ more glamorous players, led by Dimitar Berbatov, will not want to go to Wembley without Tainio.

Pekka Hämelainen has announced that SPL’s preferred candidate to be national team manager is Stuart Baxter. Another Svecophile (is that a word?) Englishman, Baxter has managed Basel and South Africa, as well as England Under 19s and a variety of Scandinavian clubs. He has a good reputation in Sweden and has managed to emerge unscathed from Helsingborg’s travails, which were caused by more senior people than coaches.

It’ll be interesting to see how much confidence the prevaricating old fellas have in this appointment (if indeed it is confirmed, although I doubt they’d announce it like this unless they were confident). Litmanen and Hyypiä are still to decide what to do, with Kaven and Nurmela already having retired from the national team. The latter two played bit parts at best, but Litti and Hyypiä could make a big difference – even if it’s only to improve morale.

Nosotros lo sabemos todos!

So do not doubt us, Sevillanos! Teemu Pukki finally signed for Sevilla recently, and some of the Sevillistas were a bit surprised that we at FIF were discussing how he’d do back in September. We are the first and best source for Finnish football, so long as you, erm, don’t speak Finnish….

Anyway, this is the HS article from a couple of weeks back:

One of the brightest prospects in Finnish junior football, the 17-year-old striker Teemu Pukki from the southern city of Kotka, has decided on the next stage in his footballing career. The youngster is to join the Spanish La Liga side Sevilla FC.

“I believe there I will develop best as a footballer”, Pukki says in justifying his decision to head south.
The contract covers three and a half years. His mother Teija Pukki’s decision to travel to Andalusia to provide support to her son for the first year made the young man’s decision easier.
“I aim to complete my upper secondary school studies either with the Finnish Upper Secondary School in Malaga, or through distance learning”, says Pukki, who is currently on the second grade of the upper secondary school.
Pukki had a contract with the Finnish league side FC KooTeePee until the end of the season 2009.
“The transfer is financially significant to KooTeePee. We will get money immediately, and later on in instalments depending on Teemu’s success with Sevilla. Naturally, the sums are classified”, says secretary Jukka Vilkki of FC KooTeePee.

Despite his young age, Pukki has already played in 29 Veikkausliiga premier league games in the past two seasons, scoring three goals. Naturally Pukki has been part of the national side in various age groups for youngsters.
He was the top goalscorer in the Under-17 European Championships qualifying tournament in 2007, and was selected for the Under-21 team to play Scotland last autumn, in spite of his being only 17 at the time.
Pukki will travel to Spain in the next few days. “I don’t know what I will do their first, but a place in the team will come through training hard. The first choices will be the reserve team or the under-21s side”, Pukki believes.

Sevilla FC, the winners of the last two UEFA Cups, currently stand fifth in the Spanish league, La Liga. Even the reserve team plays in the second highest division.
Pukki’s move to Spain follows hard on the heels of the departure of another highly talented Finnish youngster, 16-year-old Lauri Dalla Valle. He signed with Liverpool towards the end of last year.
As such, Spain is not a common destination for Finnish footballers. Only midfield legend Jari Litmanen has previously played in the famed La Liga in Spain.
Litmanen moved to FC Barcelona from Ajax Amsterdam, but did not enjoy the best of fortunes there.

And here’s a picture of young Teemu.

Axel Orrström becomes a Son of the Rock

Not the wrestler, I hasten to add. No, the Atlantis midefielder has signed for Dumbarton after a successful trial. Here’s the story from the Dumbarton website:

TWO new players joined the Sons this morning with manager Jim Chapman busy during the last week of the January transfer window.

22-year old striker Chris Mackie joins on loan from Alloa Athletic till the end of the season and also signing on till May is Axel Orrstrom, a 21-year old Finnish midfielder.

Both will be added to Saturday’s squad for the trip to Firs Park.

The boss told us : “Chris will give us additional options up front, whilst the Finnish lad we’ve had on trial and I’ve seen enough to give him a deal.

“They will be included in my plans for the East Stirling game.”

Dumbarton are second from bottom of the Scottish senior leagues, but they have a fair bit of history. I would be intrigued to learn about the economics of this deal, as I hadn’t thought players in the Scottish Third Division made much money. I suppose to lure of playing in a bigger league with more visibility to scouts played a role for Orrström, as well as the adventure. He’s only 21, and if you can’t go and enjoy a deep fried pizza and buckfast diet at that age, when can you?

Is Perparim Hetemaj a ‘titcheek’?

I’ve been following the best traditions of Finnish football journalism recently, and getting all my stories from http://futisforum2.org. It’s an interesting site, with lots of people who find information about obscure footballers and post it there. I would post some interesting treatise on the demise of traditional media in the face of de-centralised information sources that can offer a broader and deeper range of information than those traditional entities can ever hope to, but instead I am for now going to concentrate on whether Perpa is indeed a ‘titcheek’, as Peter Palotas suggested in this thread.
‘Tissiposki’ is the word, and one I now have engraved in my brain for it’s pleasingly infantile sound. The reason for the accusation of titcheekery is Hetemaj’s declaration that he doesn’t want to play against Scotland for the Under 21s. Hetemaj, you may remember, was badly injured on his last trip to Scotland, when Kevin Thomson broke his leg in a B international.
I think ‘titcheek’ is a harsh, if hilarious way to describe him, but he’s got to be worried about his reputation for being soft now, hasn’t he? Next time he plays against any British team he’s going to be kicked from pillar to post. Best get back on the horse, Perpa, and show them you can’t be rattled.

Aapo Kiljunen to leave all this behind, and Stanley Festus’s efforts to make a career in Finland

busy day for TPV

21 year old TPV keeper Aapo Kiljunen is on trial with Landskrona BOIS this week, with the Skåne club looking for a new keeper after Stuart’s lad retired. Another day, another player goes to try his luck in a bigger league. He’s a decent player but the leap in standards is quite big: Superettan sides sometimes play in front of big crowds, TPV play in front of the people in the picture and not many more.

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Finnish midfielders have a busy week, and RoPs get some good news

This was originally a post about Juska Savolainen and Teemu Tainio both having a good week, but then I had a look at Ilta Sanomat and saw that RoPs have got their licence for next season!!

This is very surprising. Jan Walden put the likelihood at less then 5% not so long ago, and it did rather seem as if their hard work on the field would go to waste. As it is, they will have to improve the floodlights by the 24th of August or face a €75,000 fine. The media facilities, spectators toilets and first aid facilities will have to be upgraded by the 30th of April or they will pay €20,000.

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Silly season update: TamU best in Norden and Jari Litmanen on trial at Fulham

A group of German statisticians have decided that Tampere United are the 87th best club in the world. here’s the obligatory list of clubs TamU are now officially ‘better than’:

Ajax, VFB Stuttgart, Lanus (Clausura champions, lest we forget), FC Copenhagen, Hapoel Tel Aviv, Sparta Prague, Red Star Belgrade, Newcastle United, Bolton Wanderers, Manchester City, Ason Villa, and every other club in the world except for 86 lucky entities.

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Mehmet Hetemaj signs for Panionos

Well that’s about it really. A three and a half year contract with a middling team, he’s the younger brother of Perparim who is currently at AEK, who are top of the league at the moment. If they can stay there and break the dominance of Olympiakos, that’ll be some achievement.

As for Mehmet, well. If HJK had all these great players last year (Sorsa, Savolainen, Hetemaj), why were they so rubbish? I didn’t see much of him but he looked skillful and lightweight. If he’s lightweight under Finnish tackling conditions, God knows what he’ll be like abroad. He will at least learn how to dive properly.

In other news, the world of Tampere football has become slightly more integrated. TPV have signed a contract to be Tampere United’s farm club, which now leaves no senior team without a link of some kind with Tamu. I’ll post more on this later in the week, it is quite intriguing really.