Two and a half year after I had resigned from Whitehawk and uprooted from my life in Brighton, on the south coast of England, I had found myself a new home. I had sacrificed my life in the 'Sunny South Coast' of England in search of a place I could live happily. Thirty months later, I found such a place.
Salo was a small city in the south west of Finland. It was located between Helsinki and Turku, and was just over 120km away from the Finnish capital. It had been well known for hosting the manufacturing plant of popular phone company Nokia, but that has since shut down. It was very much a drive-by city for those commuting from Helsinki to Turku, and vice versa.
With a population of just over 50,000, it was certainly of a major contrast to the urban areas of England. Salo was surrounded by farmland, but hit a major unemployment crisis in 2015 following the closure of the phone manufacturing plant. Many people were forced in to commuting to nearby towns and cities for work, as a result.
It was very different to what I left behind in Brighton. I left a loud, growing city in the south of England for life elsewhere. But, however, Salo was not my first destination as I looked to escape England. Once I had officially resigned from Whitehawk, I boarded a plane and left for Stockholm, and I did not look back. I had an apartment in the Swedish capital, where I hid from the world for a period of time.
I received a number of job offers, but I had no interest in returning to football any time soon. I needed time to experience life outside of the game, something which I hadn't had a chance to do in twelve years. I could not learn more about myself as a human being if I were to throw myself back in to the game.
To be perfectly honest, I had lost what made me fall in love with the game. I don't mean to speak ill of the media and the fans of English football, but they ruined the game for me. There were games where I was criticised, and even booed, while we were winning. They had become too expectant, and were never satisfied with what they had.
When I left Brighton, I never planned on returning to England. I loved being away from there too much. Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Estonia - they were all beautiful countries with beautiful people - in both appearance and demeanor. I purchased apartments in each country and lived life to the full in each. I picked up a little on the languages and the cultures and felt more at home in eastern Europe than I did in England.
I watched a little football now and then, mostly Champions League and international games. Not once was I tempted to attending a fixture, until Whitehawk faced Manchester United in the UEFA Champions League final in Rome. It was two years after my resignation, and I was curious as to how the atmosphere of Whitehawk games had changed, if at all.
My two years off had given me inspiration as to what I wanted in life. Instead of revolving my life around a career in football, I learned from how Scandinavians lived their lives, to revolve my career around what I wanted in life. Why manage a top team if I couldn't enjoy life there?
Ryan Ferguson Fell In Love With Serenity Of Salo, Finland
And so, following my attendance at the Champions League final, I set about searching for potential managerial positions in a place where I could enjoy my life. I was looking for a quiet town or city where the people were friendly and life was enjoyable. I had my heart set on a club in either Scandinavia or in the Baltic region, and I scoured the job center for vacancies.
At the beginning of December, this month, I applied for a number of jobs in Sweden, Finland and Norway in cities and towns I felt could prove to be a suitable home for myself for a number of years. I received offers from clubs such as Örebro SK, Aalesunds FK, and a few others. But one offer stood out more than most.
A man by the name of Kalle Ruotsalainen contacted me about the possibility of discussing the managerial vacancy at a smell Finnish club by the name of Salon Palloilijat, also known as SalPa. Kalle was the chairman of the club, and seemed a very friendly character. He was very honest about the club's situation, and conceded that the resources available to the club were very limited.
I was impressed by the honesty shown, and so I visited Salo, the home of SalPa. It was a very calm city. The people were relaxed and friendly. It was a two hour drive from Helsinki, not too far away from the nation's capital. It was just a quiet place to live in peace, and I liked it.
The club itself didn't have much to its name. A quiet seventy-four year history with next-to-no trophy success. Two Kakkonen (Finnish third tier) titles was all they had to show for it. The club had never played in the Veikkausliiga, the top flight of Finnish football, and had somehow scraped a sixth place finish in Ykkönen (FInnish second tier) last season.
SalPa's home ground was a multi sports complex with an Olympic-standard track bordering it. Salon urheilupisto, as it was called, could host a capacity crowd of 800 people, offering 400 seats in total. It was not a big ground, not that it needed to be. It was a home for SalPa to play in front of their loyal supporters.
I had no doubts about signing for SalPa. They didn't offer much in terms of job perks or resources, but they offered an opportunity to live life in a place where I could enjoy it. I had learned my lesson in England. I wouldn't let my job dictate my life, but let my life dictate my job.
, I never like to take the easy way out
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