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Aapo Virtanen: Don’t Look Back In Anger

Started on 6 November 2018 by Jack
Latest Reply on 5 September 2019 by Justice
:O :O :O
Drama! Glad to hear the assistant has done well whilst taking the reigns at the club. It was important for Aapo to take time away to recompose himself. Arguably, he still isn't 100% and it'll be interesting to see what happens regarding his actions in the aftermath of the press conference. Could this affect his role as manager? Will he still be in charge for the next game? I'm gripped to this!
And here we have a leaked image of the Aapo Anger Act:
Griffin: Shock!

Scott: Markus is without a doubt a very talented member of our backroom staff, taking up both the assistant manager and DoF role, so he is very accomplished despite only just retiring. About, Aapo it shouldn't be surprising to see that he's being fiery considering recent developments.

Justice: It looks more like gammon?

Aapo Virtanen cut a lonely figure on the touchline in AC Oulu's opening fixture against IFK Mariehamn, as his revamped squad lost 4-2 and tumbled to the bottom of the Veikkausliiga.

After fresh photographs of the Oulu gaffers' fiery outburst at a local photographer on Thursday came to light, Aapo Virtanen's mental wellbeing has been brought under the light following his potential involvement in the death of United Brotherhood member Niilo Makinen.

Since December, Finnish police and intelligence services have been investigating the 33-year-old manager fresh off the back of winning the Finnish top division in 2020 with an underdog side.

It could be suggested that his outburst and ongoing investigation affected his team's performance on Sunday evening after playing impressive football under Virtanen's number 2 Markus Heikkinen during preseason and in the group stages of the Suomen Cup.

AC Oulu took 30 minutes to score the opening goal through their January signing, the 18-year-old English attacking-midfielder Taron Molyneux who slotted a penalty past Mariehamn's Igor Levchenko. Molyneux is said to be the replacement for Jorge Cabezas - Finland's new most expensive footballing export since Teemu Pukki - who left the club in January for AS Roma for a fee of £1.5M

The sides went into the half-time break with Virtanen's side leading through Molyneux's penalty, but it took only five minutes for Mariehamn's engines to rev up as they equalised in the 51st minute through Mantilla. Just five minutes later, the game was tipped on its head when Ben Sangaré netted Mariehamn's second to put them 2-1 ahead.

Sangaré went on to score a third before Darren Bradbury pulled one back with ten minutes to go, the game was buried by a last minute finish by Mantilla to make it 4-2 and send the reigning champions to the foot of the Veikkausliiga.

Under any other circumstance, this result would have been seen as an 'off-day' for Virtanen, but considering the situation around his investigation as well as the four-month hiatus throughout the club's preseason schedule, people are already starting to ask questions of Virtanen's mental capabilities to deal with such personal stress whilst also leading a Champions League quality team through another grueling six-month season.
A disappointing defeat and one that will certainly raise questions. I have a lot of sympathy for Aapo, it must be an incredibly difficult thing for him to process. Perhaps we can expect for Markus to take the reigns in the near future, whilst Aapo focuses on personal matters.
Disappointing start to the season but at least there is plenty of time to turn it around!
Not the best way to start a league campaign but as Michael Owen once said, you can't lose if you don't play.

In an exclusive interview with Helsingin Sanomat, under-fire AC Oulu boss Aapo Virtanen has asserted his innocence following a number of criminal investigations in relation to the death of Niilo Makinen.

Aapo Virtanen took time out of his full-time role at AC Oulu in preseason to handle claims of his reported involvement in the death of Niilo Makinen and links to United Brotherhood, but on his return on the club's first competitive league fixture against Mariehamn, the Finnish champions were shocked to lose 4-2 at Idrottsparken.

After news reports doubting the 33 year old's mental competence to return to work after a very distressing period of accusations, Virtanen left his assistant manager - Markus Heikkinen - in charge as Virtanen took another month away from his job to attend investigations and try keep his mind at bay.

Helsingin Sanomat spoke to the manager yesterday afternoon at his Oulu home where Virtanen announced his return to the game, beginning this Thursday evening where Oulu take on Ekenas in the league.

"I think it's the right time to come back," said Virtanen. "I think I rushed my return to make the start of the season against Mariehamn and it certainly had a profoundly negative impact on myself and the players in the team that day."

Since he left on his month-long hiatus on 12th April, Heikkinen has performed outstandingly as the stand-in manager. Out of the six competitive matches he took control of, he attained a 100% win ratio including remarkable victories over then-league leader Helsinki and a Suomen Cup quarter-final win against Seinajoen. The results lifted Oulu from the foot of the table all the way up the summit where they lead the Veikkausliiga by two points after five games played.

"Markus [Heikkinen] has been magnificent, he'll be putting me out of a job soon enough!" Virtanen joked about Heikkinen's management of the team. "He manages both the under-20s and the reserve team and his talent shines through there. I am immensely grateful for relieving the pressure around the whole club these past few weeks and we have been speaking regularly throughout this time - he has been tremendously supportive."

On the ongoing criminal investigation, Virtanen had little to say besides pleading his own innocence: "It's a police investigation that is still in process, I can't comment on the details but I have had meetings with the relevant authorities and in response to all the speculation surrounding me, I am deeply sorrowful to the Makinen family for these circumstances but personally, I am an innocent party in this saddening incident."

Virtanen will be hoping to continue the month-long legacy of Heikkinen which has left Oulu top of the table as his side take on Ekenas on 6th May, where Heikkinen will be attending on the touchline alongside his manager.

After a troubling start to the season with the 4-2 loss to Mariehamn following my comeback from the hiatus caused by the drama of the Niilo Makinen case, we certainly came back. April and May were a time to hit the ground running after a troublesome few months before, and with the board members accepting my request for improved youth facilities as well as an increase in the wage budget the season looks good so far. In preseason we managed to qualify from the Suomen Cup group stage into the knockout rounds which took place in April.

After a shocking start to the season by falling down to Mariehamn in a game finishing 4-2, Markus Heikkinen took charge from the Jyvaskyla game through to the Seinajoen cup match at the beginning of May. Two games in a row, we scored five goals with Teemu Savolainen scoring half of them as he now tops the top scoring rankings in the Veikausliiga. Following this, a ten-game winning streak ensued, taking us to the top of the league table and also into the Suomen Cup Final. Only our second loss of the season came at the hands of Rovaniemen and we also lost in the Suomen Cup Final to what is becoming our bogey team - IFK Mariehamn. Two straight defeats became three as we suffered a massacring 5-0 defeat at the hands of Kuopion away from home in what has left a bad taste in the mouth before the the mid-season break in games.

After ten games played, we top the league by two points despite our recent slip-up in results in the league campaign. At the Raatin Stadion, we have yet to lose or draw a game which makes our home form the best in the Veikkausliiga by some five-point margin at this stage. Following us up are Ilves and the 2020 runners-up Inter Turku meanwhile the main media contenders Helsinki and Kuopion lay in 4th and 8th place respectively.

Over at Seinajoen, it has the makings of yet another drastically poor season for the 2019 Veikkausliiga runners-up as they finished well below expectations in 10th place last season and right now occupy that position once again at the current stage. Ever since Alexei Eremenko was sacked in June 2020 and replaced by former Haka boss Tommi Pikkarainen, they have been on a downward spiral and he must be under threat of the axe with only a 30% win record at the club with what is a reasonably competitive squad.

Occupying the bottom two spots this season are the Veikkausliiga new-boys Jyvaskyla and Ekenas who are having a torrid time battling at the bottom of the league with only 5 and 4 points respectively.

With the battering from Kuopion signalling the start of the summer break, we will restart the league campaign up against Ilves on the 17th of June and in July the transfer window will reopen before the Ekenas fixture, giving us a chance to boost our squad for the remainder of the season. Our toughest fixture appears to be a tough trip to Helsinki's Toolon Stadium in July, with the media favourites slowly beginning to impose themselves on this season.
Much better lately to move top. Hopefully that bright run of form can continue.
Ive got a feeling its going to be one of those magical seasons!
Wednesday, 14th July 2021

AC Oulu 7 - 0 FC Alashkert (Oulu win 12-0 on aggregate)

"Dunno what all the preparation was even for boss!" said Oliver Rathbone in his thick Lancastrian accent as he jogged down the tunnel where I was greeting my players after the fleeting victory.

Our first round in the Champions League had turned out to be one of the simplest tasks in my career as we annihilated the reigning Armenian champions in their own stadium and now at the Raatin Stadion.

I was aware of the ease at which we had won simply because of the lack of touchline activity that I had to partake in throughout the match. I had to get across that I was proud of the players for taking on this round with such ease and composure but to also warn them about the trickier opponents that lay ahead of us in the later rounds.

After all members of the squad and staff members gleefully skipped into the dressing room, I followed behind them all to make sure I was the last one in there.

"Well done lads," I said above average voice level, clapping my hands together to make sure the noise levels in the dressing room quietened so they could listen to me. "Over the past two legs you have delivered what was required. We all should know that our opponents today are miles off the standard that we have in our own division, but regardless you had to defeat what was put in front of you."

Yaya Sanogo had a particularly startling game, bagging five goals out of the seven scored and securing the Man of the Match award at the end of the game. He played as a lone striker for the rested Savolainen but was supported by the two wingers Makela and Hammond.

"Yaya, a great performance from you with that many goals. You handled yourself well up there on your own against those big Armenian farmers at the back," the room chuckled knowing the reality of the opposition they had come up against. "The rest of you, spot on. You all did fantastically in what I would say has been the biggest crowd of the season.

"However, you must realise that this game was merely like playing FIFA on beginner mode. These lot were nothing compared to even what you come up against regularly in the domestic league, so as we advance in the Champions League, the more advanced the opponents will be. It is imperative that you understand the quality of the likes of Hajduk, Celtic and Belgrade who all enter the next round.

"In training, we're going to prepare for the weekend fixture against Turku, but after that it is the next qualification round and that will be our focus. This season we are going to win the Veikkausliiga AND we are going to progress to the maximum of our ability in Europe.

"Does that sound good?" My question was met with the clinky rise of players from their seats with their metal studs tapping the floor as well as a sea of approving noise conjoined with the clapping of hands. I think they got my message.

Following on from the horrific end to May, we got straight back on the horse after our 5-0 defeat at the hands of Kuopion as we defeated current title challengers Ilves in a 1-0 win. The month of July marked our first appearances in the UEFA Champions League as we played Armenian champions FC Alashkert in the 1st Qualifying Round and beat them 12-0 over two games before taking on the Kazakh champions FK Astana who we scraped past in the first leg before hammering them in the second leg.

Over the course of the past two months, we have suffered absolutely no losses as we won 11 of our 13 fixtures in the period, drawing twice in the league against Inter Turku and Kuopion. In June, the introduction of Hugo Keto in goal produced a month full of clean sheets before David Obi's return from injury against Helsinki. It was Yaya Sanogo who stole the show in this period, with five goals in one game against Alashkert and nine goals in total.

In the Veikkausliiga, we picked up 23 points with seven wins and two draws despite our involvement in European football during July. Our Champions League form has been exceptional so far, even if the quality of our opponent has been somewhat questionable. We defeated Alashkert 5-0 in Armenia and 7-0 at the Raatin before taking on FK Astana in the next qualifying round where we won 3-2 thanks to a last-gasp winner from Sanogo, which came before a 4-0 hammering at the Raatin Stadion in front of a capacity crowd.

Our current 14-game run at the top of the Veikkausliiga looks to have no end in sight this season as we run away with a whole nine-point lead on the 2nd placed Inter Turku - who finished last season as runners-up too. Despite boasting the best home record in the division - even with two games-in-hand and unbeaten - our away record is the fifth-best in the league this season with all three of our losses taking place on the road.

With us running way ahead at the top, the race for European qualification (2nd and 3rd) is running extremely tight. 7th placed Mariehamn are only four points away from second place currently. 8th placed Kuopion will certainly be looking to make some headway in the coming weeks with their games in hand as they once again are performing well below expectations under Jarmo Korhonen.

The relegation battle to stay up certainly seems to be over for the Veikkausliiga new-boys in Ekenas and Jyvaskyla. Ekenas sit in the relegation play-off spot but are gasping for air as they drift ten points away from safety, which Honka Espoo has in tenth place. It now seems to be a battle between the two clubs for who goes down automatically in 12th spot and who has a chance to stay up with the prospect of a relegation play-off at the end of the campaign.

Our Veikkausliiga campaign resumes at the beginning of August with a fixture against Gabri Garcia's 9th placed Seinajoen. In the perspective of present day, our biggest game in the domestic league will be against Inter Turku, who will be hopelessly chasing our tail and hoping to retain their position of last season of runners-up and Europa League qualification.

However, it is in the Champions League where we have been given an almost impossible challenge as we have been drawn against Swiss giants FC Basel in the third qualification round. The Super League holders have evidently got a much superior squad to our own, boasting the likes of Jetro Willems, Álvarez Balanta and Sam Gallagher and it could seem to be pushing the boundaries if we go into the game expecting a win. Even if we do lose - which is very likely - we will enter the UEFA Europa League fourth qualifying round automatically (Inter Turku come up against Sparta Prague in that competition).
Two fantastic victories over two legs in the Champions League and a resounding set of results in the league, not too bad! Basel will be a tricky test, but certainly one you can overcome if the players are committed to the cause. A club of their pedigree is certainly the test the players may need, in order to find their level.

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