With the Finnish footballing season causing a very lengthy preseason campaign, we played twelve friendly matches on top of six competitive Finnish Cup group phase matches from the January period all the way through to the end of April. I can proudly say that out of the total eighteen fixtures we played, we only lost one game - the very first game in the Finnish Cup against our divisional rivals Kajaani.
Throughout the course of preseason, we played six times against top-flight teams and didn't lose to a single one, even scoring three against the team dubbed to be one of the front-runners in the Premier League in the form of SJK.
I started my managerial career up against our divisional rivals AC Kajaani away from home and start off poorly with a 2-1 loss to Mika Lumijarvi's team. Straight after that loss we bounced back in the same competition with a great victory against Finnish Premier League mainstays VPS with Ramadingaye and Moore providing the source for a 2-0 victory in the cup match.
From the victory against VPS at the end of January, we refused to be beaten all the way through preseason, including another victory against VPS in a non-competitive match at home in March. Aleksi Gullsten staked his claim for a starting spot for the upcoming season with a heroic hat-trick against Rollon Pojat in a friendly match.
In the Finnish Cup, it was the opening loss to Kajaani that refused us entry to the next round as the competition ruled that the group was sorted by results between teams rather than goal difference, so despite having a two-goal advantage on Kajaani, we missed out on cup progress due to our 2-1 loss to them in January.
The most impressive player throughout preseason has been our defensive midfielder Jair
who has made his place in the starting eleven his own with his quality performances against some good sides. In the media, Jair is being dubbed as one of the best players in the league and whilst the transfer was open this winter, there were plenty of clubs snooping around the £50K-rated player, but fortunately we managed to keep ahold of the player and he will be a very important player for us.
After bringing in English keeper Matt Jones earlier in the transfer window, we managed to negotiate what I believe as a massive coup in bringing in 21-year-old French centre-back Safwan Mbae
on a free transfer. The defender was on the books of Ligue 1 giants AS Monaco since 2012. Since being released in June 2017, Mbae has been without a club. Looking at the player's attributes, it seems to me like he is a huge signing that will benefit us for years to come. Mbae signed a contract until Winter 2020, so we have him for a good amount of time to develop the player even more.
With improvements in both the goalkeeper department and the centre-back area, my last movement in this transfer window was the arrival of Colombian poacher Jhonatan Donado
. With Morin and Belov being our only options up top, I believed that they weren't good enough for what I am trying to achieve with the club. Donado, 27, is best known in Nicaragua for his spell with Universidad UNAM where he netted 23 times in 70 appearances in Central America. His most recent spell was in Finland with our divisional rivals KTP last season as he scored once in 9 appearances in their promotion season last term.
We begin our league campaign up against the recently relegated Helsingfors, who have come down from the Premier League with a relatively strong squad. This season they are the league favourites at 2/5 odds to win the title. We play them again in June at our home ground so if we lose then we can redeem ourselves on our own turf. For me, they are the most important fixtures in the coming two months.