A table-topping couple of months for Aapo Virtanen
Before and after my disciplinary at Raatin Stadion, we have been on scintillating form from the end of April all the way through until mid-June. As a result of our especially good form in May, bagging seven wins out of eight games and my own Manager of the Month award we now top the Finnish First Division league table.
In addition to our great talent in scoring goals (2nd highest scorers in the league), our defence has been absolutely exceptional and as a result, our goalkeeper Matt Jones has conceded only 11 goals in 14 and has kept six clean sheets - the best out of any goalkeeper in the league.
As of the end of June, we top the table by two points after we picked up 30 points this month. Due to the short nature of the Finnish footballing season, we are already more than halfway through the season despite being only two months into the campaign.
In the promotion play-off spot sit IFK Helsingfors - the league title favourites after just being relegated last season - and they have already defeated us in the season opener before we returned the favour at the beginning of June. We only have one more opportunity to take points from Helsingfors this season in the third fixture at the end of July which will be held at Helsingfors stadium.
At the bottom end of the table are newly-promoted Klubi-04 - Helsinki's "B" team - and they are the team that the pundits predicted to go down before the start of the season. They seem in pretty good shape to go yo-yo back down into the third tier of Finnish football, sitting eight points from safety with thirteen games left.
For the Player of the Month this time around, it goes to another central midfielder in the form of Felix Orishani. He played in every single league game so far this season, starting in thirteen of them games. He has been a vital part of our attack by scoring three goals, and also a pivotal part of our leading defensive record in the league right now. Working alongside Jair and Ramadingaye in the centre of the park, Orishani has been exceptional.
In the next couple of months we play nine matches, leaving only four fixtures remaining by the time September and October comes around. As said before, only one fixture remains with league favourites and current 2nd place occupiers Helsingfors, and it is essential to us that we gain at least a point from that game if we want a chance of being promoted at the end of the season.
With our form slightly dipping throughout mid-June, I hope that the 6-1 battering of Kotkan TP can relight the winning feeling throughout the squad and we can strengthen our position at the top of the table ahead of IFK Helsingfors.
According to reports in Kristianstad, Sweden, Aapo Virtanen's AC Oulu have submitted a bid for promising centre-back Johan Carlsson
In what is a shock development in Oulu's recently tepid transfer policy, respected local news outlets in Kristianstad have reported that Virtanen has offered a fee in the region of £1,000 for Nosaby's young centre-back Johan Carlsson.
With Oulu's chief scout Jouko Abdul-Rahim sent out across Scandinavia, many sterling reports have been sent back to Virtanen and his player/director of football Markus Heikkinen about the 17-year-old who has appeared for Swedish Second Division side Nosaby 12 times so far this season in the league.
Under Virtanen's spell in charge, AC Oulu have only signed three players in the form of goalkeeper Matt Jones, defender Safwan Mbae and striker Jhonatan Donado. With the club sat top of the league by five points despite a recent loss to title challengers Helsingfors, it may appear that the manager is trying to strengthen his squad for the final run-in of the season.
However, this could also be seen as evidence of an emerging philosophy that Virtanen is trying to implement at Oulu. In recent weeks the Helsinki-born boss has taken numerous young trialists on at the club which could be seen as the manager attempting to channel a youth-based outlook into the club, rather than buying in talent at the peak or end of their careers. So far, Danish youngsters Daniel Due and Claus Mikkelsen have signed deals with Oulu.
Carlsson seems to have proven his worth at first-team level with his current club, so with Oulu veteran Markus Heikkinen moving onto Oulun Luistinseura at the end of the season, the youngster could be seemingly seen as a signing to step into the shoes of the 39-year-old who has made 61 appearances for AC Oulu since his arrival in 2016.
Additionally, it has been reported that Carlsson's agent will be looking for his client to become a key player at Oulu if negotiations between the two parties were to occur in the near future.
With just under two weeks of the Finnish summer transfer window left before it slams shut, Virtanen will be pursuing this deal tirelessly if he wants his target as much as he wanted his previous three first-team signings.
Interesting developments. A young prospect with a bright future, I'm sure, so it would be a great capture if Oulu can pull it off. Especially to replace an ageing player, who is likely to hang up his boots soon.
As we come towards the end of the season with only four games remaining after August, we are on the brink of winning just the second of Oulu's trophies - the other being the First Division back in 2009. Out of the nine games we played in July and August, we only lost one game against Helsingfors - the preseason title favourites. However, their favourite tagline from the media has clearly put the pressure on Teemu Kankkunnen's men who lost three games in the same period of time. We now extend our lead at the top to six points ahead.
In the league table, we have pretty much qualified for the divisional play-offs that 2nd place brings in this league as we sit 12 points ahead of 3rd placed Kotkan TP. As you will probably know, I don't want a play-off - I want the league title and an automatic return to the top-flight and I would only have to attain seven more points from this position, presuming that Helsingfors will win all of their games. In addition, if we get ten more points then we beat the division record for the record high amount of points won ever which is currently held by Rovaniemen Palloseura in 2012.
At the bottom of the table it seems that Helsinki's affiliate club - Klubi-04 - are doomed to take the drop down again straight after last seasons promotion to the second tier. They sit ten points from safety and are not in the best of form to win ten points and survive. AC Kajaani, however, stand a chance as they currently only stand one win away from safety as Ekenas, KPV and Jaro all are threatened by the drop.
This season, Lassi Nurmos has been spectacular but has been outshone regularly by other great performers like Jair and Orishani. He has been a very versatile defender this season, playing all across the back line and is a key reason why our goalkeeper Matt Jones leads the leagues clean sheets tally with his outstanding defending as well as his getting forward when playing at full-back.
With only four games left, it is clear that the game versus JJK (4th place) will be our most difficult based on league standings. We stand a very good chance of beating the other teams based on form and we could even be a factor of sending a club down into relegation as we play relegation threatened KPV, Kajaani and Klubi-04 - although the latter will probably be already relegated by the time we play them at Raatin Stadion.
Among the excitement of pending promotion opportunities, there was an ongoing transfer window in Finland that we took advantage of by snapping up Nosaby's starlet centre-back Johan Carlsson for a £825 fee.
With Heikkinen leaving us at the end of the season, it leaves a gap in the center of defence and although only 17 years old, I think that the long-term solution for that gap can be the signing of Carlsson on a long-term contract. I have already asked Heikkinen to tutor the youngster so he will feature occasionally in matchday squads and hopefully replicate Heikkinen's assertive style of defending.
Cracking set of results that puts you on the brink of promotion. Let's just hope the pressure doesn't get to the players and you can see it out with relative ease. You have a nice set of games coming up, so I expect the title to be yours. A nice capture in Carlsson for a bargain fee, also.