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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
Promotion would be an incredible feat and achievement! Hopefully the players have the mentality to take everything in their stride on build on this!
Scott: As we were predicted only a top-half finish at the start of the season, there's always a worry that we'll bottle it. Just gotta protect those leads from here on in!

Griffin: It would be great to manage in the top-flight mate! Hope we pull through.
15 heading & 14 positioning at his age o.O He looks a good prospect for sure! Seven points would guarantee the title, you can do it!


Hello and welcome to Viasat Sport's coverage of the huge fixture down in the Finnish First Division today!

We will be covering the match-up between title hopefuls AC Oulu and relegation-threatened AC Kajaani in what is set up to be an enthralling game of football down at Oulu's Raatin Stadion.

As it stands, AC Oulu require just a win against Kajaani today to clinch the title - what would be the first trophy and promotion since the club's 2009 title-winning season under Mika Nurmella. AC Kajaani need all the points that they can get in the hope of not suffering an immediate relegation following the club's promotion last season from the third tier. AC Oulu can have faith in that they have already qualified for the divisional play-offs as they sit eleven points ahead of 3rd place KTP. The only challengers to Oulu's crown at this stage is Helsingfors, who play JJK tomorrow and Kajaani on the final day.

With the league table covered, lets look at the team that AC Oulu boss Aapo Virtanen has announced for the upcoming fixture:

In between the sticks is English goalkeeper Matt Jones who leads the divisions records for clean sheet this season with a tally of 12 clean sheets. In front of him stand a back four of Nurmos at right-back, Safwan Mbae and Heikkinen as the centre-back pairing and Lappalainen at left-back.

Screening the defence in the defensive midfielder position is one of the division's top stars Jair, who is reportedly in negotiations to extend his stay at Raatin Stadion. In front of the young Brazilian are Orishani and Ramadingaye in central midfield. Out on the flanks are Aleksi Gullsten on the right and Belov on the left. Jhonatan Donado, with eleven goals this season rounds off the starting eleven for this potential title-winning match.

With the line-ups covered, the teams are waiting to step out onto the pitch for one of the biggest games of the season for both teams. It's AC Oulu versus AC Kajaani... AND IT'S LIVE.

1': AC Oulu kicks us off as Jhonatan Donado knocks the ball back to Jair at the center spot.

3': Matt Jones knocks the ball wide across his goal to the left flank and finds Lappalainen's feet. Lappalainen is making his way past the halfway line before playing the ball inside to the Nigerian midfielder Felix Orishani. Lappalainen has made a bombing run down the left which Orishani finds gloriously - a fantastic one-two. Lappalainen crosses the ball in low, Kajaani try and clear but it's fallen to Belov who strikes it! Stopped by Elias Tuomarila! Great save!

14': Lassi Nurmos has a throw-in over on the far side for Oulu. Donado has come wide to the right to collect the ball from the throw-in before playing it back to the thrower Nurmos. The full-back is hugging the line with the ball here with two Kajaani shirts blocking his way to make a cross. Nurmos has found a fantastic pass to the edge of the box with Jair collecting and passing to Orishani who hits it first-time! Another great stop by the Kajaani goalkeeper!

27': Jair has picked up the ball to take a free-kick wide on the right side of the pitch. It's definitely crossing distance as Oulu bring men forward into the box. Jair's whipped the ball in towards the near post... Orishani's got in front of his man here! Orishani!!! GOAAAAL!!! Felix Orishani has powered home one of the most important goals in AC Oulu history!!! It's 1-0 to Aapo Virtanen's men and as it stands Oulu are lifting the Finnish First Division title today! A great header by the Nigerian midfielder!

33': AC Kajaani have got into a promising position with the free-kick as Ramírez stands over the ball. Matt Jones has elected a five-man wall to confront the threat of this set-piece that is certainly shooting distance from 25 yards out. Ramírez strikes it! Hits the crossbar! Jones was certainly troubled by that one but it is whiskers away for Kajaani!

41': AC Oulu veteran Markus Heikkinen is booked for a push on Kajaani's Ibiyomi.

45+2': The referee calls for half-time here at Raatin Stadion. AC Oulu go into the break with a one goal lead and one hand on the league title!

46': AC Kajaani restart the game from kick-off here at Raatin Stadion.

60': It's been a quiet game so far in the second period of the game. We're just hitting the hour mark and there is no change in scoreline and no threat of Kajaani coming back into this game so far. Ramadingaye wins the battle for the header from Kajaani's goal-kick. He tries to find Lappalainen who is charging at the Kajaani right-back. Ichull is running back towards his own goal here, he has chosen to try a clearance from deep in his own half.

It's towards the center of the pitch and Gullsten intercepts about 30 yards away from goal now. It's played wide to the right to Nurmos who gets down the wing and crosses it in deep towards the back post. It's found Belov who brings it down and strikes it towards goal! Blocked off by Ichull who makes up for his poor clearance! Good play!

67': Virtanen makes his first change of the evening with Walter Moore coming on for Konstantin Belov on the left-wing. Kajaani also make a change with Kahelin on for Stephanus.

74': Heikkinen wins yet another aerial battle against Ibiyomi who has really been bullied against the centre-back pairing of Mbae and Heikkinen today. Orishani passes first time the Donado, who makes it to the edge of the box with a turn to the left. He is tackled and it falls to Ramadingaye who is brought down right on the outside of the box! It's a great opportunity for Oulu to double their lead in this late stage now. It's that man Jair to take and he will definitely be fancying his chances from here... He strikes the ball... It dips just over the bar! Unlucky from the Brazilian!

78': Another change for both teams. Oulu bring on Niilo Hautala for the creator of the only goal so far, Jair. Nuutinen comes on for Lahnalasko on Kajaani's side.

83': It's a final substitution for Aapo Virtanen as he tries to close this game out to win the league title. Aleksi Gullsten walks off the pitch slowly to be replaced by Kemppainen.

88': It's in the last knockings of the game here and you can really feel the mixture of excitement and tenseness from the home fans even up here in the gantry! Hoffren finds Raisanen from the free-kick for Kajaani. Fantastic ball out wide to Cristian Lassa, he's knocked it past Lappalainen and has beaten him for pace now, it's looking worrying for Oulu here. Lassa hits the ball in low where Ramírez and Ibiyomi lurk! Ramírez one-on-one now!!! Incredible save by Matt Jones who is not letting anything past him today! Absolutely terrific goalkeeping by the Oulu number one!

89': Hautala reads the throw-in from Kajaani and intercepts, looking to set up a counter-attack now. Here's Donado, leading the attacking line with options racing forward all around him... And it's a bad pass that Nuutinen cuts out and Hoffren hoofs it upfield where Nurmos gets ahead of Ibiyomi. Another very thoughtless pass forward by Lappalainen there, Oulu really need to be keeping the ball and they keep gifting it back to the Kajaani defence. However, Oulu have it back with Ramadingaye after both defences seemingly playing pinball between each other. Incredible ball out the the right to Hautala who gets down the line and it's put into the box for Walter Moore!!! Headed just wide of the post! Another fantastic opportunity for Oulu!

90+4': Safwan Mbae takes his time with this free-kick in his own half, and understandably so. His team are seconds away from winning the club's first silverware in just under a decade. The referee whistles to signal him to hurry up - although some fans have started celebrating thinking it's the final whistle. Mbae plays it softly to Hautala to his left... And the referee blows!!!

In the penultimate game of the season, Aapo Virtanen and his Oulu troops are confirmed as champions!!! What an incredible achievement by the club who only celebrated their 15-year existence last year! It is a third time in the Finnish Premier League for AC Oulu next season and they will be facing the likes of Helsinki and SJK in their next campaign!

Aapo Virtanen is being mobbed by his delighted fan club, his tracksuit withstanding the hundred hugs that he is getting from the fans. The goalkeeper Matt Jones, lifted high in the air by a crowd of fifteen people, his Nike goalie gloves outstretched meanwhile Jair partakes in Samba dancing in the goalmouth in front of the North Stand. Fantastic scenes here at Raatin Stadion and this is only just the start of the celebrations, with the title to be lifted right here in two weeks time when Oulu face Klubi-04 on the 6th October. Thank you for watching and goodnight!

Fantastic achievement! Hopefully the start of plenty of success for Mr Virtanen in the near future.
Campeones, Campeones, Ole Ole Ole!
Incredible achievement mate, congratulations! Onwards and upwards from here!
Scott: Indeed! Absolutely delighted to have won it in the first season!

Jim: Ayyyy ;)

Griffin: Cheers buddy! Now time to beat the odds next season by staying up in the top-flight :P

And there we have it! The end of my first season at AC Oulu has ended in absolute delight with a league title to our name as we ran away with the league by eleven points after beating AC Kajaani 1-0 at home. The final run-in was fairly frustrating with two goalless draws against teams we should have beaten, but it didn't matter in the end and never faced much threat from the challengers. We lifted the title in front of the season's biggest crowd against bottom of the league Klubi-04 as we won 2-0 with Safwan Mbae bagging his first and only goal of the season in that match.

As the season comes to a close with the 27 games all up, it is obviously ourselves going up as champions after a nine year spell in the second tier. Following up in 2nd place is Kotkan TP who thrived off the back of Helsingfors' shocking end of season form to secure a play-off spot at the end of the season and potentially go up with us if they beat a current Veikkausliiga side in the play-off fixture.

However, at the bottom of the table are the unfortunate teams who will be taking a trip down to the third tier of the Finnish footballing pyramid. Helsinki's affiliate club - Klubi-04 - are the obvious side who went down at the foot of the table where they have been pretty much all season. They finished nine points off survival with a shocking defensive record. The team following them down is the club we won the title against as AC Kajaani also take the fall back down into the third tier despite being incredibly close to sending Jaro down instead as they missed a last-gasp penalty to defeat 3rd place Helsingfors which would have saved them from the drop.

This season marked an incredible debut season for myself as I won the Manager of the Season award. Gaining a 63% win percentage in the league, this season we broke the record of the least losses (3 games) and the least goals conceded (17 goals) thanks to our goalkeeper Matt Jones and defence consisting of the former Monaco youngster Mbae and the Finnish veteran Markus Heikkinen who will sadly be moving on to become a coach elsewhere in December. It has been a marvellous season and I have thoroughly enjoyed managing this team.

The Ykkonen Player of the Season went to JJK's prolific striker Patrik Alaharjula. As well as our squad has played this season, in fairness there have been no stand-out players as we have performed so well as a team with everybody chipping in with goals and with the defensive jobs. As the top scorer with 20 goals in 23 appearances, Alaharjula has deserved his award and who knows? Maybe I might poach him from JJK in the next transfer window?

Although none of our players made the grade for the Player of the Season, it was an incredible debut season of first-team football for our centre-back Safwan Mbae that has earned him the Young Player of the Season for 2018. Mbae joined us on a free transfer after being released from AS Monaco at the beginning of the season. He has been a key reason in our magnificent defensive displays that has awarded Matt Jones with 13 clean sheets - the most in the league. He was chosen by our fans as the signing of the season.

For our best eleven, it was pretty clear-cut. We only used 18 different players this season as I merely worked with what already had at the club due to the wage budget only allowing me to bring in a few players at the start of the season. In goal was obviously the incredible Matt Jones who kept an outstanding amount of clean sheets.

Belarusian right-back Konstantin Belov gets the vote ahead of Safwan Mbae in the first eleven, with Lassi Nurmos and Markus Heikkinen making up the central two. Aleksi Lappalainen gets the nod at left-back and rightly so, he has been absolutely superb and an unsung hero throughout this title-winning campaign.

Jair - arguably one of the best players in the division according to the media - screens the back four in defensive midfield and provides a good option going forward too with his wide range of passing ability. Felix Orishani has been outstanding in the center of the park, playing alongside David Ramadingaye who has been well among the goals this season and only one goal behind the starting striker Donado.

Aleksi Gullsten played the majority of the season out on the right-wing and finished the season with five goals and five assists to his name but I think we need replacements on both wings to compete next season. Josue Soto bags his spot out on the left-flank with some good performances this term. Jhonatan Donado was rather underwhelming as our sole striker after signing on a free transfer, but in fairness he did contribute 11 goals in 25 appearances, but never really bothered the goalscoring charts despite topping the league for most of the season.

AC Oulu manager signs deal until 2019 following promotion.

In what must have been one of the most exhilarating months in Aapo Virtanen's lifetime, the success just keeps coming to the 31-year-old as Oulu chairman Risto Ihalainen offered Virtanen an extended stay at Raatin Stadion.

Following his internal appointment by the club back in December 2017, Virtanen took over from the outgoing Mika Laherinne and despite a fairly poor start, including a group stage knock-out in the Finnish Cup and a first day of the season loss to IFK Helsingfors, the former youth coach has gone from strength to strength.

Following the 2-1 opening day loss to Helsingfors, Virtanen's men went on a winning rampage the following month with seven out of eight wins throughout May which really began to set the tone for Oulu's title chase last season.

Now preparing for life in the top-flight for the first time since 2009, it will certainly be a tough task to keep Oulu from yo-yoing back down the league pyramid again, as has been the case on both occasions that the club have been in the Veikkausliiga.

Despite the good news of a new contract for the Oulu boss, Virtanen will have to cope with the loss of Markus Heikkinen who joins OLS at the turn of the new year. Heikkinen took up several key roles at the club last season as an integral part of the playing squad, playing alongside Safwan Mbae in central defence as well as being a very important part of the backroom staff as he took up both the roles of assistant manager and director of football at Raatin Stadion.

This means we may see a new-look Oulu squad at the beginning of the new season of 2019, with five first-team players already released, Alvarado Morín and Markus Heikkinen on the way out in the new year and key parts of the backroom staff replaced due to the loss of Heikkinen.

However, key parts of last season's squad have also signed new contracts for the coming season, including defensive midfielder Jair, who featured 31 times in the league and cup last season. He signs until December 2020 and Josue Soto has also signed a new deal until next year.

But for now, the drinks will be on Aapo Virtanen who celebrates a Ykkonen title and a pay rise with the additional job security. Virtanen's first season as head coach has been a delight for Oulu fans, and now he will be looking to provide more joy for the supporters.
A well deserved new deal for Aapo. It'll be interesting to see how he and the club adapt to life back in the top flight, especially without a key influence behind the scenes in Heikkinen.
Great news on the new deal man! Solid base has been built to secure a place in the top season again!

As for that team of the year....I knew every player ;)
Congratulations on the title, great to see you earn that piece of silverware! Big things are coming art Oulu! Next year will be a challenge but I'm confident you can take the jump in your stride!
Scott: It's been a long time coming for getting back into the top-flight for sure! Heikkinen will certainly be a huge miss for what he provided on and off the field for us.

Griffin: I've definitely had the benefit of a decent team this season, however I never expected it to be a title-winning team! I'm sure you do :))

Justice: It was a great feeling to win something in the first season for sure! Really hope we take on the top-flight next season with confidence and simply just survive a drop back down.

As the new season draws near, it's time to look at what we face coming up to the new Veikkausliiga season. Last season we went up as champions, leading the way by eleven points in the Finnish First Division. In the promotion play-off, Kotkan TP won the game and was promoted alongside ourselves as they won in both legs of the play-off, winning 4-2 on aggregate against Turun Palloseura which in turn sent them down into the second tier.

This season the obvious media favourites are the 29-time Veikkausliiga winners Helsinki who won the title last year. They will be playing against Europe's biggest sides in the summer when the UEFA Champions League begins all across Europe as they start the new season. They are closely followed by SJK who are 5/1 odds and finished runners-up last season, just four points behind the champions Helsinki.

However, at the bottom end of the table the relegation scrap could contain seven potential victims, with us and Kotkan the most likely to go down according to the media. However, other teams from last season are also being tipped for the drop into Ykkonen for 2020.

As we approach the 2019 season, the preseason schedule has been announced. We begin our campaign in the Finnish Cup in the Premier League Qualifying round against FC Lahti at Raatin Stadion as we look to progress in the cup competition that Kuopion won last season. We will later face tougher teams such as Seinajoen and IFK Mariehamn in the cup group but the friendly fixtures will not be much of a challenge and are merely just a fitness trip.

Although the transfer window doesn't shut until later in April when the league season begins, we have already made nine additions to the squad from last season, making a net profit of £37,500 in the process. Due to matchday squad rules, I have also put emphasis on signing Finnish-trained players rather than foreign players, with seven Finnish nationals joining in the transfer window as opposed to the zero Finnish players that signed last season.

This addition was quite possibly the most exciting that I have made and that the club has made in recent history. Cabezas, at just 18 years old possesses one of the best potential that I have seen in my time at the club. The Colombian returns to the squad on the 11th February after his duty with the Colombian Under-20s squad as they feature in the South American Under 20 Championship group stages. His high determination makes him an incredible prospect alongside the impeccable technical ability that all South American attacking midfielders seem to have.

Signing a centre-back from the team that conceded the most goals in the Premier League last season is hardly the biggest endorsement of my new signing Tapaninen, however, his experience of six years as a first-teamer in the Finnish Premier League speaks volumes of his ability as a defender. A physical player, Antto also possesses great aerial ability and is classy in his tackling from watching highlights from last season. He joins us at the peak of his career and could be pairing up with Mbae or Nurmos at the back this season.

After putting up with some inconsistent performances from Aleksi Gullsten on the right wing last season, it was a position we certainly needed to strengthen to stand a chance against Veikkausliiga defences. Makela played for Oulu before way back in 2012 and had a fantastic season, becoming a fan favourite at the club with 16 goals in 21 games before top-flight Kuopion came knocking for the then-youngster. He made eight appearances for Kuopion last season in the top-flight before his release at the end of the season. He will certainly be starting ahead of Gullsten, who will be facing a season on the bench unless he picks up his quality.

One of my better signings of the window for sure. Ulmanen spent last season in the First Division with us at our title challengers IFK Helsingfors. He performed exceptionally for a young striker, scoring more than our starting striker last season Donado in all competitions with 13 goals in 26 starts for his team. At 6'1", Ulmanen poses a threatening physical presence to defences and his finishing statistics speak for themselves. He will certainly be a starter in this season's team and with his young age, he looks like a regular for some more years.

Now this signing is perhaps my most underwhelming as Eriksson is definitely one for the future. The attacking midfielder possesses great physical ability, but there is clearly some space for technical improvement that he needs. He joins for just £50 from our affiliate club Haukiputaan Pallo.

Like Ulmanen, Jyry is a very exciting signing from our old friends IFK Helsingfors. Last season the central midfielder turned out 22 times for our title rivals from Ykkonen and made the bench in the divisional Team of the Year. At only 19 years of age, there is plenty of time for improvement on an already starting quality player. I hope there are many years that we can get out of Jyry.

As if one promising, young centre-back wasn't enough in the form of Safwan Mbae, we have signed another as Hoskonen joins us on a free transfer from Inter Turku, who finished 5th place in the top-flight last season. Hoskonen has been a prominent member of the Inter Turku team, making 35 appearances over the space of three years for his former team. An extremely strong player in the air, he looks to be a very good addition for any Veikkausliiga side.

In a similar situation with the arrival of Makela, Romein flies over all the way from Australia's Canberra United to join us in the top-flight of Finnish football. A free-kick specialist, the youngster is set to replace Josue Soto in the starting eleven for the coming season as working alongside star-man Cabezas and fan favourite Makela, I think Romein will turn out to be an incredibly shrewd addition to the side.

And finally for the arrivals at the club this winter is a whole concoction of nationalities in Kabashi. The central midfielder was born in Germany, is half-Albanian but turns out internationally for Finland. Kabashi came through the Honka academy before signing for German side Braunschweig in 2015 before returning to Honka in Finland just three years later. At 23 years old, Kabashi is already used to regular first-team football at good levels as he has made 147 appearances throughout his entire career so far. He has all the attributes to make a good top-flight midfielder so I am sure he will be fantastic this season.

With the arrivals covered, it is time to move onto the departures. Academy graduates Aapo Heikkila, Driton Shala, Tommi Lindholm, Niko Ronkainen and Santeri Laatikainen have all departed the club after their contract expiry.

Last season's back-up goalkeeper Juhani Pennanen has chosen to leave the club after his contract expiry, too. Alvarado Morín made a move across to Eastern Europe as Zimbru arranged a pre-contract deal to take him to Moldova at the beginning of January. However, it was our top scorer last season Jhonatan Donado who made us the money this window. The 27-year-old striker who scored 11 in 26 for us last season moved back to his country of origin with Rionegro Aguilas for a fee of £37.5K

Two of last seasons squad retired at the end of the season. Walter Moore ended his playing career to become a football scout after 16 appearances for Oulu last season as he won a trophy in his last ever footballing season. Massive news also emerged at the end of last season, as Markus Heikkinen's proposed contract with OLS to become a coach was cancelled at the eleventh hour, and he retires from playing football but stays at the club in his assistant manager/director of football capacity on a month-to-month basis. I am trying to arrange a full-time contract with him but his wage demands are proving to be a difficult task - what you'd expect from a 61-time Finnish international.

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