After my first successful season at AC Oulu, I did so without any philosophies planned as I was fully focused on simply doing well in my first season. All I wanted to do was to challenge for promotion and was willing to go to any lengths to achieve that. This ultimately worked as I ran away with the title by eleven points.
However, I felt somewhat underwhelmed by this feat as I hadn't felt like I won the title in my way. As I am mid-way through my second season at the club, I feel like I want to implant my own ideology on AC Oulu rather than just achieve success in any way possible. This would mean I could be proud of my success at the club as I will have done it my way - similarly to how an actor wants a line of work that he can look back on and be proud of, rather than measuring success by financial gain - I want my success to to be down to me and my ideology.
This is why I want to introduce to you: Virtanism
Virtanism is named after me and what I plan for Oulu in the way that I manage the club. It has six main aspects: Competitions, Europe, Finances, Squad, Transfers and Youth Policy. These are to some extent intertwined with each other, but similarly a lot of these points are independent of each other.
This aspect of my philosophy will discuss my plans for domestic competitions such as the Veikkausliiga and the Suomen Cup.
If I had implemented Virtanism upon my arrival at AC Oulu, my aim for the club would have been to achieve promotion to the top division within two seasons of my appointment as manager of the first-team squad. As we are in the Veikkausliiga now, my current aim of the club for this 2019 campaign is to maintain safety from relegation and a push for the top-half when taking into account our start to the season.
Granted we stay up this season, I would like to achieve a top four finish next season, or just outside depending on the level of competition. This would give us European football in the Europa League (which I will discuss in my 'Europe' aspect of Virtanism) and under the current Finnish coefficients, places 2nd-4th will qualify for the First Qualifying Round of that competition.
The season after, I want to challenge for the Veikkausliiga title. This would require a lot of work, and the work that I'm doing now by adding young players to the squad is preparing for that push. A gradual build-up in club reputation will bring better quality players to Oulu and therefore we can mount a title challenge.
By the 2022 season, I want AC Oulu to be prime title contenders and if I don't win the league title by that season I will start to consider my future at the club.
In terms of the Finnish Cup, it is a relevant competition as it offers European qualification but it is not a crucial competition with the plans I have in mind for the league as previously spoken about. It is a good piece of silverware, but it is not pivotal to win.
If I had designed this vision last season, it would be likely that this section would not have even existed. However, with the strong performance in the Finnish Cup - a possible route to the Europa League - where we were knocked out on penalties by Vaasan in the semi-finals, the eventuality of European football could well become a reality and with my vision for domestic football for the next few seasons, I need to incorporate this section.
As I intend to qualify for European football next season, with my vision it will be mid-2021 when we first appear in a European fixture. In season one in Europe I will be to achieve at least a fourth qualifying round finish in the Europa League as our squad will admittedly be quite weak.
In season two in Europe, I hope to be competing in the Champions League and a Veikkausliiga champion enters this competition in the first qualifying round, so in 2022 or 2023, I want to achieve at least a third qualifying phase finish in the Champions League, before making our way into the group stage in the years beyond that.
Currently, it is very fair to say that our finances are not in good shape. Despite making £225,000 profit this season - heavily influenced by the £150,000 departure of Jair - we are still operating in the red by £55,000.
With sponsorships making up a good amount of our income, I want a good finish in the Veikkausliiga to expand our potential for more lucrative sponsor deals, followed by new deals when we arrive in European football. The main goal for the coming seasons is to achieve finances that are safely in the black, which includes keeping the squad to a minimum to save on yearly wages and keeping the same facilities that we have at the moment to reduce running costs.
We need to become successful domestically to have more football games televised and develop a larger fan base to gain more money in gate receipts and matchday income as well as TV revenue.
After this is achieved, we will look to either buy the Raatin Stadion from the council or build a new stadium in an attempt to bolster gate receipts and matchday income. Additionally, the stadium sponsors income could be very lucrative if we owned our own stadium.
From this position, once we are comfortably in the black we will look to splash out on our youth facilities and recruitment as well as junior coaching alongside better training facilities and potentially more staff and better wages for better players.
I do not know the exact years for these developments, but we must achieve a self-sufficient club financially before spending money on new projects and overstretching ourselves. We must get into European football and reap the prize money rewards that it brings the club.
For the squad, I have certain beliefs about how it should be and previous squads that I have had didn't fit those beliefs.
In the first-team, I do not want the average age of the squad to be over the age of 25 at any point (currently 24). This was difficult to achieve last season as both Markus Heikkinen (40 years old) and Walter Moore (34 years old) were involved in the squad and therefore brought the average age way above my desire of 25. This will allow for youth players to come through the ranks into the first-team at an early opportunity to get used to first-team competitive football.
I want no more than 25 first-team players at one time. This includes two goalkeepers, four full-backs, four or five centre-backs, five central midfielders, four wingers and three strikers with room for a couple more players filling in different roles.
In this desired 25-man squad, I would like focus on domestic players. At any point, there must be at least 12 players that have been trained in the nation between the ages of 15-21 years old (currently 15 players). However, this can be a broad term as they can be any nationality as long as they have been trained in Finland between these ages. This not only benefits us in terms of registration in Europe, but also in matchday squads. The reason I say it is not just exclusive to Finnish players is because of the general lack of quality in Finnish football which would be restrictive in our hunt for more European success.
Transfers can be a sensitive subject at this moment in time due to our financial situation which was exemplified by our sale of Jair to Santos. With transfers we must be in the black if we want to sign players in their peak.
If we are in negative financial balance, we must not spend considerable amounts of money on players, but rather sign young players on free transfers and incorporate them into our first-team and our Under 20s team.
If an offer comes in for a player involving a good fee and we are struggling to maintain our balance, we may have to accept it as has happened with the sales of Jhonatan Donado and Jair this season to make up our losses.
However, once we are in the black and are fully self-sufficient we will not become a selling club - we will become a developing club. This means that with transfers, I want to bring in players between the ages of 15 to 19 years old and developing players which could not only help our first-team squad and chances of furthering our success, but also a financial perspective if we develop players enough and then discover that they are surplus to the 25-man squad then we can sell them for a healthy profit.
With youth policy at the moment, it mainly relies on foreign talent coming across from abroad for no or small fees. This is due to the poor youth recruitment and facilities that are at the club at the moment, it would simply be irrational to bring the poor players produced by the academy through as it would be detrimental.
However in the future, once our junior coaching and youth recruitment budgets increase and improve I will be looking to hand five professional contracts to our youth graduates, as well as handing at least two graduates first-team debuts per season.
However, with foreign talent simply expanding our options for developing players it would be stupid not to dip into that market and train them the way I want as it would only be the same as having a graduate with the only exception that they would have to become fluent in Finnish which may come at a small annual cost for the intensive language course.