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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
Jesus christ, your quality of writing is so high mate and the attention to detail you put in the story is just...WOW!
I have lots of time for updates like this one, as perhaps seen with the Colchester story. :P Great update mate and I'm keen to see if Aapo is perhaps troubled by what he has witnessed at a later date.
No1VillaFan: Cheers mate! Means a lot does that :)

Justice: Raatin has become somewhat of a fortress and the home form was pivotal in staying up for sure. Spooky stuff hey ;)

Griffin: Thank you man! Honestly is great to hear that :D

Scott: Yeah, I remember your Colchester story having many of them style updates and I personally thought they were great in a story, we'll sure see what happens later :P

It's certainly been a busy transfer window on both sides of the Oulu door as we approach the beginning of the Finnish Cup preliminary group stages. A few of last seasons key players have left the club but some equivalent talent has arrived during the transfer window.

In the arrivals department, it would have to be Spanish midfielder Javi Bueno who steals the spotlight as the 23-year-old joins us on a free transfer following his Zamora contract expiry. He becomes our main central midfielder in the team and I'm sure he will make a real difference. However, our transfer window this year differs in philosophy from last seasons as we branch out our recruitment to snap up some youngsters who aren't yet at first-team level yet and will enter either our AC Oulu 2 team or the Under-20s.

The first came through the door in December 2019 in the form of Kjeld Sloth. The goalkeeper joins from Danish 2nd division outfit Jammerbugt FC and after the release of starting keeper Matt Jones, Sloth may actually feature this season despite some arguing that he is not quite ready for top-flight football at the age of 18 years old. He has signed a deal until 2022 and I am certainly looking forward to seeing how he develops.

The second player through the Raatin Stadion's doors was the German central midfielder Jan Holldack. The 23-year-old has been without a club for 6 months following his release from Bundesliga.2 side Uerdingen. A big prospect in his teens, Holldack was snapped up by Championship side Brentford from Cologne in 2015. After not receiving consistent football in his career, I am hoping to unleash his ability to our benefit this season.

As stated earlier, arguably our best signing of the winter was Spanish central midfielder Javi Bueno who signs up until 2022. Last season, Bueno led Spanish third-tier side Zamora C.F. to promotion with 7 goals and 6 assists in 38 starts. His ability to score goals from midfield will be something I will be looking to exploit this season with a more attacking role for the 23-year-old player. Bueno becomes our highest paid player with an £800 per week wage.

I was looking to diversify my tactics this season rather than simply committing to playing with an attacking-midfielder, so Kalle Kauppi comes to the club to fulfill a much-needed defensive midfield role which Jair occupied in our promotion season. He has excellent physical attributes and his ability to break up opposition attacks with his tackling and positioning will be extremely helpful this season.

Joining us all the way from England is left-winger Tony Hammond as he arrives for a £3,500 fee from Vanarama National League side Solihull Moors. With the English season still ongoing, Hammond was starting to break into the first-team at Solihull with 3 league starts in recent games, and I am hoping to ease Hammond into my own first-team affairs despite Dylan Romein's dominance in his position. Although not the best player technically, Hammond is an extremely athletic player who I'm sure will be troubling to opponents if coming on for a final fifteen minutes of a game.

A certain starter on matchdays, Sebastian Dolivo joins us on a free transfer following his relegation with former club Kotkan from the Veikkausliiga. The Finnish 23-year-old has been getting regular football in his past four seasons at KTP which is a big bonus to us and Dolivo is definitely a squad improvement from last season.

Solving our back-up problem at left-back is the incoming Tuomas Rannankari. The 28-year-old has extremely valuable experience in the top division of Finnish football, after a five year stint at current Veikkausliiga holders Kuopion, followed by two years at Ilves FC in the top-flight and gaining a regular starting spot every season. Alongside this, Rannankari has made 2 appearances for the Finnish national squad and 10 for the U21 national squad. His experience will be vital in this young team.

Bought for just under £1,000 from our Scandinavian neighbours Norway, Preben Borve signs from Norwegian side Fyllingsdalen. Despite his youth, Borve could prove to be a good first-team player this season if Joni Makela is required to have a back-up at any point. With impressive acceleration and work rate, Borve is definitely no pushover in this league.

Challenging Preben Borve in the right-wing youth department is fellow 17-year-old Norwegian winger Simen Westly who joins Oulu on a free transfer from Hodd until 2022. Like Borve, Westly has great physical talent for a youngster as well as fantastic dribbling ability. He is certainly a contender for the right-wing spot if Makela is injured this campaign.

Perhaps one of the more underwhelming transfers, Swedish centre-back Martin Larsson is certainly a work-in-progress. Despite decent mental and physical attributes, Larsson needs to work on his technical ability and strength if he is to become a contender for the first-team. He signs from Swedish outfit Hassleholm on £20 per week until 2022, giving him plenty of time to develop.

Moving onto this seasons departures, there are some key names leaving Raatin Stadion this season.

Firstly, we go through the list of released players who were let go at the end of their contracts at the beginning of December. After 70 appearances for the club, my first signing for Oulu - Matt Jones - has departed the club. After a good first season in Ykkonen, Jones had a horrific season last term, conceding 73 league goals in just 33 league games which was enough evidence to show that the 33-year-old was not up to required standard.

Other key names are David Ramadingaye (99 apps, 30 goals), Josue Soto (71 apps, 7 goals), Juuso Kemppainen (72 apps, 4 goals) and Aleksi Gullsten (63 apps, 10 goals) who were all pivotal parts of previous campaigns.

However, it was the departure of Safwan Mbae who got people talking. Mbae signed for us as my second signing for the club in 2018 and was a class act at the back ever since. He made 59 appearances for us in all competitions and was a huge part in our promotion side. However, after last season he was tapped up by Palermo, I rejected a £120,000 offer from the Serie A club, but after Mbae showed his unhappiness at the rejection I simply had to accept the next £200,000 offer that came in for the Frenchman.

Hannes Seikkala followed Mbae out of the door as he was signed by Finnish lower division side PS Kemi Kings for £1,200 two days later.

Finally perhaps the most shocking development of the transfer window (so far!) was the unbelievable offers that came in for José Vicente Solbes. The Spaniard is still only 16 years old but Solbes signed for Premier League side Crystal Palace for a crazy fee of £275,000 after the London club and Brentford both battled it out for the youngster on the English deadline day. Solbes made 11 appearances for us last season (3 starts), and scored 2 goals after signing on a free transfer from Santa Pola.

Financially, the departures have massively helped us. Before the new year, the club were in the red by £115,000. With the help of £476,200 recuperated from player sales and a huge £325,000 main kit sponsorship, followed up by an even bigger £400,000 stadium sponsorship, we are now in the black with a balance of £815,000 following over £1million made in profit this season.

It has been a spectacular financial turnaround this winter and we are comfortably in the black. This has meant that the club have agreed to accept my request that we buy the Raatin Stadion from the council to stop having to pay rent in the future. The plans have been set out and it is expected we will have full ownership of our stadium by the end of this coming season.
A couple of major sales which will give the club a big financial boost. It looks like you have bought well. Expectations will be huge this season!
A really detailed post mate was a very good read! Some good business too
Justice: Aye, it's a tough one because we lost two seriously quality players, but in turn its helped us alongside sponsorship deals to put the club comfortably in the black.

Griffin: Cheers buddy! I hope they're enough to carry us through this season :)

In preseason this season we did the regular Finnish Cup spell in the group phase of the tournament and only just managed to scrape through into the next round ahead of FC Lahti and FC Honka. We move into the second round and have been drawn against Ykkonen outfit FC Haka away from home in April.

In the friendly side of the preseason campaign, we only played one real talented opponent in the form of AIK Stockholm from Sweden and won the Swedish Premier League in 2018. We lost 2-1 to them in what was our only loss in the friendly matches, after playing some mainly amateur sides that were only opponents due to their locality.

As we move into the league phase of the 2020 campaign it's time to take a look at our opponents this season and how the media thinks they will fare in 2020.

As usual, it is arguably the most reputable club in Finland - Helsinki - who top the media predictions despite Kuopion's title-winning season last time around. Helsinki are 7/2 favourites although they finished a disappointing 4th last season. Current holders Kuopion, who ran away with the 2019 title, come in at second place in the predictions after one of their key players Hamed Coulibaly left the club to move to Holstein Kiel for £375K in the transfer window.

At the bottom of the predictions, the relegation favourites are newly-promoted FF Jaro who are 600/1 to win the Veikkausliiga title. We surprisingly follow up as the second favourites to be relegated this season despite our 9th place finish last term. Perhaps most surprisingly is seeing last seasons relegation play-off victims Rovaniemen being touted as 6th favourite to win the title after their horror 2019 experience.

We start the 2020 Veikkausliiga campaign away at FC Honka in what is a reasonable opportunity of victory. This is followed up by a tie with Mariehamn at Raatin Stadion which will be a tough game considering their 3rd placed finish last season. At the end of April we are presented with an opportunity to advance in the cup with a second round tie versus Haka and a game against title holders Kuopion.

May certainly seems to be much friendlier in terms of the fixtures draw with games against teams that many would consider to be mid-table or 'weaker' teams such as Lahti, FC Inter Turku and relegation favourites FF Jaro.
Three home games in your first four league fixtures could prove to be an incredible opportunity to post some real momentum. If you can walk away with close enough to double figure points from your first four games, you're in for something special this season. Good luck!
The media don't rate your chances very highly but I'm more than sure you'll prove people wrong and uproot some trees this year!
Some really interesting signings made. Shame to see Jones go, but the amount of goals conceded last season clearly shows that you're right in he isn't up to standard at this level. A great fee gained for Solbes and I'm keen to see if he develops in England.

Looks like it's going to be another season of proving people wrong and surviving in the league again. I would be surprised if you do go down and I'm willing to place a high stake on you staying up.

Helsinki having Thomas Drage just sums up the difference between themselves and the rest of the league.
A very well balanced squad I think, you will do well this year given that you've got a lot of options to rotate the playing staff
Justice: Yeah last season the Raatin really was a saviour for us, so I'm looking to make the most out of them games for sure! I hope it can be a prosperous season :P

Griffin: It's always like that with the media to be honest so I don't like to pay much attention to it. Also I did try and balance out the team rather than just be overly strong in one area :)

Scott: There are a few players that I am especially excited about such as Bueno and Tony Hammond, and a very nice deal for Solbes considering that I'm not sure just how good he could've become for us after just eleven appearances. I've proven people wrong before in both seasons and I'm looking forward to do it again! Helsinki are just ridiculously talented I agree :P

AC Oulu have snapped up Turun Palloseura duo Antti Huhtamaki and Teemu Savolainen as well as The New Saints' Darren Bradbury.

With the Finnish transfer window coming to a close yesterday, AC Oulu gaffer Aapo Virtanen made his mark with three more first-team players to add to the original thirteen arrivals this winter.

Antti Huhtamaki was the first to arrive yesterday on a £5,000 deal from last seasons Ykkonen play-off finalists Turun Palloseura. The 17-year-old made his mark last season with 9 appearances in all competitions for TPS and created two goals in the process. He was an extremely highly-rated player among the backroom staff at Kupittaan and has signed a three-year deal with Oulu today.

The next arrival from Turun Palloseura was striker Teemu Savolainen who joined for a club-record fee of £18,000. The striker will provide desired competition for last seasons main striker Antti Ulmanen who bagged 18 goals in 29 in last seasons Veikkausliiga campaign. Savolainen is well-known for his physical presence, standing at 6'5" tall and his great strength a key asset for Turun last season in the Ykkonen. The 18-year-old looks set for a debut outing against FC Honka in the league.

The final transfer of the day was the arrival of English midfielder/defender Darren Bradbury from Welsh giants The New Saints. The 17-year-old joined for a reported £1,500 fee and has signed a contract until 2022. After being an important player for The New Saints last season, it will be interesting to see how Bradbury adapts to the Finnish game.

In other news, Oulu academy graduate Aleksi Lappalainen has left the club on loan to Veikkausliiga rivals FC Inter Turku until the end of the season, with Inter Turku paying all of his wages for the time.

After a rocky start in the Suomen Cup for AC Oulu, the team led by 33-year-old Aapo Virtanen have shocked all of the pundits by going all the way to winning the competition and therefore booking a place in next seasons Europa League. The cup win is the first in the club's short 18-year long history and it is only the third title that the club have won in total.

Beginning with a 2-0 home victory against FC Honka Espoo at Raatin Stadion, AC Oulu became stuck in a bad patch of form by the end of the Veikkausliiga Qualification group stage phase. Starting off with two wins against Honka and Lahti, they were results closely followed by a 4-0 thumping at the hands of Helsinki and a close 1-0 defeat to the eventual group-toppers FC Ilves. With Oulu sitting on the outside of the qualification places, it took Antti Ulmanen to equalise against Inter Turku for Virtanen's side scraping into the second round with 7 points.

Up next in the Suomen Cup after an up-and-down group phase was the second round tie against FC Haka - a team that Oulu hadn't played in two years from the Ykkonen days before Oulu's promotion. The game was played away from home at Haka's Tehtaan Kentta.

Despite the clubs' difference in leagues, Haka put up a fair fight against Oulu but ultimately it was Oulu's strength in youth with Mikko Eriksson bagging an early goal with an outstanding goal in the ninth minute as Darren Bradbury laid the ball off to the attacking midfielder who curled the ball into the top right corner from the edge of the box. FC Haka were finished off by a goal just three minutes into the second half as Antti Ulmanen got onto the end of a Dylan Romein cross.

After the victory against Haka, it was a home draw for Oulu who were chosen to face Rovaniemen at the Raatin Stadion as we entered the month of May. The quarter-final was another closely matched fixture with both sides having relatively equal amounts of chances to score.

However, Antti Ulmanen put AC Oulu ahead with a close-range effort inside the six yard box from Mikko Eriksson's nod down in the 13th minute. Rovaniemen went down to ten men in the last ten minutes as their central midfielder Lassas received his second yellow card. The game was buried in the 94th minute by Joni Makela as Sebastien Dolivo fired a ball through to the winger so he could hit a low hard shot against the keeper to send Rovaniemen out of the cup.

In what was considered by one of the biggest shocks the Suomen Cup has seen, it was Oulu who smashed current Veikkausliiga holders and Champions League competitors Kuopion Palloseura 4-0 at Raatin Stadion as Virtanen's men dismantled Korhonen's team on the 9th May.

Antti Ulmanen yet again got his name on the scoresheet after six minutes as a horrible defensive mix-up by Kuopion set the 20-year-old away with one of the easiest chances of his career. Javi Bueno then added a second goal to proceedings in the 56th minute with Tony Hammond firing in an exceptional cross for the Spaniard to power home with his head.

A third goal came in the form of Joni Makela from a Teemu Nurmos cross to the far post. Antti Ulmanen finished off the goalscoring in the last ten minutes with a leaping header from a corner. It was a truly remarkable display by Aapo Virtanen's side.

The semi-final phase ended up with AC Oulu pitted against the Suomen Cup holders Seinajoen in late May, which was staged at Raatin Stadion. The final was in no way lacking in spectacle as the two teams scored seven goals in total. With the Europa League at stake for the two teams, it was Seinajoen who put the first two goals past Oulu. Matti Klinga netted in the 12th minute for Alexei Eremenko's side with a fierce 20-yard shot past Hurtig. Seinajoen added a second just before half-time as Meleke volleyed home from close-range.

At 2-0 down going into half-time, it must have been one hell of a team talk by Aapo Virtanen as from the 60th minute - when Oulu pegged Seinajoen back with club captain Lassi Nurmos headed home - Virtanen's men went on a ten-minute rampage. Konstantin Belov equalised in the 66th minute, closely followed by a third to put Oulu ahead for the first time as Dylan Romein launched a free-kick into the top corner. Romein's free-kick sent 2,500 Oulu fans into raptures as the club went flying into the lead from two goals down.

However, with Oulu's tip-toes bouncing in anticipation for the final whistle and the clubs first cup trophy in history, English striker Billy Ions crushed the dreams of the Oulu fans and players with a one-on-one finish past Eemeli Hurtig to take the final into extra-time.

With the travelling Seinajoen fans jubilant with the last-gasp equaliser, it was vengeance from Oulu in the final 30 minutes. After coming on in the 65th minute for a like-for-like swap with Darren Bradbury, Armend Kabashi delighted Oulu fans with his impact as he smashed home a low shot in the 112nd minute of the game to score the fourth goal and ultimately send AC Oulu into next seasons Europa League competition - the first European football the club will experience in their 18 year history.

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