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Aapo Virtanen: The Finn in Florence

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Jack's avatar Group Jack 2018-11-06 22:04
gb 3451 posts 387 likes joined Mar 29, 2013

Hello all, and welcome back to yet another Jack story! This time around I have decided to take over AC Oulu - a joint initiative of several different clubs in Oulu and the surrounding areas in an attempt to bring top-flight football back to the Finnish town conjured up only back in 2002.

AC Oulu is a team based in Oulu, Finland. They were founded in 2002 by the combined effort of Oulun Palloseura, Oulun Luistinseura, Oulun Työväen Palloilijat and several other minor Terverit clubs. Since their first season in 2003 in the Finnish second tier, the club have paid visits to the top-flight on two separate, but short-lived occasions as they yo-yo'd in both 2007 and 2010. They play at Raatin Stadion which has a capacity of an all-seater 4,400 and they play in blue (home), yellow (away) and white (alternative).

They finished 8th place in the second tier in their founding season of 2003, before a remarkable promotion to the Premier League in 2006 with a second-place finish. However, their time in the Premier League ended in the first season, being relegated back to the First Division in 14th place, finishing with just 22 points. Oulu had to wait three more years for a visit back to the top-flight, but suffered the same fate as they were relegated with 30 points and have remained in the same division ever since.

As for my character, I will be taking on the managerial role as Helsinki-born character Aapo Virtanen. At 30 years old, Virtanen's father derived from Oulu and taught him to support Oulu-based football before AC Oulu was formed back in 2002. I was brought up in HJK's academy as a budding young footballer, but unfortunately was let go by Finland's most successful and reputable club as an 18 year old in 2005. Since my release I moved from club to club across the local areas in semi-professional sides but never made it back into further than the third tier of Finnish football.

Since retiring aged 26, coming to my senses that football coaching made much more sense financially than playing semi-professional football for the last few years, I took on the role as an Under-20s coach at the club I learned to love from 2002 at AC Oulu. After the previous manager, Mika Lahderinne, left the club the club chairman Risto Ihalainen decided an internal appointment would be financially beneficial for the club, he offered the managerial role to player-assistant manager Markus Heikkinen. Heikkinen rejected the offer after accepting a contract from fellow Oulu-based football club Oulun Luistinseura, which he joins at the beginning of 2019. This left me as the only obvious candidate, and I was offered a one-year contract until November 2018 to achieve a top-half finish for the upcoming season.
This post was edited by Jack (2019-04-25 16:56, 3 weeks ago)
Justice's avatar Group Justice 2018-11-06 23:56
00 5596 posts 703 likes joined Feb 11, 2013
Ah yes the puns are back! I've missed your stories, make sure you Finnish this season on a high! ;)
ScottT's avatar Group ScottT 2018-11-07 20:37
gb 1982 posts 341 likes joined Apr 04, 2016
Jack story = me following x

Jack and Scandinavia, the love story... coming to a cinema near you soon! ;)
Jack's avatar Group Jack 2018-11-07 21:21
gb 3451 posts 387 likes joined Mar 29, 2013
Justice: One of the best talkSPORT phone-ins of all time ;)

ScottT: Bloody love that part of the world :P
Jack's avatar Group Jack 2018-11-07 22:09
gb 3451 posts 387 likes joined Mar 29, 2013

ACOTV: Meet The Gaffer



Hello Oulun's! Welcome to ACO TV, the official YouTube channel of AC Oulu. I'm your host Thomas Koskinen and I am here alongside our new manager Aapo Virtanen! Hello Aapo!

Hello Thomas, good to be here.

We know you have been involved in the Oulu setup here for some years now, working lower in the ranks, but today you have been announced as the top guy at the club. How are you feeling today?

I'm so very excited, I have always looked up to be a senior team manager. I know the club inside-out since joining three years or so ago as the head of the youth team. I know lots of the players here so well after working alongside them in the youth team or simply taking part in training sessions with them. I honestly can't wait to get my teeth into this very important role.

Yes, that's right, you have been with the club for a few years now. Do you feel that your connection with some of the players such as Niilo Hautala and Juhani Pennanen will be important in your new role due to your past relationships with these academy players?

I feel like I have a great affinity with a lot of the squad built from my previous role, it is extremely helpful as an incoming manager to already know large chunks of the squad I am going to be working with.

Since forming in 2002, AC Oulu have had a meteoric rise in terms of how well the club have adapted to competitive league football, already reaching the top-flight on two occasions. Can you expect a return to the top-flight with AC Oulu this season?

Being at the club only three years, I missed the top-flight period, but I have learned the personality of the fans and their hopes and expectations. I really want to be the man to take this club back into the top-flight and keep us there for the foreseeable future. I have dreamed of it ever since taking a role at the club.

Will there be any additions to the club in the upcoming transfer window in January?

As I said before, I have an inherent amount of trust that I put in this group of players from an internal point of view. True, we may require some new faces to bolster the depth and quality of the squad, but I am already confident in this current bunch of players under my guidance.

How important of a factor will the fans be this season?

We've got the weight of the town of Oulu behind us, that means we have one of the best followings in Finnish football. The fans will be a huge added bonus on our challenge for promotion this season.

Your first fixture is up against AC Kajaani in the Finnish Cup group stages. Will the cup be an important competition or are AC Oulu focused solely on the league this upcoming season?

Absolutely. It's always nice to have a cup run, but for an outsider like this club, we are better off looking towards the league for good results and then once we arrive in the top division, we can think about winning cup competitions!

That's all we've got time for today on ACO TV! Thank you, Aapo and good luck for the coming season!
Justice's avatar Group Justice 2018-11-07 23:59
00 5596 posts 703 likes joined Feb 11, 2013
A refreshing style of update, good to see Aapo showing his appreciation for the club's supporters so early on!
mgriffin2012's avatar Group mgriffin2012 2018-11-08 07:31
00 2960 posts 460 likes joined Nov 12, 2013
Great to see you back man! This should be a cracker! Great start and hopefully you can put together an extended cup run!
Jack's avatar Group Jack 2018-11-11 19:49
gb 3451 posts 387 likes joined Mar 29, 2013




With the beginning of the new year, it spells the beginning of preseason for Finnish football clubs across the country. We begin the league season in April, but not before we have completed the group stages of the Finnish Cup and the friendlies that we have already arranged. In this update, I will introduce you to the squad, the staff and many other things relevant to the upcoming 2018 season.



Firstly, we will look at the backroom staff that I am working with this season. The boardroom consists of four people, with the chairman being Risto Ihalainen, backed up by a managing director and two other directors. These are the men who finance the club, who can either hire or fire me from my job and also can speak openly about club related issues.

Working underneath the chairman and directors are the backroom staff. As the manager, I will be making many of the decisions in terms of my own staff recruitment, incoming and outgoing transfers for both senior and youth players as well as handling contract negotiations with existing players. For my right-hand man, I have inherited a player-assistant manager in the form of Markus Heikkinen, who is a 39-year-old centre-back. Heikkinen will take charge of both first-team and youth training sessions as well as youth development alongside the coaches at the club already. Unfortunately, we will be losing Heikkinen at the end of this season as he has agreed a contract with Oulun Luistinseura to join them in December 2018 so I will need to find a new right-hand man by next season.

In the recruitment side of things, Markus Heikkinen also takes a key role in the club with his secondary job being the Director of Football and leading the scouting effort alongside a very promising chief scout Jouko Abdul-Rahim and general scout Pekka Juntunen. Abdul-Rahim will arrange and take part in assignments for our scouting team which will mainly be going around Finland due to our lack of scouting budget.

On the medical team we have two doctors and our physios Ari Korkala and Pekka Juntunen, who also works as a scout for his primary role at the club.



I haven't been at the club for very long so I haven't had time to implement my own signings, so I have to use the playing squad from the previous regime. At the current stage, Juhani Pennanen appears to be my best option inbetween the sticks for the season, but I will continue to look around for improvements.

In terms of full-backs, there are a few good young players, but they are perhaps not ready yet for a full season of competitive, promotion-chasing football so I may look to bring in some more experienced heads. We definitely need more depth in the centre-back position, with only Markus Heikkinen and Lassi Nurmos as our only options in that position.

We have one of the best midfielders in the league in the form of the young Brazilian defensive midfielder Jair. However, we may struggle keeping hold of the 23-year-old, with a few foreign higher league clubs already taking interest in the midfielder. In the center of the park we seem pretty strong, however, we could do with some more strength in depth. On the wings I will look to sign a couple more players to bolster our options on the flanks.

I realise the need for clinical goalscoring at this level of football, so I will try and plough as much money as possible in investing in a good striker for this division, as I don't think Toni Tahvanainen or Alvarado Morín would make regular appearances in any promotion-winning side due to their ability.



At 2/5 odds to win the title, IFK Helsingfors are the clear favourites to take the spoils this season following their relegation from the top-flight last season. The favourites claim some of the most talented players in the division so it is no surprise to see them rated so highly by the betting companies.

Our club, on the other hand are a safe bet at 4/1 odds to win the title, filling the position of fourth favourites to win the title, behind Helsingfors, Jaro and KPV. If we bolster our squad further I believe that we can achieve much higher feats than expected, particularly if we don't lose key players like Jair.

At the bottom of the table, Haka and Klubi-04 are expected to take the drop further down the Finnish footballing pyramid with relegation this season.



As a lower league club, I find the factor of club finances very important in the club's progress. The finances decide whether the board feel confident enough to invest in the club and my transfer budget and wage budget are both decided on this aspect.

Right now, we are in the red by almost £30,000. However, we have been able to scrape together a lot of money through our sponsorships from the start of the season, but it remains to be seen how much money we can make from gate receipts and other matchday-based income, but it is true that we need to start making more money throughout this season.



Due to the long break between seasons that is prevalent in Scandinavian football, we have a lot of friendlies to restore match fitness. Alongside the many friendlies organised, we play five Finnish Cup games, with two qualification places to the next round, so I hope to be competitive in that. Our first league match will take place at the end of April against the league title favourites Helsingfors and the league will run all the way through until October this year.

Replies:

Justice: Cheers buddy! Trying to create a range of different update styles to see what works best and ACOTV could be a regular feature.

mgriffin: Thanks! Been really loving Scandinavian saves because they're always a challenge and they make for very quick seasons due to the length of the league campaign. Hopefully a cup run is on the cards ;)
Jack's avatar Group Jack 2018-11-11 20:57
gb 3451 posts 387 likes joined Mar 29, 2013




13th February 2018

Aapo Virtanen has today entered the transfer market for the first time since taking up the role as first-team manager by signing English goalkeeper Matt Jones on a free transfer.

Having not been signed for a club for two years since his contract at American Eastern Conference outfit Bethlehem expired, the news of Jones' signature has come as a shock to some fans on social media and the club forums.

Jones, 31, has never played for a British club despite having a career spanning thirteen years and seven different clubs before signing along the dotted line for AC Oulu.

The goalkeeper born in Stoke-on-Trent moved to the USA to attain coaching badges when fourth-tier American club Western Mass Pioneers noticed his talent as a player, not as a coach. Jones played for the Pioneers from 2005 until 2008 when the then-21-year-old was targeted by second tier Portuguese club Santa Clara.

In Portugal, Jones' career went from strength to strength, with what started out as an initial coaching career, Jones ended up turning out in the Portuguese top-flight against some of the world's most reputable clubs for both Belenenses and Tondela between 2013 and 2015.

After his contract with Belenenses expired, Jones moved back to the United States and was signed up for Philadelphia before moving to his previous club Bethlehem Steel.

AC Oulu boss Aapo Virtanen stated that the signing of the experienced goalkeeper was intended to be a first-team regular and to put pressure on the young goalkeepers of Juhani Pennanen and Tommi Lindholm - with some suggesting that Lindholm may be on his way out of the club following the announcement of Oulu's first signing of the Virtanen era.

Matt Jones was asked by local media outfits how he felt about getting back into the game after his two year hiatus from football. Jones said I'm delighted to be back playing again. I know I have the quality, I have just been waiting for the right opportunity to arise and I think Virtanen's project with Oulu is the right choice for me. I can't wait to get started."

This could spell the beginning of what could be a busy transfer window for AC Oulu, with Virtanen publicly stating the need for squad improvements in the winter transfer period.
mgriffin2012's avatar Group mgriffin2012 2018-11-11 22:14
00 2960 posts 460 likes joined Nov 12, 2013
Ahhhh man this story reads and looks beautiful <3 Have never heard of any of your squad but damn I can't wait to learn all about them!
Justice's avatar Group Justice 2018-11-12 00:16
00 5596 posts 703 likes joined Feb 11, 2013
Enjoy the Finnish cup! Having played an FM18-long save with FC Honka Espoo, I know how unusual the domestic schedule can be to get used to :P The cup is definitely a worthwhile competition to tackle though, especially with Oulu. Your squad should be in decent contention of winning it, despite not being in the top tier, and that would give you a Europa League spot!
ScottT's avatar Group ScottT 2018-11-12 00:16
gb 1982 posts 341 likes joined Apr 04, 2016
Some excellent updates being pumped out from yourself, as per usual. Jones seems to be an interesting signing; but one that has the ability it seems. As Griffin says, I have absolutely no idea of the players at the moment - so I'm looking forward to learning them with everyone else on the site. :P
Jack's avatar Group Jack 2018-11-15 19:54
gb 3451 posts 387 likes joined Mar 29, 2013


25th February 2018

After a nights sleep following the Saturday trip to Kemi near the Finnish-Swedish border in west Finland, Sunday afternoon was a time for relaxing. With no training to take charge of in the morning I found myself sat outside Cafe Bisketti in Oulu at about lunchtime. With a cappuccino and a small dish of lunch, I perched down inside the cafe next to the window facing the wide street that the cafe was located.

I grabbed a copy of a local newspaper, which had plenty of AC Oulu discussion on the back pages, as well as the regular portion of politics and current affairs dominating the front pages. There was a small section on page 12 in the top-right corner that I looked at the headline of, but quickly dismissed to flick through the rest of the boring typical local news. However, I should have read more into the small section on page 12, titled: 'Uproar Over Racist March in Centre'. If I had read the article below I would have been informed of what would just be about to strike me.

The article contained a report of locals complaining to the local council and city manager about a planned neo-nazi demonstration that had been allowed to take place in the city. The march was coordinated by the infamous Nordic Resistance Movement - commonly known as the NRM - and had gained a notorious reputation across Scandinavia for its various divisions of far-right support across all five Nordic countries.

Without realising, a flurry of green, black and white flags came marching down the street that I was sat alongside. It was the Nordic Resistance Movement with its boisterous racist chants and shaven heads, coupled with skin-tight jeans and Doc Marten boots. Strangely, there looked to be several hundreds of people marching with the demonstration despite the amount of backlash the local council had received as a result of allowing the march.

The march came and went, causing not much trouble besides a few troubled looks and mini protests made by particular liberal individuals which came as quite a surprise after expecting a counter-protest of some sort. Once the march had advanced far enough to not be a problem, I left the safety of the cafe and started making my way down the street back to the car park that I had left my car in.

With my eyes glued to my iPhone, scrolling through all types of useless information and opinions on my Twitter feed, I heard a thud coming from one of the darker side alleys that I had just walked by. I turned back to double check that my ears weren't playing tricks on me. And there it was.

Three men, dressed head to toe in far-right, neo-nazi memorabilia that had been stitched onto their black leather jackets or jumpers. Two of them were holding an Asian-looking teenager against a wall with both his arms spread out either side of him, and the remaining member of this disgraceful 'team' proceeding to kick the teenager wherever he wanted. It looked cowardly from 50 feet away and I went into fight or flight mode. The red mist descended onto me and I went storming down the alley where I had originally heard the thud of the boy being kicked in the stomach.

As I got closer, I noticed his black eye that was already bruising, as well as blood dripping from his lips. I screamed at the three men to get their attention and made them aware of my presence. The two either side of the boy let go of his arms and stared me up and down, with their arms held out wide to make themselves appear wider and stronger. I raced up towards the nearest one and charged into him in the style of a rugby tackle, he came off his feet and flew head-first into the wall behind him. When I let go and stood up, I noticed that the other two weren't piling in to attack me in defence of what was presumably their friend.

Instead, they both had their phones out, recording me and had been doing so ever since I came to their attention when I was 50 feet away from the situation.

"Thank you, Mr. Virtanen. This will make us an easy 200 euros in tomorrow's newspaper story!" one of them chuckled, before wandering off down the other side of the alley. I looked down at the man I had just taken down, he was wriggling around in pain and holding his head. I held my head in my hands, realising that by tomorrow afternoon I could be out of my job before the season even began for the sake of acting on my instincts.
ScottT's avatar Group ScottT 2018-11-15 22:24
gb 1982 posts 341 likes joined Apr 04, 2016
The drama... this is why I love your stories!
Justice's avatar Group Justice 2018-11-16 00:53
00 5596 posts 703 likes joined Feb 11, 2013
The b*******

You are reading "Aapo Virtanen: The Finn in Florence".

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