Minnow to Matador: Cold Winds Rising in Kuopio

Life in Kuopio couldn’t have been more erratic than my start at KuPS last season. Thrown into a relegation battle both me and my staff has managed to steer the club away from relegation, a feat that showed me just how harsh football in Finland can be. Despite the club’s poor league performance throughout the season there was still a sense of optimism on my part, as KuPS had a crop of young talent that could steer this club into a title contender in future seasons; if given the right guidance.

It was time to return to the office, a long term plan will need to be established if the club wishes to not repeat the same mistakes it made last season. KuPS young stars would be at the center of the club’s success for the coming season; but, given Finland’s status in European football it wasn’t long until the vultures came circling…

transfer-roundup

What a start to the new season! Four players who were critical to my plans for the upcoming campaign all departed Finland for pastures new. Saku Savolainen and Patrick Poutiainen secured moves to English clubs Preston North End and Wolverhampton Wanderers respectively – with Poutiainen keen to push through a move to England to further his career with a respected professional football club. Babcar Diallo, a mainstay in the defensive set up, was snapped up by Portuguese side Maritimo for £70,000. Mika Aaritalo was able to secure a move to Dinamo Minsk of Belarus, after repeatedly knocking on my door looking to force through a move away from Finland.

It was disappointing to see so many faces depart the club – but in the end we managed to turn a £113,000 profit which has already gone to strengthening the wage bill at the club. Instead of turning to the free agent market for replacements I’ve put my faith in the youth set up at KuPS – partially because in my contract I’m expected to promote players from the youth wing and give them a fighting chance in the first team. Hopefully this doesn’t come back to bite me.

2016 Finland League Cup

Of all the cup competitions in football, the Finnish League Cup has to be one of oddest – and yet, strangely competitive, competitions in the game. Only the 12 clubs currently playing in the Premier League may participate and the club’s overall position decides which round they are seeded into for the national cup competition. Given that the board deemed this cup competition to be of no significance whatsoever I decided to use it as a platform of preparation for the season ahead.

finnish-league-cup-results

Three wins, six draws and a loss. My reactions were mixed throughout the competition. Even though the team put in some very convincing attacking displays – with our 4-1 win over KTP – our defensive displays were a cause for concern. KuPS only kept one clean sheet in 10 games, with the defensive opening up far too often to allow the opposition attackers an easy goal. Still, as the table below shows, KuPS were able to seal a respectable third place finish in the group. Now its onward and upwards to the start of the new season…

finnish-league-cup

2016 Veikkausliiga

2016_lippu_liehuu

The trail of the early morning mist runs silently across the pitch at the Savon Sanomat Stadium in Kuopio. The groundsman skulks along the edge of the ground with a pitch fork in hand, jabbing the earth with every few steps taken to inspect the quality of the refurbished turf. The atmosphere now is quiet but in a matter of days the ground will turn into a hotbed of cheers and boos. Can this be the season where the fortunes of KuPS change for the better? Or will the club slide back into the relegation scrap it so narrowly avoided last season. With 33 domestic fixtures to play, anything is possible…

But, before we get into the first round of fixtures there was some pleasant news that hit my inbox. Following a recent conversation with the chairman at a restaurant in the town center one evening, the club has agreed to bankroll my training for a UEFA Continental C Coaching Licence.

coaching-course-training

This is a welcomed sight. Not only will it help to enhance the reputation of the club by having a coach with professional qualifications, but it betters my chances of pulling in bigger roles in the future – after all I don’t intend to spend the majority of my coaching career in the fringes of Finland. Also it demonstrates that the relationship between me and the chairman is stronger than ever – given that the media has decided to stir up rumors and lies in the press over recent weeks.

Hopefully this positive news can spur the club onto a winning start for the season…

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