Season 12, Tampere United, Finnish Ykkönen
Board Expectations: Top half
Media Prediction: 2nd
Transfers in: 11 for £0, almost entirely Finns except for a crap Swedish goalie signed by the previous manager and an excellent Danish U18 goalie signed by myself. Six of these signings were first-teamers by the end of the year.
Transfers out: 18 for a total of £9K
My first goal with the team was to make sure that we could keep things tight at the back and as such, we probably didn’t score as much as we could have in the early part of the season, leading to almost as many draws as we had wins as we had plenty of 1-0 and 0-0 games.
As the squad became more cohesive, the offense started to wake up and soon it was clear that there were only four teams that would be competing for the promotion spots: Ourselves; FC Honka, a traditionally strong team that had been slumming it for the last six years or so; KooTooPee, a smaller team having an excellent year and Vikingiit, the other team relegated from the first division with us.
The board didn’t expect much because almost everybody who was a major player from the year before had left and with a large loan debt, we were only able to sign the extremely young and the extremely old. Still, the team traded punches with everybody in the league and we were in it until the very end.
In the last half-dozen games, quality rose to the top and Honka just plain destroyed everybody in their path, including us in a 1-4 match that wasn’t that close. We had to settle for a recovery over the last three games to leapfrog Vikingiit and KooTooPee into the playoff spot against JIPPO.
Things were looking good in the first leg of the playoff as we were up 1-0 at home; however, they scored a clearly offside goal in the 84th minute to tie things up. They scored just before halftime in the second leg and after we opened up to look for an equalizer, our inexperienced defense (we had to start a fullback and our third-choice CB due to injuries) was carved open.
In the end, not a bad season; we definitely need to go up next year if we’re to put a dent in the debt though.
Suomen Cup: Out in the 5th round to Honka, 1-0 on a last-minute goal by their energetic striker who used his pace to ghost past my lead-legged defenders. Just short of the QFs and not really a disappointment.
Player of the Year: Finnish Swiss-Army Defender, played every position across the back as well as on both wings in the midfield, scored 5 goals, all from set-pieces, had a pass-completion percentage of 80%.
Former Club Watch
RoPS: 2nd, after a tough battle down the homestretch with TPS
H£cken: 4th, very impressive in a promotion season, also shows the volatility of the Swedish league
Malm£: 3rd, just behind Hammarby and a whopping 19 points off AIK
Lillestrøm: 2nd, with a first-team majority of signings made by me, told the board we just needed a little more time to come together, grumble grumble…
Offers: New contract from TampU, signed through the end of 2023 now.
YKO 2ND P26 W16 D6 L4 GF49 GA22 Pts54
Season 13, Tampere United, Finnish Ykkönen
Board Expectations: Champions
Media Prediction: First
Transfers in: 6 for £0, including a solid LB, a Swedish U19 striker, a fantastic Danish U19 Winger and a crazy Danish keeper
Transfers out: 18 for a total of £95K
This was a mostly satisfying year for 95% of the games that unfortunately, had another 5% that were completely baffling and frustrating. We started well and went undefeated through the first half of the season and reached the semi of the Suomen Cup.
There we were absolutely shellacked at home, losing 1-4 in a match where practically every player had a sub-6.0 rating and many sub-5.0. I wrote it off as a one-off and the team continued to perform, even though part-timers KooTeePee continued to play inspired football and were just behind us most of the way.
After recording a second victory over KooTeePee, we were five points clear with five to play, three of those at home and both of the away games being very winnable. We then of course went LLL, with each of the losses being increasingly lopsided, with the final one being totally devastating, 1-6 against Inter Turku, with KooTeePee leapfrogging us into the sole promotion spot.
Some re-shuffling led to two final wins and a tie on points. Shunted into the playoffs because of inferior goal difference (oh, why couldn’t it have been head-to-head), we had our third total collapse of the year in the home leg, giving up a goal in the third minute and then giving away two penalties before half-an-hour had gone.
We battled back to a 5-3 aggregate defeat; still, this must rank as one of my most discouraging moments in FM, just a complete failure to take a spot that was ours for the taking.
Surprisingly, I wasn’t sacked, either by the old board or the new board that took over shortly after the promotion playoffs. We won’t be given any money; I’ll at least be able to see out the end of my contract and see if we just can’t get this team up.
Suomen Cup: Out in the semi-final to FC Hameenlinna, who beat FC Santa Claus(!) in the final. We took out four top-division clubs in the process though.
Player of the Year: Finnish Swiss-Army Defender again, played mainly at right-back although he filled in at CB in the second playoff match.
Former Club Watch
RoPS: Runaway champions.
H£cken: 14th and relegated in a playoff.
Malm£: 2nd, 6 points behind Hammarby
Lillestrøm: 4th, after looking to have it all sewn up at the end of the year…that sounds familiar…
YKO 2ND P26 W16 D6 L4 GF42 GA22 Pts54
Season 14, Tampere United, Finnish Ykkönen
Board Expectations: Champions
Media Prediction: First
Transfers in: 7 for ££6K, including a versatile Finnish winger, a solid Finnish CB, a gigantic Norwegian CB and an Icelandic dead ball specialist
Transfers out: 13 for a total of ££375K
Things did not start well as the board sold a budding teenage star out from under me for far less than he would have garnered from a bidding war. Given almost none of it to spend, I did manage to pick up an Icelander that I think of as Deadballsson, whose ability at free kicks made up for the fact that he was dumb as a rock and prone to kicking anything that moved (and some that didn’t).
There were also two presents in the form of the team coming down from the Veikkausliiga: HJK, our bitter rivals; and in a team coming up: FC Santa Claus! Obviously they had a banner year what with the promotion and making the cup final and having them in the league, especially over the holidays, was pretty great.
Although the team didn’t play that differently from the previous season, we wound up doing much better point-wise because we took all the games we drew last season and split them evenly between wins and losses.
In years past two or three teams had run away from the rest of the division and this time around having a huge chasing pack meant that teams were constantly leapfrogging each other while allowing us to have a slight buffer between us and the other teams.
That buffer dwindled as the season neared an end and two back-to-back home losses against beatable teams started the bile rising in the back of my throat.
We then won five straight to strengthen our position, only to drop two heartbreaking 0-1 games to allow a surging Ilves to get back into it. At home to promoted side VIFK, we were struggling and were about to get into a sticky situation with Ilves breathing down our necks with three games to go.
Miraculously, a injury-time header from a corner gave us the win. The next game was away to Ilves. Win, and we were champions. After a tense opening twenty minutes, Deadballsson hit a laser from 30 yards out into the side-netting. The result held and TampU were finally, finally going up.
Suomen Cup: Out in the 3rd round to JJK on penalties.
Player of the Year: Our captain, after years of underachievement, put together a total performance that put him on the shortlist for Player of Year and certainly we wouldn’t have gone up without him.
Match of the Year: Away to HJK, we went down 1-0 then bounced back to 1-1 as our Icelandic budding star winger (5’9″, jumping of 3) out-leapt their keeper to head one in from the top of the area. We held on from there until the 87th minute when we were carved apart by a diagonal through ball and a fine finish.
Cue my surprise when lightning struck twice, their keeper stupidly came for it in the 90th minute and the winger had his second header of the match. The match was completed when we scored from a corner in the fourth minute of stoppage time.
Former Club Watch
RoPS: Second, four points behind TPS
Hä£cken: 9th in the Superettan and hamstrung with a mountain of debt (more than tripled since my time at the club)
Malmö£: 5th, 20 points behind (sigh) champions AIK
Lillestrøm: Second, 7 points behind Fredrikstad
YKO 1ST P26 W18 D1 L7 GF50 GA25 Pts55