Veikkausliiga 2009 preview: FC Haka

In: Markus Joenmäki, Niko Ikävalko, Janne Korhonen, Mika Mäkitalo, Antti Hynynen, Sami Ristilä, Nicolas Kivistö, Juha Jokinen, Jussi Jokela, Erkka Heinä, Saku Pesonen, Diego Corpache, Jani Bäckman

Out: Juuso Kangaskorpi, Cheyne Fowler, Juha Pirinen, Alexander Dovbnya, Jarkko Okkonen, Janne Mahlakaarto, Toni Lehtinen, Mikko Manninen, Valeri Popovitch, Cherno Samba

Coach: Olli Huttunen

Claimed playing budget: €700,000

Egan says: After losing so many quality players Haka will struggle to better last season’s 6th place finish. The Valkeakoski club seem to have a secure financial future after disco magnate Sedu Koskinen bought many of the town’s pubs and clubs and began funnelling their revenue into the club, but the playing side of things has not noticeably improved. The new signings are not adequate replacements for those that have left, but the trauma and uncertainty that afflicted last year’s budget and results will not be a factor, and that should give a marginal improvement.

Juha says: The scandalous exit of Valeri Popovitch was viewed as a tasteless move mostly because he had served the club for ages and was the club’s modern day icon. Tradition aside, Haka have to adjust to a new era on the pitch as well. Popovitch was the player Haka was built around for more than a decade, but this time around they do not have a similar player, both in terms of skill and his role. Haka’s season is pretty much defined by the success or failure of filling the hole left by the legend. Unlike Egan, I think Haka have made decent signings: Diego Corpache is one of the leading centre-backs in the league, while Sami Ristilä should strenghten their attack. Janne Korhonen is also a quality keeper. If they can succesfully avoid the Popovitch problem, they could mount a top three challenge.

Fan’s view:

Our Haka fan is none other than Mr SK-Ravintolat himself, Seppo ‘Sedu’ Koskinen. The former Haka player returned to Tehtaan kenttä in 2008 when the financially distressed club was in danger of being denied a licence to play in the UEFA Cup. Since he came back he has made waves with ideas about bringing celebrities to the factory town’s football club, and commented on the importance of signing attractive players to ensure women have the motivation to attend matches.

1. Realistically, how will your team do?

At the end of the season Haka will be among the best three teams in the league.

2. Which teams did you like and dislike most last season?

I don’t have an opinion on this.

3. What was the best moment of last season?

When Haka beat Cork City.

4. What was the worst moment of last season?

When Haka lost against FC Inter.

5. If your club wasn’t in the football business what other business would it be in?

FC Haka Oy already owns a restaurant/bar/nightclub centre in Valkeakoski, which supports the soccer business well. This summer FC Haka Oy’s subsidiary will be arranging concerts before home games (mini-festivals that will attract people who are not that interested in the football) at Tehtaan kenttä.

6. Who will win Veikkausliiga and who will go down? (Just the names will do)

I think that HJK have a good chance of winning the league, and that KuPS will go down.

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