When you go for a Sunday stroll around the Finnish transfer circus at this time of the year, in this bleak financial and meteorological climate, you would expect to see a sad merry-go-round sitting stranded in the cold, transfer ponies buried under five feet of snow, emptiness echoing in the absence of laughter, shrieks of joy and the sound of little feet of transfer rumours scampering merrily around the ride. But no, the Transfer Merry-go-round is already set in motion and taking on not only those little rumours but grown-up transfers as well. So on for the ride we go as we try to make up for the time we have lost having been too timid to venture outside and defy the cold and the snow that is blanketing all of Finland.
After last season’s failure, Honka are busy building a new squad
After a below-par season for everybody’s favourite team to push HJK off the title podium, ending up in fourth behind mighty KuPS, Honka are looking busy renewing their squad. Their Christmas cleaning started with the captain Rami Hakanpää who left for HJK and continued with Ville Koskimaa and Janne Henriksson (both signing for VPS) while John, “The Magician”, Weckström who, whenever he is not scoring goals like this in pointless pre-season friendlies is actually not at all that magical, found a new home at Haka. Arrivals include MacPherlin Omagbemi Dudu (also known as Dudu) who signed from bronze-winning surprise package KuPS, left midfield crosser Ilari Äijälä (MyPa) and the twenty-year-old Duarte Tammilehto (Klubi 04) who was rescued from the safe home for evil HJK’s discarded puppies. Aleksander Kokko, who after two rubbish seasons after being top scorer in the league probably still thinks he’s a top scorer, and former Inverness CT midfielder Markus Paatelainen are still without a club.
HJK making up the numbers, while Westö goes travelling
Like already mentioned, “Rambo” Hakanpää signed for HJK and will replace Pyry Kärkkäinen (AC Oulu) and Peter Magnusson in the centre of the HJK defence. Although Kärkkäinen and Magnusson are decent Veikkausliiga centre-backs, neither is probably missed much by the HJK fans. They will, however, definitely rue losing Johannes Westö who decided to have a year off from football to travel the world. This doesn’t really come as a surprise since the multi-talented humanist has made no secret of the fact that football might not be the most important thing in the world for him. After this somewhat controversial decision, the Merry-go-round is simultaneously disappointed, somewhat annoyed and overcome by awe of Westö’s bravery and strength of character. The reigning champions were quick to find a replacement for the long-haired prodigy, however, as they signed FF Jaro’s diminutive midfield scamperer Sebastian Mannström. The former U21 attacking midfielder is a like-for-like replacement for “JW” and a talented player in the bargain, but he will do well to avoid the big [sic] fish in a small pond syndrome. HJK also signed AC Oulu’s Dominic Yobe who should be a decent if unspectacular addition to their midfield. Being disappointed, annoyed and in awe at the same time reminded the merry-go-round of goalscoring sprinter Juho Mäkelä who quite surprisingly signed for FC Sydney. Mäkelä’s sprinting abilities will come handy inside penalty areas in stadiums around Australia in general and Queensland in particular as he tries to make his trademark surges inside the box and score goals from point-blank range while trying to stay clear of “the invasion of snakes and crocodiles”.
Big words from JJK and trouble ahead for MIFK
Relegation flirts JJK have bagged some sizeable captures in Eero Korte (FC Lahti), Mikko Manninen and Babatunde Wusu (both from TPS) and Tamás Gruborovics (IFK Mariehamn). Wusu is a former JJK favourite and is expected to provide ammunition for the goal-shy JJK attack. Korte should be able to marshal the midfield and Manninen brings pace and directness to their attacking moves. The Jyväskylä club seem to have a rocket launcher for confidence since they are already talking the talk by claiming that they will be top-three candidates next season. Even though the signings are undoubtedly impressive, they still have a long way to go from trudging knee-deep in the relegation bog for two seasons to the top of Veikkausliiga. We all know that JJK can crawl but perhaps they should learn how to walk (for example by managing to win some home games first) before trying to run. If there is light at the end of the tunnel for JJK, IFK Mariehamn are feeling anxious that the halo they see is caused by a relegation train heading their way. No less than eight players left after a disappointing last season when they finished only two points above the relegation spot (Gruborovics to JJK; Willis Ochieng, Dmytro Voloshyn, Medoune Gueye, Ante Simunac, Boussad Houche, Johan Carlsson and the destruction derby vehicle Sasha Anttilainen are all without clubs as far as the Merry-go-round knows). Even if few MIFK fans will probably shed tears watching these players go (Gruborovics’ departure being the exception perhaps), the fact that MIFK only have about ten player contracts at the moment speaks volumes about their failed transfer policy. Tough times ahead for the Åland club. At Anjalankoski the winds of change are sweeping through the silent streets of what was once such a prominent paper factory town. Ever since former Viikingit coach Toni Korkeakunnas took up the reins in the autumn, there has been so much activity (Niko Kukka (AC Oulu), Eetu Kaipio (Viikingit), Tommi Vesala (Viikingit) and Mikko Innanen (Haka) have arrived while Antti Uimaniemi (VPS), Äijälä (Honka) and Tosaint Ricketts (Timisoara, ROM) left) at Saviniemi that unless the Merry-go-round knew better, it would think that the smell emanating from the factory is caused by newly printed bank notes. But even though there probably was no dancing on the aforementioned streets when the news of the new arrivals broke, things are at least looking much healthier on the football pitch than in the account books at MyPa. And finally, joining Kärkkäinen (from HJK) at AC Oulu is former Haka captain and pseudo-hard man Jani Kauppila. That’s pretty much your lot, for now.
Ed: Apart, of course, from Toni Kallio’s move to Muangthong United, the champions of Thailand.
Not a Veikkausliiga transfer, strictly speaking, but it deserves a mention somewhere.