For FC Honka, we have Juho Manninen, youth coach at HJK Helsinki and great expert of Finnish football. Last season he helped 'Rumori' to profile HJK Helsinki ahead of the clash with Nõmme Kalju. You will certainly appreciate again his profile full of insights.
You can follow Juho's update on Finnish football at his Twitter account, @Juhonom
Honka went through some turmoil during the winter due to monetary problems and more specifically lack of money.
They owed their then coach Lehkosuo some 80,000€ in unpaid wages and expense reimbursements. They had made a payment plan with Lehkosuo and last payment was due to be made in December of 2013. By the end of January 2014 Lehkosuo decided to try and get paid through court as Honka hadn’t made even one payment of the agreed ones (this has now been decided in favour of Lehkosuo at court and the payments are court mandated). At the same time he had managed to tempt younger of the Hetemaj brothers to Honka (Mehmet) from Italy (Albinoleffe) as HJK was taking their time in discussions with him. A week after trying to get the owed money through legal means, he was sacked from Honka due to claimed and so-far unproven claims of financial misconduct (as of June 2014). Now the Finnish Football Association paid half of his wages on behalf of Honka as they rented his services to be also an assistant coach to Mixu Paatelainen (Finnish national team coach). He is still the assistant coach for the Finnish national team and in addition was hired as head coach replacement by HJK for the disappointing Sixten Boström (last season heavily criticized for the loss against Nõmme Kalju in the Champions League). HJK has gone undefeated since then. If it is decided that the sacking by Honka was illegitimate, they will owe him all of his remaining wages through to 2017 when his contract was due to end summing up 400.000€.
The effects of all this were that Honka players protested by taping over their team logo in the week after Lehkosuo sacking. The rest of their coaching staff resigned in protest and their fans issued a long letter of no confidence, disappointment and betrayal by the Honka’s Veikkausliiga team leadership amounting to refusing to support them as long as Harjunpää & Co. remain in charge of the club. Instead they have been supporting their reserve side in Kakkonen (Finnish 3rd tier) that is managed by Honka youth organisation that is separate from the Veikkausliiga club organisation.
After all this happened many predicted that Honka would flop and be fast on its way down.
These people however failed to grasp how weak TPS is this season and the luck of having Finnish national team legend Shefki Kuqi looking for a coaching job during the time all this happened. To the surprise of almost everyone, Kuqi was willing to take the challenge and take charge of the young, but talented Honka side.
Kuqi has transformed Honka more towards a counter attacking side than they used to be even though Lehkosuo had moved toward a more balanced approach as well during his last couple of seasons from the possession football they used to play.
There are a few quite simple reasons behind the change more than the disposition of the coach.
1. Honka no longer has had as good possession players and distributors of the ball in the middle of park as they used to in the likes of Schüller in the past.
2. They have a very good controlling and hard tackling defensive midfield in Mehmet Hetemaj (on loan from Albinoleffe, Italy)
3. They have fast wingers and attacking midfield that are good in 1v1 situations and some good crossers as well.
The Honka of today is very well suited to fast counter attacking football, but less so towards controlling matches through possession.
Veikkausliiga is very tight this year and there are only two teams that really stand out from the rest TPS in the last place who are already 6 points behind the second to last team and HJK in first place 12 points ahead of the second placed club. Between these 2 where Honka finds itself as well teams are battling it out very evenly.
The stand out players from Honka are:
- Roni Porokara who has found a new spring after a somewhat disappointing last season on the wing.
- Mehmet Hetemaj who is vital in the Honka midfield in winning the ball back to give them the counter attacking possibilities.
- Ilari Äijälä who may not be blistering fast like a lot of the other Honka wing players, but has a great left foot for finding the passes, crosses and even scoring at times.
These three are also the most experienced players in the Honka squad and in addition to them they have only two other players that were born before 1990’s and only one of those has played regularly this season.
Of the young talents of note are:
- Emeneka Anyamele who is excellent in 1v1 situations and has grate pace, but has struggled to perform on a good level continuously.
- Antti Mäkijärvi who has a thunderous shot that forces the opposition to always block his stronger leg.
Kuqi seems to be quite flexible tactically and formation wise, but mostly they at least start their matches with 4-4-1-1. He has also begun matches with 3-5-2, 4-5-1 and 4-4-2.
by Juho Manninen
Curiosities (by The Stig)
· Honka’ s manager Shefqi Kuqi has played in ten different clubs in England, most notable are Newcastle United and Fulham.
· Kuqi has scored a goal to Estonian national team in 2000.
· Honka has played two times aganist Estonian clubs in Europa League. In 2007 UEFA Intertoto Cup they made 0-0 draw at home aganist FC TVMK but, they won second game 4-2 in Tallinn. Aganist Nõmme Kalju they made also 0-0 draw at home but in Tallinn they managed two win 2-0.
· Except Kosovo origin manager Shefki Kuqi, there are four player playing in Honka with Kosovo origins: Lum Rexhepi, Armend Kabashi, Mehmet Hetemaj and Youness Rahimi.
· In 2006 former Estonian national team player Sergei Terehhov played in Honka. He played together with Roni Porokara, who started to play in Honka again last season.
· Honka’s most succesful Euro season was at 2008-09 when they won IA Akranes and Viking Stavanger, but lost to Racing Santander in the third round.
· For Honka it is at its 9th straight year in Veikkausliiga, they have finished in second place for three times but never became champions.