Following the conclusion of the 2018 Ykkönen season in Finland, Mika Lönnström discusses the factors behind HIFK Fotboll's promotion and immediate return to Veikkausliiga.
1) How would you analyse HIFK’s season in 2018?
This season was surprisingly balanced from our perspective considering the ups and downs we faced. We suffered from poor results in June but it’s normal to go through difficult stages in a season. Eventually the team managed to overcome that by winning games again.
In the end, our most solid performances are the biggest reason we became champions. I would like to give a special thank you to the players and coaches for their professionalism and focus during these high-pressured times. In addition, a successful season also requires a lot from the off-field organisation, who should not be forgotten for their contribution behind the scenes.
2) Where did HIFK succeed the most?
Apart from our level of performances, the unity of the team and the players' ability to handle responsibility were certainly major factors in our success. The team had a lot of experienced players and their support for the young players was significant.
Also, the players who we brought in were a success in their contribution to the team’s performances and results. On top of all this, we managed to develop the club’s organisation and work ethics, which is very important for the future.
3) What will happen in the coming month?
We will continue negotiations with the current players and coaching staff. We will also continue looking for new players and start negotiating with potential candidates in a week’s time. The club's reputation has certainly grown because many coaches and many players from both home and abroad have taken interest in HIFK.
However, first we want to agree terms with the current group of players and coaches before we begin negotiations with potential new recruits. The way I work is always the same regardless of whether I am the coach or Director of Sport: first we discuss with the current members of the club and then with potential new ones, while being 100% honest and open.
Personalised tests, health checks and personal training for our contracted players will start within a few weeks.
4) What are the biggest differences between the top two leagues (Ykkönen vs. Veikkausliiga) in Finland?
Individual skills and tactical levels are definitely higher amongst players in Veikkausliiga. Player performance levels are also higher, but the biggest difference is that the gap in quality amongst teams in Veikkausliiga is smaller than in Ykkönen. Teams need to play more creative, quick, and skilled football in Veikkausliiga in order to achieve positive results. When the margins are smaller, the smallest aspects of your game should be even better.
5) What kind of greetings would you like to send to the HIFK supporters?
In my opinion, our team and the whole club fulfilled the following principle: A positive attitude and feelings of happiness will always stick and spread. By being positive we have let that happiness grow.
"Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared." - Buddha